From the Milk Bar cookbook: Corn Cookies

I bought three cookies from Milk Bar on my lone stop to the bakery. I ate the Compost and the Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow cookies while still in NYC, the Corn Cookie made it back home with me to Manila. I still remember the taste of it, like a flattened Kenny Roger’s corn muffin in cookie form. I also remember my disappointment when I saw the recipe for it in the Milk Bar cookbook. It required freeze dried corn powder, something that is not available commercially in Manila.

When I found out my friend P was going to NYC, I took the chance and asked her to buy some of the corn powder for me. She delivered and came back with three bottles of my baking holy grail:

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Naturally, I made the corn cookies right away.

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My first batch were fine, but not great. They did corn-y enough, and they dried out too quickly. I think it may have been because I only used fine cornmeal, instead of cornflour (which is super fine cornmeal). I also didn’t pack in the corn powder when I measured it and it’s apparently very prone to fluffing up.

I took a different approach for my second attempt. I got a scale for my birthday (finally! Yay!), so I weighed my ingredients instead of measuring by volume. I also nixed the cornmeal and used Christina Tosi’s recommended substitution: a mixture of flour and more corn powder. The result was a significantly cornier cookie and one that didn’t become a coarse, dry mess a day after baking. It was definitely a lot closer to the one I so carefully hand carried home from NYC.

I still need to tweak some things a bit to try an get my version as moist as the original, which was closer to a Chips Ahoy! Chewy cookie in texture. If I never get to match that, though, I wouldn’t be too disappointed. Judging from how quickly my second batch was consumed, the current version is close enough.

PS: P, if you’re reading this, I still owe you cookies as a thank you for getting me the powder! ūüôā

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From Milk: Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow Cookie

I was finally able to make something from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook this weekend. I’ve been putting it off for a few reasons. For one, I haven’t had the time to chase after the tricky ingredients I’ve ranted about in this post. For another, there’s something daunting and intimidating about trying to make and replicate something you’ve had from an iconic New York bakery. Who do I think I am, trying to make something Christina Tosi herself created? I knew I was going to be crushed if things did not turn out well (and yes, these are things I obsess about. Don’t judge.).

But I have to at least try, no? And so, try I did.

The recipe I tried out was the Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow Cookie. No weird ingredients needed in this one, although it is one of those many recipe within a recipe things in the book. To make this cookie, you need to make Cornflake Crunch, basically a mixture of cornflakes, milk powder, butter, salt and sugar, baked to a crispy perfection. Although the cookie recipe only requires 3/4 of the crunch recipe, make the whole recipe. If you’re human at all, you will be snacking on this, and, like me, will leave barely enough to meet the 3-cup requirement for the cookies.

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Christina Tosi recommends using a #16 ice cream scoop or a 1/3 cup measure to make the cookies. I didn’t have the scoop, so I used the latter, and my cookies turned out HUGE, some of them almost the size of a saucer. I was only able to bake three at a time on my cookie sheets. I just Googled the #16 ice cream scoop, and it turns out that its equivalent is 4 tbsps or 1/4 cup. So I will definitely use that the next time I make these.

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The cookies are actually on a full-sized plate here.

But bigger cookies are not exactly a bad thing when it comes to these ( and maybe for any cookie for that matter), because they are a marvel. They are crispy, as in thin and crispy, in the edges but gooey, chewy and sticky in the center. I don’t know if it’s Christina’s 10-minute creaming method, or the marshmallows or both, but the contrast of the textures is really something else.

Also something else? The way the cookie tastes. Imagine if you will, a chocolate chip cookie injected with the toasty caramelly-ness of roasted marshmallows, with bursts of the sweet-salty crispiness of the cornflake crunch. It may not be a classic combination, but it’s fantastic nonetheless.

And so while there some things that I didn’t get quite right to perfectly match the Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow cookies I had last September (for instance, I think mine spread a little too much), I think these turned out quite well. I am so glad I didn’t mess them up. Whew. And, yey!

So I guess Compost Cookies are next? Then, maybe (gasp!) Crack Pie?

September: Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Panic time. Two months to go in the year, and before the recipe below, I had four recipes that I needed to cook. Thank goodness for the four day weekend (Yaaaaay!) and I got a chance to catch up on my challenge, even if it was just by one recipe. And my September recipe was Ina Garten’s Raisin Pecan Oatmeal cookies.

