C is for Cookie that's good enough for me
July 16, 2008 4:57 AM   Subscribe

David Leite, on his quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, learned that letting the cookie dough rest for 36 hours before baking makes for one hell of a cookie. Chefs Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot didn't want to wait that long.
posted by AceRock (49 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
Also, a recipe.
posted by AceRock at 5:01 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Goddammit. Don't make me buy a stupid vacuum compressor thing to make cookies.

I've wanted good cookies for the past few days. Although I consider myself a cookie master, now you have thrown down the gauntlet of awesome. I have no choice, but I cannot wait for 26 hours.

posted by Lord_Pall at 5:14 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

That article has had me in a cookie craving mode all week and this weekend I shall bake up a storm... however waiting 36 hours is nearly impossible. The plan? Mixing up multiple batches of dough! Eat one batch while you wait for the perfection of the 36 hour dough. Oh, why is it only Wednesday?!
posted by boubelium at 5:16 AM on July 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh my, even the NYT misuses "begs the question" now.

Anyway, sounds like a good secret to try. "It's for an experiment" is as good an excuse as any to make multiple batches of cookies.
posted by DU at 5:30 AM on July 16, 2008

Wait a minute: “What he’s doing is brilliant. He’s allowing the dough and other ingredients to fully soak up the liquid — in this case, the eggs — in order to get a drier and firmer dough, which bakes to a better consistency.”

Making cookies drier is not a good secret. Cookies should be chewy.

Also, however good they taste the cookies in that second link look terrible. Sharp edges and not lumpy with chippy goodness. Ugh.
posted by DU at 5:37 AM on July 16, 2008

A drier and firmer dough do not lead to drier cookies.
posted by Pendragon at 5:41 AM on July 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

There is no perfect chocolate chip cookie. A truly great cookie is an amalgamation of the great types of chocolate chip cookie. You eat a number of them over the course of a week or so and then savor all the experiences together. Some with gooey small chips and a stiffer dough, some that bend in your hand if you try to hold them. Some that won't even hold together if you try to transport them. Some have a consistent taste no matter where you bite, and others tap your tongue with hints of sweetness or brown sugar, a little crunchy a little ooze. You do all that, and then you know what the impossibly perfect cookie tastes like. It's like a cookie sports championship series in your mouth.
posted by cashman at 5:50 AM on July 16, 2008 [8 favorites]

A perfect chocolate chip cookie is one that someone has made for me unexpectedly.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:52 AM on July 16, 2008 [12 favorites]

Yes, but did he pay $250 for the recipe?!
posted by pxe2000 at 5:56 AM on July 16, 2008

Omgomgomgomgomgomgomgomgomg, today's productivity is gone!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:03 AM on July 16, 2008

I have to agree with DU...those cookies *look* awful, like the time I forgot to put the second cup of flour in the dough. Cookies should not be flattened by gravity like that, to look like birdshit.
posted by notsnot at 6:06 AM on July 16, 2008

I made the NY Times' recipe over the weekend. It resulted in huge and amazingly delicious cookies. Waiting 36 hours to bake them was a bit of a challenge, but the payoff was worth it. To me, the biggest downside wasn't the wait, it was the expense: the chocolate wafers called for in the recipe are pricey pricey at the local Whole Foods.
posted by baltimoretim at 6:11 AM on July 16, 2008

We all want something different out of our cookies. That's why we have the Thin, the Puffy, and the Chewy.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:13 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

The complaints about the cookies' appearance are interesting. To me, they look like the chocolate chip cookies from Otterbein's, which are indeed delicious.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:13 AM on July 16, 2008

(I should point out that I would eat those cookies. I would eat them reaaaaal good. I might even dunk them in black coffee.)
posted by uncleozzy at 6:34 AM on July 16, 2008

Yeah, I'm more than a little confused about the claim that the cookies in the second link don't look good. They look goddamn delicious!

As pointed out by uncleozzy, there are different ways to make chocolate chip cookies, and personally, the ones in that link look great -- the sort of thin, brown-sugar-chewy kind of cookies that are just heavenly. If I wanted cakey, I'd eat cake, dammit!
posted by tocts at 6:54 AM on July 16, 2008

If I wanted cakey, I'd eat cake, dammit!

Goddamn right! Thin for the win!
posted by aramaic at 7:47 AM on July 16, 2008

“What he’s doing is brilliant. He’s allowing the dough and other ingredients to fully soak up the liquid — in this case, the eggs — in order to get a drier and firmer dough, which bakes to a better consistency.”

What he's doing is not letting it soak up the liquid. That would happen in a half an hour, at the most. I think what he's really doing is allowing what liquid there is to evaporate. I would suspect that adding a little less egg white at the beginning would achieve the same goal without the wait. Of course, adding half or three-quarters of an egg white is easier said than done. I bet if you separate the yolk out, and then lightly beat the egg whites with a fork, to break up the mass, and then take out a tablespoon or two before adding them back, just might do the trick.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:53 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

He's never be able to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie until he realizes that the secret ingredient is love.

