Monday, April 29, 2013

Pinterest meh

I won't call this a fail, because it did produce yummy cookies, but they certainly didn't look like the ones in the picture. The taste was good, but not as great as I expected.

I pinned this recipe not too long ago and posted about it here. I decided to make it for Teacher Appreciation Week. Then I made them a week early because I misread the dates for Teacher Appreciation Week. Anyway, I gathered materials, and let me tell you, keeping my children from devouring the pretzels was no small task. But I got it done and we mixed up the dough, chilling it overnight as directed.

The next day, I started baking. The dough was incredibly hard; there is, after all, a lot of butter in each batch. I came close to knocking the cookie sheet off the counter more than once when the scoop skipped across the nearly-rock-solid dough.

This is what the cookies are supposed to look like.

Unfortunately, my cookies looked like this.

I'm not sure if I would make this recipe again. The cookies taste good; the brown butter really does add something, and the butterscotch, pretzels and chocolate chips were as good as I knew they would be. And they were chewy, as promised, the way you want cookies to be chewy. This recipe is based on Alton Brown's chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe, so no surprise that they were good. However, I had two problems with them: they were flat and they were greasy. Actually, make that three. It was also pretty difficult to get the pretzels and chips evenly distributed when scooping the dough. I did my best, but sometimes I'd come across a cookie missing one or two of those ingredients completely.

Let's go back to the first two issues: flat and greasy. They actually didn't come out of the oven flat or greasy.

But they ended up that way. At first glance, I want to take blame for this because I used all purpose flour instead of bread flour, but these specific issues are things I've come across lately with more than one recipe, and none of the other recipes called for bread flour. So I don't know.

According to Alton Brown and Chowhound, bread flour is used in some cookie recipes because it helps to create a chewy texture (as does the brown sugar in this recipe; that's why there's so much more of it than white sugar) but I didn't have any problems there. It also absorbs slightly more moisture than all purpose flour, and I could see that being the source of my issue with the greasiness, too. Like I said, though, this is a problem I've had with other recipes. I need to get an oven thermometer because it occurred to me that it's a problem I've only had at this house. My cookies used to come out exactly how I expected them to, but not since we moved here. If the oven is running low that could explain both problems--the dough isn't cooking fast enough to keep the butter in the dough from melting and letting the cookie spread too much, and in turn that doesn't let the butter get absorbed completely before the cooking time is up. I don't know. I'm no chemist and I'm no chef, but I do try and understand why ingredients do what they do when I bake.

So. I'm not sure if I would make this recipe again. I am willing to try it with bread flour and see what happens, but my bigger problem is with the uneven distribution of chips and pretzels. It's a good idea, but I just don't know if it would be worth trying again. If I could get my cookies to be as chock full of chips and pretzels as the ones pictured then yeah, I'm all for it. But it just felt like instead of getting the expected mixture of chocolate, butterscotch and salty pretzel, I was getting individual ingredients. Pretzels or chocolate chips. Butterscotch or pretzel. It never seemed to coalesce into one whole.

One of the suggestions I read for substituting all purpose flour for bread flour was to measure your AP flour, then remove 2-3 tablespoons of flour and add in the same amount of cornstarch. Cornstarch was also suggested as something that would stop cookies from spreading, so I think if I were to try this recipe again I would add some cornstarch. For this batch, however, I just put them on paper towels to absorb the extra grease (and there was a lot) and called it good.

I also think that 20-24 cookies is a conservative estimate. Which is not a bad thing, especially considering how much we like to taste test both the unfinished and finished cookie product.

EDIT: I haven't bought an oven thermometer yet, but I baked more of these today with the oven temp at 400. The baking time was ten minutes and they turned out fantastic, just how I wanted them. So obviously my oven is running low, now I just have to figure out how low.

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