November 14, 2010

Cookie Mistake Leads to Interesting Discovery

On Thursday night, I made up a batch of chocolate chip cookies.   I used the recipe for Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies from the May 2009 Cook's Illustrated.  I've used this particular recipe before, and the result has been reliably excellent cookies.  This time, though, something went a bit awry, but instead of ruining the cookies, they were quite tasty, and I also learned something interesting, and potentially useful.

The cookie recipe calls for toasted, chopped walnuts as an optional ingredient, and I generally go with that option, but I got busy trying to do a few too many things at once, and rather than dry-roast the nuts in a skillet on the stove top, which I usually do, I decided to toss them onto a baking pan and put them in the oven for a bit to roast.  Well, that "bit" turned out to be more than a bit too long, and so that first batch of nuts burnt.  No great tragedy; Juli chopped up another bunch of walnuts, and this time I cooked them on the stove top, and as usual, they roasted up just fine.

However, normally I roast the nuts while doing prep for the recipe, before I actually start mixing anything.  This time around, due to having ruined the first batch, and to my having started mixing ingredients while the nuts were in the oven, the second batch of nuts ended up being roasted only a bit before I needed to toss them into the cookie dough.  So they hadn't had enough time to cool when I added them to the dough.

The recipe calls for the chocolate chips and the nuts to be added at the same time, but because the nuts were still somewhat warm, the chocolate chips melted somewhat as they and the nuts were mixed in.   I noticed this pretty quickly, but not quite quickly enough to do anything about it; by that time, the chips and nuts were partially incorporated into the dough, and streaks of semi-melted chips were shedding streaks of melted chocolate into the dough.   By the time the chips and nuts were incorporated into the dough, the melted chocolate was likewise incorporated into the dough, making it somewhat darker than usual and giving it a somewhat moister-than-usual texture.

Not surprisingly, the dough being different resulted in the cookies also being different than those I've previously made using the recipe.  Aside from being darker in color, they were a lot crisper and somewhat crackly along the edges.  They also tasted somewhat different... but in a way that was pretty good in its own way.

This is what the cookies made with this recipe typically look like.

In contrast, these are what my most recent batch looks like.

One of the more unusual features of the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe is that it calls for most of the butter to be browned, and this gives the cookies something of a caramel-toffee sort of flavor.   I had thought the unintended incorporation of the melted chocolate into the dough would result in the whole cookie tasting more chocolaty, but that wasn't really the case at all.  Instead, the melted chocolate intensified the caramel-toffee flavor, giving the cookies a very rich toffee flavor.  I'm no food scientist, but I'm guessing having the melted chocolate in the dough, as opposed to just having distinct chunks of chocolate, boosted the sugar content of the dough enough to result in it becoming more caramelized, which would also account for the difference in texture. 

So, while I didn't get quite the cookies I intended, what I got was still pretty good, and I also learned something which might possibly be useful in some other recipe down the road.

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