Friday, September 24, 2010

cookie success!

I made chocolate chip cookies today, and just as I got to the step of adding brown sugar to the butter and white sugar, it became clear that the brown sugar I had would not be cooperating. It had been at the bottom shelf of the refrigerator for a while, a storage solution I'd thought was pretty clever. You can keep flour fresh for longer in the fridge — why not brown sugar?

Because it turns rock hard, that's why. Which sometimes happens with this stuff. But this was incredibly, unrecoverably dry. There was none of the usual feeling of moist sand just revealed by a receding wave — this was more like the dry sand further from the water that gets picked up by the wind and blown into your eyes. And for spite, it won't work in your cookies either.

A rock-hard rock of brown sugar

So Miguel hopped on his bike and rode to Farm to Market, a place down the street that's great for those times you need one lemon and some lettuce to round out your dinner ingredients. Actually, it's better for more than that and probably deserves more of my grocery dollars, and you can probably tell I feel a little guilty about not supporting this local place more. But it sure is convenient when you need a lemon.

Potential Cookie Disaster No. 2 happened when Miguel got back home. After his first bike ride post-Lasik surgery, he was invigorated and full of feeling — and also full of comments like, "I rode slower so I could really look at everything around me!" and "That girl across the street has freckles!" But the new package of brown sugar was no softer than the first.

I've always read that the way to combat this is a few seconds in the microwave. We don't have one of those, but two minutes in my small convection oven and some energetic carving with a spoon got me the cup I needed.

The secret ingredient: espresso powder

Even with the sugar problem solved, I kept worrying about the cookie dough through Potential Cookie Disasters Nos. 3 through 7:

3) Before adding flour, the dough almost broke, the way a frosting can.

4) It tasted pretty darn salty.

5) It was runnier and more like a batter than a cookie dough should be.

6) Spooning it on the cookie sheet, I saw that some big brown sugar clumps remained.

7) I forgot the chilling step.

These cookies must be miraculous though, because they withstood seven potential disasters and came out not too salty, not too crumbly, but just right. The proof: a minute ago, Miguel's dad called out from the kitchen with a full mouth, "You got a winner here, Beth!"

Disaster-proof chocolate chip cookies

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

2 whole eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2-¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon (heaping) instant espresso granules

1 teaspoon baking soda

1-½ teaspoon salt

1 bag semisweet chocolate chips

Handful of pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar and white sugar until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat together.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, instant espresso, baking soda and salt. Add to wet ingredients in batches, stirring gently after each addition.

Stir in chocolate chips and pecan pieces.

Press plastic wrap against the dough and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Drop balls of dough on a cookie sheet and bake for 11 to 13 minutes. Let cool for a minute on a baking rack, but not for too long: they're best enjoyed warm.

1 comment:

  1. I find myself thinking fondly of your baby blue oven. Or is it robin's egg?