Saturday, November 04, 2006

Second Chances

When Baking Illustrated first came out I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! I gleefully clutched the book and ran to the kitchen as soon as it arrived. I thumbed through and was a little disappointed with the “illustrated” - or lack there of - part of the book. But, still, knowing from whence this book sprouted I felt sure that it would be a goldmine of wonderful recipes. I have to say when I started reading I found the descriptions of how each – and – every - recipe was formulated and – each - and – every - variation, I started to get a little put off. I kinda found it pretentious – and COMPLICATED. It seemed like they worked really hard to make recipes as complicated as possible to scare away the new bakers among us.

My first choice was for a pumpkin cheesecake – now cheesecake doesn’t scare me, but this one gave me pause – I mean really, spread the pumpkin on paper towels and soak out the juice – then cook it then blah blah blah, really seemed to take the long way round to get to the end…and don’t get me started on jamming a thermometer into cheesecake to check for doneness. Puh – Leez. That is what God gave you eyes for dude. Long story short – the Pumpkin Cheesecake was not well received at my thanksgiving table – it was grainy, and somehow dry and mushy at the same time. SO, away with you Baking Illustrated. I banished it to the cookbook shelf in the cellar never to darken my kitchen again.

Okay so that was a little harsh, but I have SO many cook books, that when one is a disappointment out of the gate, I just tend to shuffle it aside and run screaming back to my old faithfuls.

Well, I brought this baby back out when I decided that I needed a new chocolate cookie recipe – I have been making the “Neiman Marcus $250 Cookie” for about 9 or 10 years, since it first circulated on the internet. And ya know, I would have paid $250 for it because it has never failed to get rave reviews. Always thick, always chewy, always chocolaty – but a little lacking in the butteriness of, say, a Toll House Cookie. I felt it was time for a change so I dragged out all the cookbooks that I had with chocolate chip cookie recipes – and BI was one of them. What really prompted this was my good buddy Alton Brown on Good Eats. I saw his show on Chocolate Chip Cookies and thought I should maybe try his ideas. Well, I looked all the books over, compared with Alton and realized that his Thick and Chewy was almost the same as the BI version. Hmm.

I decided to give BI a second chance and try this cookie. Now don’t get me wrong – they had tried to disguise this simple cookie in a wacky “rip the dough ball in half and jam it back together" complication, but I was too smart for um – I saw the possibility hidden in the weird instructions.

I simply used a #20 cookie scoop and called it a day – no ripping no jamming – I mean really what did the poor dough do to me to deserve such violent treatment? I did add a few extra chocolate chips because I feel that no recipe EVER adds enough chocolate, but don’t go crazy here, maybe a half cup, no more. You still want to have some dough in your cookie.


All things considered, this cookie was thick, chewy, chocolate AND buttery – very nearly perfect (nothing is EVER perfect!) and my new favorite.

Moral of the story? Everyone deserves a second chance – even a cookbook.