Friday, September 12, 2008

Toll House Test Lab

Mrs. Gupte, my high school chemistry teacher, often compared chemistry to cooking. She insisted that if you could do one, the other should come naturally. Let's just say I was an A+ chemistry student in high school. :)

Introduction: A couple of months ago, the NY Times ran "The Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie"on the origin of Toll House cookies. In the article they mentioned several tips, but the real breakthrough in the article revolved around the dough. Apparently, what most recipes fail to mention, is how long to let the dough sit (in the refrigerator obviously). Word on the street is 36 hours is the optimal time to let all the flavors meld together. Some fancy bakers in NY did an experiment and baked the dough at varying intervals. I was quite intrigued and decided that it was imperative I do my own testing to see if this holds true.

Objective: To find out if waiting to bake the dough makes a difference in the taste.

2 1/4 cups whole wheat white flour (I try to be somewhat healthy)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup Crisco (sometimes I use the Crisco suggest 6 tblspns. of water, others I don't)
3/4 cup normal sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (use real, not immitation)
2 large eggs (make sure they're not floaters!**)
2 cups semi-sweet (or dark) chocolate chips
Kosher/Sea Salt (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F

2. Combine dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt) in a small bowl; fluff with a fork to mix.

3. Combine wet ingredients (Crisco, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract) in a medium to large bowl and mix until smooth. I always do this by hand, but if you're lazy/wimpy you can use a mixer.

4. Add the eggs and mix 'til combined.

5. Start adding the dry ingredients to the wet, but do this a little at a time and mix well in between. It's not worth getting impatient and dumping it all in at once, because you'll only end up with a huge mess and tired arms.

6. Mix in the chocolate chips.

7. Using a spoon, scoop up some dough and drop it on a cookie sheet.

8. Sprinkle some of the kosher/sea salt on top of the mounds.

9. Here's the part in question: you can bake them immediately, wait 24 hours, or go the full 36. If you don't use the dough immediately, be sure to cover it and place it in the refrigerator.

10. Whenver you decide to bake them, do it for around 9-13 minutes; this vary's oven-to-oven, so keep an eye on them!

11. Enjoy with a nice glass of milk, or if you're me, a nice glass of Maker's Mark.

Instant Gratification

24 Hours

36 Hours

Instant Gratification
Since I normally bake my cookies right away, this batch wasn't going to be anything new. I decided to change things up and try sprinkling the salt on top, per the NY Times suggestion. The salted cookies were super tasty, but they didn't really flatten. At first I was afraid, I'd done something wrong, but my unsalted batch turned out just fine!

24 Hours
Nothing terribly exciting at this stage. There was a slight richer flavour, but I don't know that it's worth waiting for.

36 Hours
At 36 hours, there was a distinct difference in both the raw dough and in the final product. As shown in the pictures, the dough was much darker and drier than in when first mixed. The taste was what really wow'd me! I don't know that I can pinpoint the flavors quite as distinctly as the NY Times folks did, but there was definitely more depth; most importantly, though, they were delicious!

If you have the self-control to hold out for the full 36 hours, it's worth it. However, if you can't wait that long I would just go ahead and bake them immediately. There didn't seem to be enough of a difference at the 24 hour mark to really bother waiting. Basically, I would recommend that you either go all the way or not at all.

*This is a variation of the tradtion Nestle's Toll House recipe

**Here's an easy test to see if your eggs are still good to use. I always do this instead of going by the expiration date. I find that eggs are generally good for quite some time past that date (I believe my current carton says August 28, and they're still good). Just place your egg in a container of water. If it sinks it's good; if it floats, it's rotten!

1 comment:

Katie said...

I think its time for the Reeses Peeses cookies (aka tasty delights) to make an appearance on this blog!