Cookie Week Day Two: Cookie Advice from a Pro

Posted by Brette in Food

choc chip stockxIf you love to bake (and eat!) cookies, you’re probably always looking for tips on how to make them better. Here are a few suggestions to improve your cookie baking skills.

The Pastry Chef:

Chef and Professor Dieter Schorner of the Culinary Institute of America says that one of the biggest mistakes Americans make in baking cookies is overworking the dough (“fold it together,” he recommends, instead of mixing). Another comment he has is that Americans use too many flavors in one cookie. “The simplest is the best tasting,” Schorner suggests, “If there are too many ingredients, you can’t figure out what it is. Keep it flavorful and keep it simple.” Schorner believes American cookies tend to be underbaked. “A cookie,” he says, “should be crunchy, not chewy. Americans think if it is crunchy it is stale.” And lastly, he says, “The cookie is too grown up in this country. Everything is Texas sized. That’s a meal, not a cookie. I want to taste a little cookie.”

The TollHouse Secret:

If you’ve made chocolate chip cookies before, you might be surprised to see that this recipe dissolves the baking soda in hot water, chills the dough overnight and has the baker form the cookies by hand. This was all actually part of Wakefield’s original recipe but was not included by Nestle when it used her recipe. In her 1948 book, Toll House Tried and True Recipes, Wakefield says, ”At Toll House, we chill dough overnight.” Chilling the dough is actually a crucial step that improves the texture of the cookie. This time lapse allows the eggs to absorb the dry ingredients more fully, creating a drier and firmer cookie. This method has recently regained popularity, as demonstrated by a recent New York Times article, “Perfection? Hint: It’s Warm and Has a Secret” by David Leite (July 9, 2008). In the article, Leite interviews Maury Rubin, owner of City Bakery in New York City. Rubin discloses that not only does he chill his dough for 36 hours, but he makes his cookies six inches in diameter because this creates three distinct textures – a crispy outer ring, a chewy second ring and a soft center ring.

An important factor in the quality of a chocolate chip cookie rests on the quality of the chocolate itself. Most professional bakers use chocolate that is at least 60 percent cacao. Jacque Torres, owner of Jacques Torres Chocolate in New York City relies on couverture chocolate for his cookies – thin disks of coating chocolate which melt during the baking process and create layers of cookie and chocolate.

If you enjoyed these tidbits, you’ll find cookie recipes and techniques and more in Cookie: A Love Story.

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