His cold, robotic heart can't ever understand that.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:56 AM on July 16, 2008 [8 favorites]

He's never be able to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie until he realizes that the secret ingredient is love crisco.

FTFM. Seriously, if you want an astoundingly simple modification to the standard issue Toll House recipe that yields a totally "new" taste for you chipheads, just replace the butter with crisco. My mom does this and she would positively MURDER me if she knew I had disclosed this.
posted by butterstick at 8:14 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Butterstick recommends Crisco: Eponytreason!

My family has a similar technique for baking cakes, but in our case the Wu Tang Secret is mayonaisse.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:18 AM on July 16, 2008 [6 favorites]

So Dave, if that is true then why does the vacuum process work?
posted by caddis at 8:25 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Count me in the "those cookies look wrong" camp. I realize there are several different basic sub-genera of chocolate chip cookies, and those are exemplars of one of them, which some people like. So fine and good, as far as that goes.

But to my eye, and taste, a chocolate chip cookie should:

* Be bigger. Exactly 1 rounded tbsp of dough makes the right size, which should end up being about 4 inches in diameter and roughly 1/3 of an inch thick, uniformly from edge to edge. No sloping hills or, God forbid, uncollapsed hemispheres.

* Have rounded edges, all the way around. Sharp edges are right out.

* Not be doughy.

* Not be crispy anywhere. A little crispiness is acceptable around the bottoms of the edges, but the goal should be to eliminate it.

* Be as soft on day three as it was out of the oven. Cookies that harden up over time are wrong.

What it all basically comes down to is the flour to sugar ratio. Flour makes them stiffer, sugar holds moisture and makes them chewier. The tricky thing is that the balance is absurdly sensitive, such that things like atmospheric humidity on cookie-making day and the particular properties of your brand of flour will make a big difference. Any recipe will get you something that someone, somewhere, will recognize as a chocolate chip cookie. But a truly great one requires truly great pains.

Besides that, there is one secret that seems little known. Use more salt than you think could possibly be right. I use a slightly modified Toll House recipe (more brown sugar, less white sugar, and a little less flour, depending on the brand). But I basically double the salt. You should be able to just taste the saltiness in the cookie, which contrasts wonderfully with the chocolate and sweet dough and makes people force you to bake cookies for them every time they come to visit you for the rest of your life.

Also, nuts are right out.
posted by rusty at 8:31 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, about the fridge rest in the actual article? I suspect very strongly that what he's actually doing is what Reinhart does in his Pain a l'ancienne. Refrigerating the dough gives the saturated flour time to break down from starches to simpler sugars, which adds a lot more complex flavors to the cookie. The color change is the big clue -- sugars go more to the brown end of the scale, especially when you bake them. That technique actually makes a lot of sense, and probably does produce an excellent cookie, of whatever type of recipe you start with.
posted by rusty at 8:36 AM on July 16, 2008

why does the vacuum process work?

Well, maybe the excess liquid that evaporates in the first batch ends up being extracted by the pressure of the vacuum and remains in the plastic bag?

I suspect two different things are happening with the two processes. With the 36-hour wait, they say that the dough ends up crumbly. With the vacuum, the dough ends up "elastic." How can they both end up with the exact same result?
posted by Dave Faris at 8:37 AM on July 16, 2008

(The cookies in the NYT look great. The vaccuum-sealed cookies look terrible. I'm done now.)
posted by rusty at 8:39 AM on July 16, 2008

Pecans are a must. I will eat no chocolate chip cookie that doesn't contain pecans.
posted by shoesietart at 8:41 AM on July 16, 2008

The complaints about the cookies' appearance are interesting. To me, they look like the chocolate chip cookies from Otterbein's, which are indeed delicious.

*second's Faint o' Butt.*

If only there were an Otterbein's sugar cookie recipe out there, my life would be complete. ;_;

Also, for those of you who are into the science behind good baking, Shirley Corriher's Bakewise is finally due out this fall.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:53 AM on July 16, 2008

Oh god, I just looked at the vacuum-sealed cookies. They look awful, like something you'd see in the office kitchen at Christmastime.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:00 AM on July 16, 2008

Not to dismiss a good chocolate chip cookie recipe, because I sure do love a good cookie, but after reading the post I poked around in the blog and what I really want to make now are those mashed potato croutons.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:17 AM on July 16, 2008

butterstick is so fucking right. My family's been using Crisco all my life.

I knew this dude once whose superpower was that he could figure out, by tasting a chocolate-chip cookie, what ingredients were used and in what proportions. He was remarkably good at it. So a few other folks and I all made our own tradtional kinds of chocolate-chip cookies, and he tasted them, and was almost 100% correct about what was used in each. The only major mistake he made was that when he bit into my cookies, made with Crisco, the first thing he said was, "Wow. SO buttery. You used a lot of butter." It broke my heart to inform him that no cows were milked in the making of my soft, delicious, chewy cookies.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

The biggest difference, though, was flavor. The second batch was richer, with more bass notes of caramel and hints of toffee.


Surprisingly, they had an even richer, more sophisticated taste, with stronger toffee hints and a definite brown sugar presence.

