Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Perfectionist's Chocolate Chip Cookie and Cooking at Altitude Adjustment Guide

I have been refining this recipe for years now, searching for the "perfect" cookie.  I'm not sure these are perfect, but they are super yummy!  Instead of calling them the "perfect" cookies I thought I'd call them "perfectionist's cookies" instead.  :)  Now, just so you know, perfect doesn't mean low fat in this case, it just means goooood.  One nice thing is, these are so good and filling I don't tend to eat as many (only half a dozen instead of the full tray).  :)

Note: I doubled my original recipe, because it never seemed to be enough.  But I do have five kids.  So, just in case this is a lot for you, you can cut it in half.  I also like to make dough balls and freeze them in gallon ziploc bags for later.  I just thaw them for 15 mins before baking (no need to be thawed completely!  I think they actually cook up the best when they have been frozen or chilled first).  Then I can also cook as many as I'd like at one time, because no matter how many I make they all get eaten (if I make 2 doz, and my kids each have one, I eat the rest, no matter how many are left!  ouch.).  Also, I tweaked the sugar because I prefer the taste of white sugar to brown.  Most traditional recipes have more brown than white.  As long as you have the same total amount of sugar, then you can change that up as needed or desired (could even swap out the requirements, ie, one and a half cups packed brown sugar and 1 cup white).

A Perfectionist's Chocolate Chip Cookies

4 cups plus 4 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour (21 1/4 oz)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup (7 oz.) packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (10 and 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vegetable shortening (Crisco)
2 large eggs plus 2 yolks
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3 cups semisweet chocolate chips (according to taste, whether you like a lot or only a few)

1.  Adjust an oven rack to the upper or lower middle rack.  Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit*.  Spray a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray (or line with parchment paper).  (if you are below 4000 feet, heat your oven to 325 and cook a little longer, see note below)
2.  Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl with a whisk.
3.  Cream the butter, shortening, and sugar together either by hand or with an electric mixer until fluffy (it will take roughly a minute).  Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until just combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until combined-- don't over mix.  Stir in the chocolate chips until you have the amount you like. (I like fewer rather than more, just personal taste)
4.  Roll or spoon out roughly 1/4 cup balls of dough.  The dough balls need to be about the same size so they'll cook evenly, and don't pack the dough too tight when making a ball so they won't be too dense. Make sure it is ball shaped (sometimes I even squeeze mine so they are taller than they are wide), so it will cook into a puffy cookie and not a flat one.
5.  For the most perfect of perfectionist's cookies, chill in the refridgerator or freeze first (if you freeze, let the dough thaw for 15 minutes before baking) and then bake.
6.  Bake until the cookies are light brown and golden and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 10 minutes*.  (watch, they may need more or less time depending on your oven) 
7.  Cool the cookies on the sheet, the enjoy!  I'd love to hear how yours turned out.

*If you are baking below 4000 feet, adjust your oven temp to 325 and increase your baking time from 15-18 minutes.

Some cooking at altitude tips I learned at Cook Street School of Fine Cooking in Denver:

(The above cookies will work fine in either place!  No need to adjust)

When making baked goods with a non-altitude recipe it can be really frustrating.  Most people's easy fix for this is to add flour, which I really, really dislike!  I think it makes baked goods dry.  These tips are the best I've found!  Don't make more than two adjustments at a time as you try to tweak your favorite sea level recipes.   (this is almost a direct quote from one of their resources)

1.  Reduce baking soda or baking powder by 25%.  If a recipe calls for 1 t. of baking soda, use 3/4 t.
2.  Increase the liquid by 2T per cup.
3.  Increase the oven temp slightly to set the cake batter or cookie dough faster.  Place cookie dough on parchment rather than a greased pan.
4.  Decrease sugar by 2T per cup.
5.  Increase flour by 1 T per cup to strengthen the gluten structure.  Don't use this adjustment if it makes cakes tough or dry.

Enjoy! Happy eating from our family to yours.  :)

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