5.28.2010

cookies and milk, taste so fine . . .*


 Well now. I was all ready to talk to you about the simple things in life, about how a good chocolate chip cookie can become its most perfect expression by merely having patience and increasing the size of the chocolate morsels, and about how, on a stressful afternoon, a glass of milk and a warm cookie are a welcome refuge while you wait for the world to straighten itself back out.

But then I got on Twitter. And I read about Aran's mesquite and chocolate chip pancakes, which caused me to Google mesquite flour, and now I'm obsessed. And convinced that what I thought was a perfect cookie recipe is actually still one tiny step away from being perfect. I want some mesquite flour! As one site described it, "Mesquite flour's distinctive, rich flavor and aroma is similar to mocha coffee, cinnamon and chocolate." How can I possibly try to attach a superlative like "most perfect" to a cookie that doesn't have mesquite flour in it?

Obviously, I can't. This simple revelation has done the needed job of reminding me that there aren't many objective superlatives in food. One person's "best" can't and won't ever be everyone's "best." We will never have tasted everything, tried all the possible combinations and permutations. There will always be new flavors, new experiences, new memories and quests. Culinary epiphanies and moments of incredulousness. Which is exciting to think about, and to look forward to. Even my chocolate chunk cookie recipe will probably continue to evolve. In its current state it is a combination of a couple of different recipes and techniques I've tried over the years (including David Leite's famous version) - so why should I think it will suddenly become static? But each time I bake them I will try to make them the best cookies they can be, at that moment.

So, not bad for a cookie recipe, eh? Some personal reflection on the fluidity, limitations, and subjectivity of life might make it the best internal discussion I've ever had regarding chocolate chunk cookies. Which, as these things go, will surely be bested by yet another period of critical introspection at some later point in my life. Ah, c'est la vie.

For now, the following is a great jumping off point for discovering your personal favorite chocolate chunk cookie recipe. And as soon as I am able to track down some mesquite flour, I'll be sure to let you know.

Almost Perfect Gluten-Free Chocolate Chunk Cookies
yields 2 dozen cookies, using a 1.5 oz portion scoop

8.5 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
152 grams granulated sugar
110 grams light brown sugar
6 grams vanilla extract
100 grams eggs, room temperature
206 grams gluten-free pastry flour blend
119 grams gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
30 grams amaranth flour
7 grams xanthan gum
5 grams salt
4 grams baking soda
285 grams chocolate chunks (I like Callebaut, but Nestle will also do the job)
flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (I used Portuguese sea salt)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda. (I use a whisk for this - you want to whisk it for long enough that everything looks evenly blended.) Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a medium bowl if using a hand-held mixer), cream the butter and both sugars on high speed until very light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and eggs, and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined. Add the chocolate chunks, and mix on low speed to combine. (If you're using a hand-held mixer, it may be easier to stir these in by hand.)

Now, here's the hard part: you really should put the whole bowl of batter into the fridge and let it sit at least overnight before you bake the cookies. Longer is better. This is one of many lessons I've learned from Shauna/GlutenFreeGirl and David Leite, and it really will make a discernible difference. But delayed gratification when it comes to sweets is not one of my strong suits, so I will totally understand if you must bake some now. But try to save at least half the batch to bake the next day - they're also best the day they're baked (no matter how long they did or did not rest in the fridge), so this way you'll have two days in a row to enjoy warm, fresh-from-the-oven cookies. And who could complain about that?

To bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Using a 1.5 ounce portion scoop (or a large spoon, or your hands - you know your favorite way to scoop cookies), scoop batter onto baking pan, leaving room for the cookies to spread. Flatten them slightly, and sprinkle with your favorite flaky sea salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown (centers may be a light brown, but that's okay - they'll be softer that way). Cool on pan until firm enough to move, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Make sure you eat at least one while it's still warm. You don't want to miss out on that!

Cookies keep, covered and at room temperature, for up to three days, but are best on day one.

* Yes, I realize that this is the second post I've titled with a Raffi song. You must understand, I have a 4-year old and a 1-1/2-year old - Raffi is a big part of our everyday lives! I feel thankful that I can at least sit down in the evenings and type without rhyming everything . . . but I'll try to keep things here more adult in the future, okay?

2 comments:

  1. OMG. I'm totally going to track down some Mesquite flour! It sounds awesome, a great addition to my arsenal of flours.

    That said, once I read about the NYT article by David Leite, I haven't looked back (even the Cook's Illustrated recipe that they developed in response to DL's cookies, not only was more fussy, but failed to taste as good). However, I actually try to let my adapted recipe of the cookie dough sit for at least 3-4days (I know it says don't let it sit longer than 3 days, but I haven't had a problem with letting it sit longer).

    The longer you can wait, the more pronounced the deeper complex caramel flavor becomes, and the chewier the cookie is. But then, I always bake large 3.5oz cookies. So that may have something to do with it.

    The dough also freezes well. Which is super handy, when you want cookies. Hmmmm. Now I want to go bake some cookies...

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  2. Mr. Jackhonky - I've got some mesquite on the way, so I'll let you know how it goes . . . (I can't wait to experiment!)

    Yes, DL's cookies are awesome (well, I've never had the gluten-full ones, but even adapted to be gluten-free, they're great). But sometimes (and I realize that it's practically blasphemous to say this) . . . they're too intense and chewy for me. I know - how can that be??? But I really like a tender, cake-like cookie, something that feels more like an innocent snack than a real dessert, and my recipe comes closer to the former. So I switch back & forth between mine and a gf-adapted DL one. And I think that freezing cookie batter may be one of the reasons that bakery cookies often taste so good - when I worked at one, we'd mix a huge batch, freeze them, then just thaw and bake what we needed each day so they were always fresh. I think that process - designed for convenience - unintentionally helps the flavors to develop a bit more!

    Anyway, here's some food for thought: incorporate mesquite flour into the recipe, then top the cookies with smoked salt. I'm thinking it would be amazing, and will be trying it soon!

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