I often hear heartwarming stories about how people have grown to love cooking. Many of these stories sound the same. They grew up cooking along side their Grandmother or Mother and inherited all their amazing skills and now naturally love cooking. Or maybe they grew up on a small farm somewhere in the Midwest and can do everything from butchering to baking. My life, was nothing like either of these scenarios.
I grew up in a small town in Northwest Ohio. I had hard working parents and lived a standard middle class life. There was cooking every night but it was usually hurried and there was little time for cooking lessons. As I got older I was naturally interested in cooking but my meal choices were not overly popular. There was the time I attempted to make homemade “stuffing” by mixing cubed white Wonder bread, peanut butter, grape jelly and eggs. It was not good. At all. It ended up becoming a giant ball of peanut butter and jelly scented mush. I remember my step-dad standing in the kitchen laughing at my creation. There was another period of time where I became fascinated with honey. Now, here is the weird thing. I hate honey. It’s alright in baked goods but I cannot just eat honey. Totally not my thing. Which is why it was odd that I became fascinated with making creations out of it. At first, my Mom was grateful for the “delicious” honey sandwiches I would make her. However, it quickly grew old. After her sixth honey sandwich of the week she told me I had to start eating them. Ewww! There was no way I was eating that sandwich. Well, my mom won and I ended up eating the sandwich. I also never made another honey sandwich again. I wasn’t going to be roped into eating one of those gross things every again…
Now of course this all happened when I was around 8 years old so of course when I was older my skills improved….right? Well, you would be wrong. I did manage to perfect a really great pie crust by the time I was 16 but other than that it was touch and go. Since you cannot live off pie (or so they tell me…) I was not going to last in the “real” world. However, I did manage a few years by living off Ramen Noodles and drinking large amounts of Diet Coke….soooooo healthy I know
This is when I knew I had to do something with my life. So at nineteen years old I decided I would go to the English Nanny & Governess School. I was going to become a certified nanny – work for the rich and travel the world! Instead I ended up moving to New York and working for a fantastic family who helped me grow and move into another phase of my life. They taught me about Italian cooking (clam sauce?…we didn’t have that in Ohio…), helped me grow up and taught how to manage a family. I quickly learned how to put together meals that could happily feed a family of five. I had moments of failure but most of the time we were happy. I still talk to the kids I first worked with and they almost always bring up my “famous” taco night. It may have not been gourmet but they loved it…and I loved it.
I would like to think that I now have the cooking thing down pat. I can make a dinner and 90% of the time it will turn out delicious. However, there are a few things I know I need to work on. I’m soooooo not great at recipe development. For some reason I seem to think by throwing stuff together it will result in a fantastic outcome. This rarely, if ever, happens. It would also work better if I actually used ingredients I enjoy eating. True story – I tried making a new marinade and used steak sauce in the recipe. I hate steak sauce. When I made the meal I was disappointed the meat tasted like steak sauce. Common sense should have told me not to do this…I don’t always listen to common sense. I can’t be the only one out there that does this same thing….
I have now learned that when it comes to recipe development I’m going to leave it to the professionals. They seem to know what they are doing. That is why when I wanted a cookie I went to Cook’s Illustrated. They did the hard work for me – they perfected the recipe. It has brown butter, dark brown sugar and dark chocolate chips. Oh man…..so delicious. Plus you don’t have to dirty your mixer to make them. Just a bowl, whisk and wooden spoon. Easy cleanup! So if you are looking for a perfect chocolate chip cookie this might be the recipe for you. I think it’s wonderful, and I should know, I have eaten a lot of crappy self developed recipes in my life…..
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
Yield: 16 cookies
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 10 - 14 minutes
Total Time: 45 - 50 minutes
1 3/4cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted
Source: Cook’s Illustrated
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)
Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.