Monday, June 17, 2013

UnRecipe: Midnight In the Chocolate Chip Cookie Garden of Evil

What's this noise about evil chocolate chip cookies? Is there even such a thing?? This post is inspired by CakeSpy's new book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods, which just came out. Jessie the Spy o' Cake invited people to share their own baked goods secrets (good or bad), so I submitted a story, which I also want to share with you, about the agony, the ecstasy and the oh-the-humanity of chocolate chip cookie obsession!

Chocolate Chip Cookies... I can't quit you - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I had the totally sweet opportunity to preview Jessie Olesson Moore's new book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods, a fun compilation of classic recipes like Baked Alaska, Cherries Jubilee and whoopie pies, as well as wacky ones I'd never heard of, like Joe Froggers, which sound a bit like gingersnaps. The recipes come with histories, which I found particularly interesting in regards to my obsession with chocolate chip cookies. Apparently 1937 was the grand year that the cookie was invented, but quite by accident, as it was originally designed to be an all-chocolate cookie when a woman named Ruth Wakefield was preparing classic butter cookies and mixed in some chunks of chocolate, assuming they would just melt during the baking process. The chocolate was softened, but kept its form in the baked dough, nicely incorporated into the cookie with a lovely, sweet texture. Ruth Wakefield worked at an inn, which just so happened to be called the Toll House Inn of Massachusetts. The rest, as they say, is history.

My baked goods tale is nowhere near as groundbreaking, more of a love note to a classic cookie, as well as a cautionary tale to make sure you label your pantry goods accordingly. Here it is:

When asked what my last meal on earth would be, I can’t pick a single dish, but for dessert, the answer is clear: fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. Not the stuff from a package, even if elves were purported to have made it. Not even something from the fancy artisanal bakery that uses nothing less than 70% pure cocoa chocolate, with a sprinkle of gray salt flown in from France. Gimme the fresh-baked cookies made from the same old recipe printed on the back of every bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. It’s instant happiness at one’s fingertips, as most kitchens have all the ingredients needed to make it, which was why when I was a kid, I would often bake chocolate chip cookies at a moment’s notice. It was usually on a Friday night, right around midnight. I’d always liked the idea of someday having a kitchen of my own, and when everyone else was asleep, I could claim my parents’ kitchen, and indulge in late night baking.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of buttery, brown sugar cookie dough bubbling and crisping in the oven, especially in the wee hours of the night. The smell permeated the house, and even though I’d clean up everything when I was done, my mom would wake up the next morning to the smell of fresh baked cookies, fully aware that her cookie-gremlin daughter had been at it again. I kept this habit going from grade school, all the way up through college, when I’d come home for visits.

I remember one night of midnight chocolate chip cookie-baking, I grabbed the glass jar of what looked to be the last little bit of flour in the pantry. Just enough to make a batch of cookies. I mixed up the batter, spooned it onto the baking sheet and put it into the oven. I noticed the batter was a little thin, but I shrugged it off until I noticed the cookies in the oven were refusing to rise and get crisp. They were runny, flat and caramelizing onto the baking sheet. Every batch was doing this and I was frustratingly throwing them out. I thought the dough would firm up overnight, so I cut the baking session short and put the batter into the fridge. I woke up the next morning to my mom asking why I baked cookies using all her powdered sugar. DOH. Apparently at some point, she had put the powdered sugar in the jar she usually puts the flour in. The powdered sugar cookie dough was thrown out and that was the one time my midnight baking was thwarted by an unexpected ingredient swap. Lesson learned – label everything. But my love for fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies remains unwavering. 

Feed your sweet tooth and a curiosity over the history of favorite treats - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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