Monday, July 25, 2016

The World Needs Cookies

There is much to be said about the sad state of the world but I don't really have the words.  Do you have a mantra that you must often repeat to yourself?  Mine--though not mine--is let go or be dragged.  I have to remind myself of this at least 78 times a day.  Whether I'm still pissed about how Peggy's story ended on Mad Men or still rehearse a diatribe aimed at one of my ex's mothers, letting go doesn't come naturally.  From sunrise when someone fucks up the line at Tim Horton's, midday political firestorms, to sunset when some horrible event has unfolded there are really only two choices.  Let go or be dragged.  Some fights, like how Kroger displays their fucking bell peppers unrefrigerated so it looks like a "farmers market" are worth fighting (they waste tons of produce and often what's available is squishy and gross).  I know eventually when I berate enough regional management, I will effect change.  You may call me Norma Gay.  Other fights are simply too big.  Our only real power is to be nice and create rather than destroy. 
My favorite moment from the RNC.
Did you see this about flag cakes? Thank you for sending it to me, Catherine!
This cake is not my best work but I try to keep 4th of July stress-free.
Bratwurst, grilled corn, and a Columbus specialty 

Who doesn't love a BLT buffet?

Though g&ts still hold my heart, a dirty martini is a nice change

I bought the red earthenware chargers when I was 14!
What foresight I had to buy 25 of them.  I didn't have time
to learn multiplication though. 

I'm obsessed with these Proven Winners Superbena Royale Red
Now is the time to get started! I always make my herb butter in the summer
and freeze.  One less thing to do in November and my herbs are plentiful now
So make cookies.  The world needs cookies. 

There has always been a short list of things I will not make.  This list has been formed over the years as I have catastrophically fucked things up.  For ten years I wouldn't work with yeast (I was much thinner in those ten years).  For 15 years I wouldn't make biscuits (disastrous burns two Thanksgivings in a row).  When I babysat my cousins, they wouldn't let me make them Kraft macaroni and cheese it just tastes bad when you make it.  They didn't want real macaroni and cheese.  They wanted neon powdered shit and sickly, pale noodles.  I'm persistent but there's no winning a stalemate with a six year old Aries girl.  So I boiled the noodles and she stirred in agent orange and milk and...margarine.  Let go or be dragged, let go or be dragged, let go or be dragged. 
But cookies were the longest-reigning item on the list.  I have tried so many times and failed so spectacularly.  I can't even make slice and bake cookies.  Yes, cookies designed and fortified at a molecular level to universally succeed have been spectacularly fucked up by me.  Also, I dislike most cookies.  I think of most cookies like I think of most ice cream: forgettable and regrettable.  Why draw a line in your sandy ass dry cookie dough at two sticks of butter and not 1/2 more?  If we "shouldn't" eat cookies anyway, we might as well make the transgression worth it.  What I love about these cookies is you really, truly only need one.  They are a dessert all their own and are immensely satisfying.  And they actually taste better the day after baking.  People say that about various things and it's so rarely true.  I swear this is true.  They are excellent two hours after baking but they are supreme the next day. 
These cookies are rather different in their preparation.  I started with this Martha recipe and kept most of the proportions but greatly tweaked the mixing. Basically what I want from a cookie is caramelization on the outside and super soft, barely cooked on the inside.  So to address my first usual cookie problem of rapid spreading and ultimate cookie collapse, I decided to hydrate the flour before mixing.  Usually in baking, you add your flour to a fat+egg mixture.  The fat is there for flavor and texture and the egg is there for protein (binding) and to catch and hold air. A good cookie is a dense cookie.  If you want an airy cookie, make a cupcake.  We don't want air.  Minimize mixing.  When you pre-combine the flour and the melted butter, they so readily become one.  This also imparts a much stronger butter flavor into the cookie because it affords each grain of flour the time to absorb the butter rather than just be coated in it like a normal cookie.  That absorption makes a huge difference in flavor.  The melted butter does make for a much less stable dough.  That is the importance of freezing the formed cookie dough balls.  You want that butter frozen solid when the heat of the oven hits it.  Baking at a high temp for cookies, 400, ensures that the exterior of the cookie cooks rapidly and acts as a force field for the butter as it melts. 
So the other unique thing in these cookies is diastatic maltpowder (DMP).  I first heard of DMP on the baking wonderland of The Fresh Loaf.  Oh my god I love those people.  They are so obsessed with bread and so generous with their knowledge.  I didn't buy any until America's Test Kitchen (ATK) included it in their baguette recipe last season.  ATK is conservative with specialty equipment and ingredients.  I figured if they were willing to urge their audience to buy it even though the recipe only used a teaspoon, then it must make a dramatic difference.  I live for specialty ingredients and equipment, so of course I ordered some.  I don't totally understand how it works; but it layman's terms, it makes flour softer.  You can read a more in-depth and competent explanation here.  I added it on a whim and was so pleased.  This recipe utilizes way more DMP that most do.  Too much DMP in bread dough and the baked bread tastes and looks oddly doughy.  Buuut in a cookie, that is a good thing.  The result is a practically melting cookie that is so soft, with such flavor you think they are not done baking. 
My first batch had just dark chocolate, but I loved the addition of white chocolate.  Because this cookie has a strong salt presence, white chocolate adds a lot to the overall flavor.  White chocolate is really not that great unless paired with salt. If you're sure you hate white chocolate, make yours with 12 ounces of dark chocolate.  I hate white chocolate but love it in these cookies.  The only other variable I see potentially being a problem is the sheet tray one uses.  I have used my dark nonstick sheets for these.  Color of sheet tray often does effect the bake.  So I wonder if on a lighter sheet tray, the outside would not caramelize as fast. If you're going to use a lighter tray, perhaps test bake one or two first and see how they respond.  If the cookies run and spread too thin too fast, try upping the temp to 415.  Dark surfaced baking equipment does hold more heat, baking slightly faster and often things color a touch darker when baked in a dark pan. 
Ruler included for chocolate chunk size, don't worry too much about precision