You know, I can handle these kinds of tasting descriptions when it comes to wine, cigars or scotch, even if I don't fully buy into the whole thing (even if they are mostly metaphorical.) But by gum, chocolate chip cookies are fun food and they do not deserve, under any circumstances, the ignominy of pretentious foodie phrases such as "bass notes of caramel" and "hints of toffee".

Brown sugary, sure, I can accept that, because the ingredient is in the recipe and can make a cookie taste really good. But that's where I draw the line, darnit! Good grub needs to be defended somehow! My evaluations of cookies usually go like this:

This cookie tastes good!
This cookie tastes like you left it in the fridge with an unwrapped onion!
This molasses ginger cookie is freakin' awesome!
I've eaten this cookie, but I'm neither snickering nor doodling. What went wrong here?

Do we really need anything more?
posted by Spatch at 9:26 AM on July 16, 2008

and the terribly misguided bacon-topped variety

WHAT. Bacon exploration is never misguided. NYT gets it wrong. Again.
posted by spec80 at 9:59 AM on July 16, 2008

and the terribly misguided bacon-topped variety

An impossiblity. Nothing bacon-topped could possibly be misguided.
posted by owtytrof at 10:05 AM on July 16, 2008

That's what I get for failing to preview.
posted by owtytrof at 10:05 AM on July 16, 2008

I am shocked that some of you don't think the cookies in link two look appealing, but I guess tastes about chocolate chip cookies are subjective. One of my favorite food bloggers wrote about this recipe this week and that's when I knew I had to try it. I think her photos look even better than those in the NYT. My dough is in the fridge right now - and I'm doing my best not to eat it raw. 36 hours will be up tomorrow morning and then I'll see if these cookies are worth the wait.
posted by katie at 11:49 AM on July 16, 2008

I respectfully request you post the results here!
posted by aramaic at 12:02 PM on July 16, 2008

And now, if you keep kosher, you can enjoy these cookies with a nice, tall glass of giraffe's milk!
posted by ericbop at 12:58 PM on July 16, 2008

Y'all are mistaken about the visual aesthetics of cookies. The best looking cookies are a golden brown blur heading at high speed towards my open mouth.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:56 PM on July 16, 2008

I've heard that replacing HALF the butter/Crisco with bacon grease yields a delicious although not bacony-flavored cookie. I've got enough grease saved up, now I need a cool day to run the oven.
posted by neuron at 5:15 PM on July 16, 2008

And then Marion Nestle goes and spoils everyone's fun by writing in a letter published in today's Times that, according to her estimates, the cookies made by this recipe would amount to 500 calories each.

Thanks, Marion, really.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:31 PM on July 16, 2008

I don't think the cookies in the picture look awful, but they do just look like cookies. Mine come out looking the same and I just follow a standard recipe.
posted by smackfu at 5:31 PM on July 16, 2008

My wife also makes her chocolate chip cookies with Crisco. I have had coworkers come into my cubicle, drop to their knees, and BEG for another batch of cookies.

Also, Mrs. Ber says timing is everything. Never never overbake - that's the prime directive.
posted by Ber at 5:49 PM on July 16, 2008

No one's mentioned A Mean Chocolate Chip Cookie, the experiment that takes an average of the quantities given for the most common ingredients in about a dozen chocolate chip cookie recipes.
posted by themadjuggler at 7:09 PM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ok aramaic (and anyone else still reading): I baked the cookies this morning. The dough was really tough to scoop when it first came out of the fridge but it softened up just enough by the second batch. I got 24 large cookies out of the recipe after packing my ice cream scoop tightly for each cookie. Also, I should note that I did not use the special chocolate disks called for in the recipe because I don't live near any fancy food shops - I just chopped a big ol' block of good quality bittersweet chocolate, which gave me a nice striated effect.

Anyway, I ate half of one cookie when it was warm and the other half when it was cooled to room temp (both before noon, I am ashamed to say!) and the verdict is that these are very, very good cookies. They have a slight crunch on the edges and are soft but not too cake-y in the middle. I would say the flavor is very good and perhaps the dough does take on some caramel-notes while waiting in the fridge. They border on too sweet for me so I might cut out a little bit of sugar if I make them again, which I probably will. The sea salt wasn't a revelation for me, and I love salty-sweet things - here it was just ok, maybe a little distracting.

The 36-hour wait doesn't bother me much but then I bake breads that take longer than that pretty regularly. Overall, I think it's worth a try if your craving doesn't demand cookies right away. You'll need to have plenty of people to share these with, though, as they are quite large and rich.
posted by katie at 8:33 AM on July 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Thanks katie!
posted by AceRock at 10:39 AM on July 17, 2008

posted by aramaic at 11:14 AM on July 17, 2008

When you make those cookies try using the Metro Design paddle in your mixer. It has scrapers on its edges to continuously scrape the bowl.
posted by caddis at 9:09 AM on July 18, 2008

Hot cookies just came out of the oven here at chez caddis. Mmmmm. These are without a doubt the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made.
posted by caddis at 10:46 AM on July 19, 2008

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