what's this? 100 things that make someone happy? that someone being me?
a while ago i started a list at work. that list was 100 things that make you happy. i got the idea from some article online, i think it was in the yahoo dating section or some crap. anywho, i think i got to maybe number 20 before it was time to leave, and then my coworkers found it and lorded over me that they had the power to turn me into putty in their hands because they knew what made me happy, BWA HA HA HA.
long story short, i never finished the list. so i have started it over, and will post all one hundred things i come up with. some will be tangible, some will be intangible. some will be adult, some will be childish. sometimes i will falter, and feel like a loser because i can't even think of 100 happy things and what's wrong with me. and then sometimes i will kick myself in the ass and get over it and continue with my list.
#1: chocolate chip cookies
there are a LOT of cookies out there. macarons, macaroons, peanut butter, brown butter, chocolate, vanilla, sandwich, wafer... it would take charlie sheen's mind to fully elucidate upon the entire spectrum of cookies that exist in this world (or "terrestrial realm", as mr. sheen would put it).
that said, the one cookie that will always remain beautiful in my heart and mind is the chocolate chip cookie. it has everything delicious in this world: butter, sugar (two kinds!), salt, chocolate... and then you mess with deeply browned butter; all light brown sugar versus white and dark; milk chocolate chips vs. semi-sweet vs. 88%; coarse sea salt... my god.
and considering that the chocolate chip cookie is a cookie that is infinitely open to experimentation, they are almost impossible to screw up, and therefore stand as the litmus test of all bakeries, cafes and coffee shops. if you can't even get a chocolate chip cookie right, then why the hell am i going to trust your scrambled eggs or pork chops? i'd probably come out with worms AND head lice. (yes, your crappy pork chops would give me lice. because you failed at chocolate chip cookies)
i am still on the search, like so many in this world, for the chocolate chip cookie. luckily, or perhaps unluckily, as there are billions of palates in this world, there's millions of recipes. i have a folder in my bookmarks dedicated to nothing but chocolate chip cookie recipes. there are 17 recipes in it. most of them proclaim to be the "best" cookie ever, and extol its magnificence up and down, elaborating upon its crumb, and moistness, and chip-to-dough ratio.
what is my idea of the perfect chocolate chip cookie? well:
1. it has to be big. if you're going to eat a chocolate chip cookie, eat a chocolate chip cookie.
2. a high chocolate-to-dough ratio. notice i didn't say chip-to-dough; if you use those awesome chocolate discs instead of chips, then obviously you will have a higher ratio of chocolate but a lower ratio of chips. you will also have a high ratio of delicious.
3. soft. crisp is meringues and shortbread. hard is for biscotti. the perfect chocolate chip cookie must have a firm, chewy exterior, and a moist, almost gooey interior. and it must also have...
4. a good shelf life, meaning that it retains those texture variances for a few days, or as long as they last in the jar.
5. a good backbone. the dough has to have something to balance that chocolate. i recently tried my hand at browning butter for a cookie recipe, to develop those malty, caramel-y notes that people wax romantic over in food blogs. i unfortunately did it too well, and ended up with ghee. i used it anyway. they were ok. i also didn't use vanilla, having read earlier that day about a certain famous new york cookie shop that didn't use vanilla in their chocolate cookie recipes, and they have a cult-like following for their chocolate chip cookies.
again, they were ok.
so i have some baking to do, some practice to tuck under my belt--or gut, depending on how long it takes me to the get the recipe right and how many "failures" i'll have to taste test along the way. until then, here's a recipe that hasn't let me down yet, and is oh-so close to my perfection.
best big, fat, chewy chocolate chip cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (i added a full teaspoon last time i made them, and they had, in my opinion, a better fluffiness to them without being cake-y)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (if you know how to properly brown butter, by all means, rock on)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (sorry fancy new york bakery with slews of fans, but there was a little something missing when i didn't use extract. and it was extract.)
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (i used 72% chocolate disks)
now, when i make chocolate chip cookies, a secret i've learned is to make your dough, then refrigerate it for at least eight hours, longer if possible. i think my minimum in the past has been twelve, i usually strive for twenty-four; and i've read tell of those who say anything less than 36 hours is just a waste of time. if you need your cookies NOW, however, preheat to 325F. and you should have parchment paper. parchment paper is the BEST.
sift together your flour, soda and salt. my method of sifting is to whisk it with a fork. set aside.
cream together your melted/browned butter and sugars until well blended. beat in vanilla, egg and egg yolk until light and creamy. mix in dry ingredients until just blended. stir in chips/disks.
drop dough by the QUARTER CUP (1/4 CUP) onto your prepped sheets. no, really, do it. don't look at your silverware drawer for a tablespoon, grab your quarter cup measuring cup and fill it with dough, and then put that dough on a sheet. you will like yourself more for it, i promise. the original recipe says to leave three inches between, but i found that between the refrigeration, the extremely melted butter, and the extra baking soda, they keep their form fairly well, so you can probably get away with less room.
bake about 15-17 minutes, but definitely check at the 15 minute mark. you want toasty edges and sorta-soggy centers. let them cool for a few minutes on the sheets, then move them to a rack to complete their cycle of coolness.
there was something i was going to add and now i can't remember, dammit. OH! yes. if you end up refrigerating your dough, leave it in the fridge until your oven is heated and you're ready to start shoveling dough onto your totally prepped sheets. the cooler the dough, the more likely it is to maintain its form. it has something to do with the fats in the butter and whatnot.