Leave them alone! no patting! 

Just don't forget to sprinkle the salt! Make sure to sprinkle the salt before freezing

Dark and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/4cups (2.5 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons diastatic malt powder
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon whiskey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoon salt-plus another tablespoon or so for topping
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
8 oz dark chocolate
4 oz white chocolate

1. Add flour, vegetable oil, and diastatic malt powder to melted butter.  Lightly mix until combined, being mindful to keep mixing to a minimum.  Let sit about 20 minutes. 

2. Chop chocolates into large chunks.  Put chopped chocolate into freezer.

3.  Mix sugars, eggs, whiskey, salt, and vanilla into the flour and butter mixture.  Once just combined, add chocolate and delicately mix in.  Some of the chunks will break, but keep mixing to a minimum both to minimize chocolate breakage and to maintain the soft texture of the cookies. 

4. Line sheet tray with parchment.  Using a 2" ice cream scoop, scoop cookie dough onto sheet trays.  Because they will freeze on this sheet, the dough balls can be crowded on.  Avoid temptation to pat or handle dough balls in any way, unless uneven shards break out of the circular perimeter, those may be patted back in to maintain the shape. 

5. Sprinkle each dough ball with about 3/4 pinch kosher salt. 

6. Freeze uncovered 4-12 hours. 

7. Preheat oven to 400F. 

8. Quickly place dough balls onto ungreased nonstick sheet tray.  The cookies will be about 2x the size of the dough so allow for expansion.  I only bake one sheet at a time as to keep oven humidity down. Quickly get cookies into oven and bake 9 minutes.  Put remaining dough back into freezer.  Start watching closely through closed oven door at about 7 minutes.  You will see the bottom and perimeter browning but middle should still look uncooked (though the middle will temp about 160).  In my oven, they are perfect after nine minutes exactly. 

9.  Remove and repeat.  Allow to cool on baking sheet.  If you try to remove them from baking sheet while still hot, they will likely break.  Interestingly, they taste very best about 24 hours after baking.  Though they are very good an hour or two after bake. 

My brother's become very interested in astrophotography  See the
shooting star? Make a wish!