Monday, November 16, 2009

the cookie throwdown -> 100+ cookies & beer

After weeks of anticipation and preparation, it has finally manifested... my dream to find the ULTIMATE chocolate cookie recipe! My goal was to search and bake the top cookie recipes I could find, thus leading to a conclusive final cookie. I hoped to seek out valuable information from friends about their thoughts on each cookie, and hopefully everyone would choose the same recipe. But, of course, things never work the way I expect.

The five cookie recipes I chose were: the New York Times cookie (which caught my attention with the 36-hour rest in the fridge, along with the use of bread and cake flour), Alton Brown's "The Chewy" (seeing as how he's one of my favorite go-to recipe guys, I couldn't NOT do this one), Cooks Illustrated's "Thick and Chewy" (which I have tried before, with great results), Neiman Marcus cookie (with the 1+1/2 cups of grounded oats), and finally, for a comparison standard- the old-fashioned Tollhouse cookie recipe.

I planned on first preparing all the doughs, letting them sit in the fridge while I moved on to the next dough-making; so all could get a good amount of fridge-sitting (which is very important in the cookie-baking process!). Then I baked one after the next, continuously spitting out racks and racks of cookies. All were labeled and thoroughly cooled and promptly put into tupperwares. I then labeled each with a random number, threw them in ziplocs, and distributed to friends for their input. Needless to say, it was a long and grueling day, and I couldn't have done it without my friends.

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Beginning around noon, my friend and I began preparing the five batters. Our handy boyfriends were near (not really) watching football and chattering away. Me and my friend sifted, measured, and nearly worked our arms off mixing dough for a good few hours. Newborn baby sized saran-wrapped dough began accumulating in my fridge like you wouldn't believe.

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Once the actual baking began, things started to look up for once. First batch we baked was Tollhouse. I wasn't expecting much from these, as I never really cared for Tollhouse cookies.

Then on to the Neiman Marcus cookie. While reading the instructions, they stated 2 large tablespoons full of dough. Me and my friend looked at each other as we held these massive dough balls resembling baseball-sized oatmeal balls. Skeptical at first, we baked them, and saw them grow into even massive-er sized balls of cookie. The final result was surprisingly much better than expected, and my boyfriend and I even considered these our second favorite out of all the other cookies. (Also, by this time, our boyfriends had driven to the grocery store and picked us up beer which we originally planned for. Awww, how sweet- and well deserved for us teehee).

Attempting to not drink too much, so not to dampen the results because of intoxication, we began our next batch. This is the cookie recipe which I originally thought would reign supreme. See, I’m a huge fan of Alton Browns, and almost all of his recipes are top-notch. This recipe called for bread flour as well as all-purpose, and in this particular episode, he explained the reasoning behind all of this. Now I’m horrible at science, so it made no sense to me whatsoever, but I took his word for it. In the end, these little balls of cookies were good, but not excellent, contrary to what I expected.

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And then on to the Cook's Illustrated recipe. This is the same one me and my boyfriend used for our exceedingly sweet coconut and white chocolate chip cookies (which I couldn't blame the recipe for- it was our own fault). So I had no doubt these cookies wouldn't let me down- which they didn't. My boyfriend and I both chose these as our favorite.

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Our last batch baked and our first batch made was the New York Times cookie. I had very high hopes for this, considering the amount of time needed in the fridge and the inclusion of two new and different types of flour. The online reviews were amazing for these cookies, and how could I doubt the New York Times? Following the directions to a T, these cookies quite honestly looked deformed and unfortunate while taking out of the oven. They actually spread so much that each cookie overlapped, which just broke my heart. They were flat and looked crunchy (not good). The taste, however, was unique and quite tasty. But I’m sorry New York Times; I will never love a flat and somewhat crunchy cookie- that's just how I roll.

My friend and I re-evaluated the New York Times cookie, and decided to change a few things. We made the dough balls smaller, more spread apart, and baked those 5 minutes less. Needless to say, they turned out exactly the same- just no longer overlapping one another.

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So, after baking portions of all five batches, we went back and finished off all the remaining dough. This entire process took well over five hours, but was well worth it. All four of us were stuffed to the brim of cookies (and cookie dough) and could no longer force a cookie down our throats if our lives depended on it. I couldn't even bare to look at a cookie again at that point. But, our jobs were not finished. I still had to label and organize all the cookies into little ziplocs for which I was going to distribute to friends for evaluation.

All remaining cookies were banished from my house and packed up tightly in containers to be given to my boyfriend and his family. I wouldn't be surprised if they get sick of cookies soon too.

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