In the intro to this recipe on Back To Basics, Ina called herself an oatmeal cookie connoisseur, and that this recipe was the best one she could find after searching for decades. With such high praise from Ina herself, and my own love for oatmeal cookies, I just had to try the recipe.

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As usual, Ina came through for me. These cookies were yummy. Crisp on the outside, chewy and moist in the inside, with a slight hint of cinnamon. Admittedly, I might have slightly overcooked some of them, because they weren’t browning as much as the ones in the photo in the cookbook. So for some of them, I went over the recommended 15 minute maximum cooking time. Thankfully I didn’t burn any of them, but I think some could have been a touch more moist if I took them out earlier. Other than that, I daresay these are as or nearly as good as my favorites from Sonja’s Cupcakes.

Tip: I had a hard time finding pecans in supermarkets, and when I did find them at Rustan’s, they were ridiculously expensive at almost Php 600 for two cups. You can get them at about half the price from Chocolate Lover in Quezon City. Yep, as in the building that looks like a castle. They’re a great source not just for cheap nuts, but everything you’d possibly need for baking.

What makes the Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie amazing?

Hello from NYC!

I’m beyond excited to be in New York for vacation, for two main reasons: the US Open (more on that on a later post) and the food, which we will get to right away.

The famed Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie was on my list of must-try foods, and since I was in the vicinity of Rockefeller Center on Sunday, I decided to drop by¬† the shop at the concourse level of the GE building and scratch the self-proclaimed Mr. Chocolate’s treat off my list. I wanted to have them for breakfast a morning snack, but they weren’t available yet when I got there at opening (ha!), so I had to wait until after my trip to MoMA to buy them. I bought two, had them warmed and promptly sat down on one of the benches outside and dug in.

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And they were… good. I personally would have preferred the use of a darker chocolate, but there’s really nothing wrong with the chocolate used here. It’s not the taste, though, that amazes me about this cookie, actually but more of the… execution. The execution and construction of what should be a pretty basic cookie.

But regular chocolate chip cookie this is not. See that photo? See how the chocolate seems to form a thin layer under top of the cookie? I have no photo of it (my hands had too much chocolate to handle a camera/iPhone), but that’s how the cookie is constructed, with alternating layers of cookie dough and oozing chocolate. And that makes for an entirely different, but wonderful chocolate chip (can we still call it that, though, when there are technically no chips?) cookie experience.

The amateur baker in me is boggled by how a cookie like this is made. The whole cookie itself is thin, so the layers of dough and chocolate have to be VERY thin to form it. But they can’t be TOO thin, because that would cause the layers to melt into each other, which didn’t happen here. The layers are still distinct: dough, chocolate, dough, chocolate, dough.

Darker chocolate or not, this is a new, amazing way to have our childhood favorite. And while I still love my traditional chocolate chip cookies, I would still love to know how to make a cookie like this one.

The verdict: David Lebovitz’s chocolate chip cookie recipes and the end of my search

I know I mentioned that I was on a search for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, and my lack of updates on how the search was going does not mean I have let up. The near-disaster that was the Cook’s Illustrated recipe didn’t deter me from my search. If anything, it made me even more determined to find my go-to recipe.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of looking for a¬† David Lebovitz recipe earlier, he did write a book on chocolate and a desserts cookbook after all. Surely, the blogger/pastry chef has a recipe for chocolate chip cookies somewhere.

Well it turns out he has three. And of course I had to try them all.

All three recipes have the same ingredients: butter, white and brown sugars, vanilla, flour, baking soda, eggs and of course chocolate chips (nuts are optional). The differences just came in the proportions, the condition of the butter (cold versus room temperature) and the treatment of the dough. And here’s my completely amateur attempt at differentiating one from the other:

  • Basic CCC recipe: Now, David himself doesn’t really call this his “basic” recipe, I only called it that because this was the most straightforward of all the three recipes, since nothing “special” was really needed. Among the three recipes, this has the lowest brown to white sugar ratio at 1:1, while the other two have more brown sugar. Also, this recipe requires butter to be cold, whereas most recipes require it to be room temperature.
  • Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie : Obviously, the big difference in this one was the salted butter. All the recipes I’ve perused online call for unsalted butter and this recipe was the only one that specifically required the salted kind. David also requires you to tap the tops of the cookies with a spatula after they have been baking for ten minutes and putting them back in the oven for 2-5 more minutes.
  • The Slice and Bake CCC: I might as well call this the “Patience Test CCC recipe”. This is because after making the dough, you need to form it into logs, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate it for a WHOLE DAY. And this did not sit well with me. Within a couple of hours of putting the logs in the fridge, I was already asking “Maybe two hours is enough?”

