Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Culinary Achilles’ Heel

I’ve tackled the Turducken, a French apple tart, and Escoffier’s mother sauces. But there is one recipe that still haunts me and can make me sweat when requested at a potlucks or bake sales.

After years (and I mean years!) and hundreds of failed attempt at this classic recipe I finally surrender my inadequacy and put the recipe away, permanently.

What is the recipe that has caused me so much culinary angst? Clue: It’s one you’re Grandmother and 10 year old little brother probably mastered on their fist attempt. 

Yes, it is embarrassing but I have no shame (have you read this blog?) and I’ll admit my culinary Achilles’ heel is the…. Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie.

The constant failure that plagued my cookies over the years is they fall flat, very flat. Once they are removed from the cookie sheet you can almost see through them. I’ve hundreds articles and several books on chocolate chip cookies and still success eludes me. It’s been almost 6 years since my last attempt.

I wish I could say I willing to attempt this recipe again because of pride but like most of my crazy talk in my life it’s because of a man, or should I say men. Most women who are chefs or cook professionally can relate. When I guy finds out what you do, first they assume you are a baker and second they ask, “So you like to bake. Cool. You must make really great cookies, huh?”

This un-witty banter usually results in me saying, “No and no. I much rather break down a side a beef then roll out cookies and frost cupcakes.”

And…. then they walk away.

Realizing my verbal diarrhea (albeit honest verbal diarrhea) isn’t helping my love life, maybe it was finally time to give the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe another whirl?

Perhaps it was the culinary degree which now hangs in my kitchen, the two hour NYU lecture on the chocolate chip cookie I attended or my 2010 tax return that list “Culinary Professional” as my occupation but I started out feeling confident.

My approach was to treat this recipe like one I would in the test kitchen. I would gather my mis en place (Exhibit A) and follow the recipe exactly. If it read “beat for 30 seconds” I would count to thirty – not thirty-one and definitely not twenty-nine.  

Using an ice cream scoop I kept my cookie size consistent, and boarding on being neurotic, I even weighed a few sample to ensure consistency (Exhibit B). 

And the results…..

Dare I say success?

Even the last batch, that I forgot about (I poured a large celebratory glass of wine after the first successful batch and another - a tad larger - after the second) turned out better then any previous attempts. 

Bring it on Toll House, Bring it on! 


Jayne said...

I have been baking for over 50 years, and I have yet to make a nice, fat chocolate chip cookie. Mine all are flat and soft. I use half butter and half butter flavored Crisco. What do you use for the "shortening" on the package?

Meghan said...

You are not alone...I too faced the curse of fallen Toll House Choc Chip cookies! Oh the agony! I found that freezing them on the sheet before I pop them in the oven helps. But maybe you told me that trick!?

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