Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Who ate the cookie from the cookie jar?

I ate the cookies from the cookie jar. Yep, I ate LOTS of the cookies from the cookie jar. That is because the cookies in the cookie jar were created from the Rawley Family Chocolate Chip Cookie Bake Off's winning recipe. When the Rawley's bake, they bake well, and when they bake to be the best, well, the best is undoubtedly amazing.

The cookie contest was held in Colorado, spearhead by my parents and attended by my three sisters and brother in law. Alas, due to distance, I was not able to attend, but I reaped the rewards of their baking and testing by securing the winning recipe. There were nine chocolate chip cookie recipes in the contest. My father submitted five of them, each of my youngest sisters submitted two. Ellen took first place, Claire took second place, and my Dad took third place. Upon receiving their placings, each baker revealed their cookie recipe, and oddly enough it turns out that all three winning cookies from three different bakers used the same recipe, Alton Brown's recipe for "The Chewy" from his Food Network show Good Eats. However Ellen used regular flour, Claire used cake flour, and my dad used regular flour but cooked his cookie to a browner, more crispy texture.

The honorable mention went to a custom creation from my dad. He used a long-time family favorite oatmeal cookie recipe and substituted almonds for pecans, dried cherries for raisin, and of course he added chocolate chips. This cookie led the pack in taste, texture, and appearance, but fell very short in the category of "meets the ideal of what a chocolate chip cookie should be."

In spirit, I baked a double batch of the winning recipe on Saturday. I then ate a few warm cookies. Then a few lukewarm cookies. Then a few cool cookies with milk. Then I finally put the remaining cookies in the cookie jar and assessed the recipe. I have to say, after eating a number specimens I was able to make a very informed judgment on the cookie.

The best thing about Alton Brown's recipe is that he uses an ice cream scoop to measure portions. This equals a large cookie, and in the great land of cookies, large equals more chocolate chips and a better texture due to more even baking. If the cookie is too small, it cooks to quickly and gets too crunchy. The ice cream scoop size meant a softer, more chewy cookie. On the down side, I did not find Alton Brown's cookie to have the ultimately perfect texture. It was sort of chewy, in that I had to chew before I swallowed, but overall I found the cookie had a bit more of a cakey or crumbly texture rather than chewy. It needed a bit more bend to the dough before it cracked into cookie crumbs to be considered chewy in my book.

Don't get me wrong, it was a really good cookie. I just don't know that it was "the best" cookie ever. Now the obsession has been planted. I am itching to bake another batch of cookies, to compare notes, and to enlist a panel of tasters to analyze the goods. I must find the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. I must...I Must... I MUST!

The Chewy" Chocolate Chip Cookie
from Alton Brown's Good Eats


2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Ice cream scooper (#20 disher, to be exact)
Parchment paper
Baking sheets

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.

Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container. Preferably a beautiful cookie jar. ;-)

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