I’m actually not sure which cookie recipe these cookies are from. Sorry. Hehe.

And my favorite among the three is (drumroll please…)

The Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie!

I guess it has to do with my love for all things sweet-salty, to me this is the best-tasting of all three recipes. I think the salted butter just adds that extra dimension of flavor. The other two recipes seem bland in comparison. Texturally, as well, I think this recipe is the best. It’s crispy on the surface but moist and chewy in the middle. Maybe it has to do with the extra step of tapping the cookies? The slice and bake recipe is similar in texture, but why go through the effort of roulade-ing the dough and waiting 24 HOURS for it to chill when I can get similar results without having to wait?

The salted butter recipe is the best among David Lebovitz’s, but is it the best one among all I’ve tried? You might remember that I was head-over-heels in love with the flavor of the brown butter from Cooks Illustrated recipe. And I still am, and I think the wonderful caramel-ly flavor of those cookies just eeks past the salted butter cookies. BUT. You might also remember that that recipe almost gave me a nervous breakdown, since I couldn’t get the consistency of the dough right. So, until I pluck up the courage (I know, I know that these are cookies we’re talking about here) to tackle the brown butter again, then David’s recipe will be my go-to cookies for now.

I do think about coming up with my own recipe, though, using a combination of salted butter and brown butter. I’d use a smaller amount of the latter to prevent runniness issues. Again, I’ll have to gather the courage for that, since it seems quite presumptuous to think that I could come up with a better recipe than David Lebovitz AND Cooks Illustrated.

But, a girl can dream.

(and yes, I do realize it’s a little sad that my dreams involves cookies)

Brookies, pancake cookies and, well, cookies

I have been on a quest for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever since my not-so-successful attempt at them a couple of weeks back. During my online searches, I came across the recipe from Cooks Illustrated magazine since so, so many commenters on blogs and other recipes have said that this was the best EVER. So I was convinced to try it out.

While the recipe calls for the same ingredients as 99.5% of other recipes do, they changed two big things in the whole cookie making process. First, the butter is melted until it turns dark golden brown. And, I must say, this is absolutely genius. Brown butter is AMAZEBALLS. I am not kidding. Butter is awesome to begin with, right? But, melting it and cooking it past its melting point just unleashes a nutty, caramell-y, toffee-ish aroma (and taste, too, I presume) that is just… heavenly. I didn’t think I could love butter even more than I already do.

Anyway,  the other additional step in the recipe is that the butter & sugar mixture is made to sit for about 10 minutes total during the mixing process. They say that this makes the flavors time to meld together. I guess that makes sense. So, I did all that and ended up with this:

Brookies

So how did an cookie recipe yield brownies? Or, as my sister has baptized them, “brookies”? Well, this is what happens when the chocolate chips you mix in melts into the batter. The batter was still too hot (I really didn’t notice, even if I mixed the flour in by hand) and the chips melted almost on contact. I was actually screaming my head off while this was happening, as in “The chocolate is meltiiiiiiiiiiiiiing! Nooooooooooooooooo!”. I was so disappointed, I actually felt like crying. I was torn between throwing the batter out or to still try and salvage something out of it. I couldn’t bear the thought of all that French butter (yes, my Paris trip has turned me into a butter snob), chocolate and walnuts going to waste, so I dumped everything into a brownie pan and prayed that the end result would be edible, at least.

And it was. More than edible, it was delicious. They were crisp and toasted at the edges and moist and chewy at the center. They were really good. And not just in a oh-they’re-not-bad-for-something-that-should’ve-been-a-cookie sense. As in they were legitimately yummy. Ask my family, who ate them a la mode for dessert.

