Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies? Not so much.

I take my chocolate chip cookies very seriously. Too seriously, perhaps, judging by my response to this article in today's New York Times promising the perfect cookie. There is so much wrong with this article, I hardly know where to begin. So, I'll begin with the recipe.

1) The Flour: This recipe calls for part cake flour and part bread flour. I read that and I was like, "What the $@%$^!%!!??!!" That's a direct quote. Nowhere in the lengthy article does the writer, David Leite, give even a hint that he's going to change up the standard All-Purpose Flour for this combo. I don't know about you, but I don't have cake and bread flour in my pantry, and if I'm going to go out and buy some, I want to know why those two together are going to give me a better cookie. Usually flour types are designated in a recipe because of their protein/gluten content--is the combination of the two really so different from all purpose?

1a) The Fridge: On a related point, Leite makes a big deal of how cookie dough should cool in the fridge for 36 hours. Twelve hours is good, he say, but 36 is ideal. City Bakery's Maury Rubin gives him this secret and the author of CookWise, Shirley Corriher, practically purrs in admiration of Rubin and his 36-hour tip. I'm glad she thinks Mr. Rubin is such a cool cat, I once did, too. But what I want to know is if time in the fridge is important because it allows the dry ingredients to absorb the liquid, does the kind of flour that's doing the absorbing matter? I know this is anal, but if we're talking about the perfect cookie, I'm going to get anal.

2) The Size: Leite and Rubin explain that size does matter in a cookie. If a cookie is big, it will allow a lovely progression of texture. Ms. Corriher again practically keels over for Rubin's suggestion. But I don't need to know that she wanted to include it in the revision of her book. I need to know what the $#%@^!$ I'm going to do with 18 golf ball sized cookies when they come out of my oven! I don't know about you, but I don't have a warming oven in my kitchen, and if I did, I wouldn't want to keep it going for a week until I finished the cookies. Usually, I freeze the bulk of my (normal-sized) cookies because I find that after two days in an air-tight container, they get stale. I can pull out a frozen (freshly-baked) cookie, let it defrost (or not) and it'll still tastes great. I'm assuming I could do the same with these fancy pants multi-flour cookies, because really, what else would I do with them other than pass them out on the street?

3) What Can Go Wrong: This was actually my first tip that the article was flawed. Leite writes:
"So few ingredients, so many possibilities for disaster. What other explanation can there be for the wan versions and unfortunate misinterpretations that have popped up everywhere — eggless and sugarless renditions; cookies studded with carob, tofu and marijuana; whole-wheat alternatives; and the terribly misguided bacon-topped variety."

I don't know about you, but I've experienced many disasters with my cookies, not ONE of them had ANYTHING to do with carob, tofu, marijuana or bacon. (OK, maybe one had to do with marijuana, but I was 16 at the time, and the marijuana had no contact with the actual cookie dough.) Seriously, I read that paragraph and thought, "Does this guy even bake?" Which brings me to my conclusion.

4) The Writer Doesn't Bake: At least not for any reason other than to show off. He doesn't bake so his kids will have a nice treat that isn't chock full of preservatives. He doesn't bake so his spouse will look at him with googly eyes full of gratitude for the scrumptious morsels of cookie just provided, righting all wrongs that might emerge from the frayed nerves of parents of preschoolers. He doesn't bake so he doesn't realize that when you're at home, the wonder of a chocolate chip cookie is that while a lot can go wrong, you can whip up a batch pretty easily, bake them off pretty quickly, and enjoy them right off a plate or out of the freezer, no warming oven necessary.


Sue Dickman said...

I haven't actually read the article yet, though my NY Times is sitting right next to me on the desk, but I did want to say that that was an excellent cookie rant. I think the flour thing is weird too--why would you need bread flour in cookies?

Robin Aronson said...


The only reason I can think of for needing bread flour is to offset the extreme tenderness made by cake flour, which is really nice in cakes, but not so great in cookies. But then, why the cake flour?

Anyway, as it turns out, a cookie rant on a humid summer day is not such a bad thing at all!

Anonymous said...

Ok but did you try the recipe? Are the cookies good?

Robin Aronson said...

I didn't. I have cake flour, but not bread flour, and nothing about the article makes me want to buy bread flour to try the recipe. The next time I bake, though, I may try keeping batter in the fridge for 36 hrs. I'll report back. I'll also dig up my favorite recipe and post it.

Wildlife Girls said...

I am eating one of Robin's cookies right now and I will say this: LISTEN TO THE WOMAN! She knows a thing a two about cookies.

Robin Aronson said...

Giving the credit where credit is due, I did learn from this article to use the fridge to improve the cookies. It makes a big difference.

Anonymous said...

tq...i think