Despite the disaster-turned-success of the brookies, I still wanted to get that recipe right. So, even after baking the brookies and cooking dinner (more on that soon), I gave it another go. This time, I was careful to make sure that the butter cooled down enough before I added anything. I actually submerged my bowl in cold water, to cool it down before I added anything in. I tested the batter with my own fingertips to make sure it was cool. I added in the chocolate chips with bated breath and they did not melt. BUT.

BUT.

The batter was too liquid, too fluid to be a cookie batter. It was also a little mealy from the sugar. I mixed and mixed, and even put the dough in the fridge to chill it. The dough held its shape, it was still too soft and thin for me and I could still feel the sugar in the batter. For the life of me, I didn’t understand what I did wrong, since I cooled the butter down completely this time. But again, I refused to throw the batter out so I scooped the dough to the sheet and baked them anyway. And this is what I ended up with:

Pancake Cookie

what my brother called “Pancake Cookie”, for obvious reasons. I was right, the dough was too thin and runny, so the five cookies I pre scooped out all melted into one another. Again, I felt like crying and considered throwing everything out gain. But I tasted the Pancake Cookie and it was delicious. Moist (even if it was that thin!) in the middle and wonderfully burnt crispy on the sides. There was hope.

And that hope came in the form of flour. I put in another half cup of flour in the batter and it really helped. The batter firmed up quickly and smoothened, too. It was no longer mealy. Encouraged by this, I scooped out a batch. They still thinned out rather quickly in the oven, but each cookie was still an individual cookie (although some cookies’ edges did touch). This batch didn’t turn out to be Pancake Cookie #2. Hallelujah.

So I decided to chill the batter for much longer this time. I chilled them up to the point where the batter was almost like ice cream that’s been in the freezer for a couple of days. They were smooth, they held their shape, and I could actually form them into the balls I saw in the blog posts. The batter was perfect.

And the cookies?

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Aaaaaaaaaaah. They were a little crisp on the edges but perfectly moist and chewy in the middle. And apart from just the texture, the cookie itself, the actual bread of the cookie was wonderful. There were hints of caramel and toffee (thank you, brown butter! I love you!) that just gave it that much more depth, that much more flavor.  And when you combine it with a gooey semi-sweet chocolate or the salty bite of toasted walnuts? Nomnomnomnomnom.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

So the Cooks Illustrated recipe is definitely in the running for best chocolate chip recipe ever. It’s definitely resulted in the best cookie of the three recipes I’ve tried this month. And also in the most stressful (non-work related) day I’ve had in a month.

January: Chocolate Chip Cookies

I guess it makes sense that the recipe I try out to kick off my 2012 cooking challenge is a classic. I also wanted a recipe that would require me to use my brand spankin’ new KitchenAid mixer (more on that soon), as I was desperate to finally use it. And how could anyone go wrong with chocolate chip cookies, right?

The recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen cookbook and is her tried & tested chocolate chip cookie recipe. The recipe was pretty straightforward enough and I followed it to the T, and ended up with these:

I didn’t know what I did wrong, because I used a one-fourth cup scoop to measure out the dough for the cookies as directed. Nigella used an even deeper, dome-shaped ice cream scooper and plopped the dough straight to the cookie sheet without flattening them before putting them in the oven, and her cookies turned out normal. Mine turned out thick and dense and were even mistaken for scones (haha!). The resulting cookies were therefore very cakey and dense. But they tasted good (and they filled up the house with an awesome, buttery, chocolatey smell while baking), they were just not the right texture and density.

So, alas, my first attempt at my cooking challenge was not a raging success. I had fun, though, since I got to use my mixer for the first time. I just know that for next time, I’ll have to flatten out the cookies before I put them in the oven. Or maybe I should try Phoebe Buffay’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.

PS: Does anyone have an idea on what I did wrong? I was having trouble keeping the temperature of my oven up to the required 325¬įF, could that be it? I am also still just getting a hang of my mixer’s speeds, could it be that I overworked the dough? Nigella’s recipe requires you to melt the butter before mixing with the sugars, which I’ve never seen in a chocolate chip cookie recipe before, could that have made the difference? I’ll appreciate any help, as I don’t want to end up with (albeit yummy) quasi-scones again. Thanks!