February 12, 2019

Chocolate Chip Cookie Test No. 4: The Consummate One

Way back in 2008, The New York Times released a chocolate cookie recipe that quickly became viral. After extensive research with well-known bakers and pastry chefs, they created a new archetypal chocolate cookie recipe based on a Jacques Torres recipe.
The main takeaways from this recipe are:
  • resting the dough for 24-72 hours
  • using a combination of bread and cake flours
  • using high quality baking wafers or discs.
They became so legendary because they were perfectly chewy, covered in gooey, melted chocolate and had a depth of flavor. 

Recipe Highlights:
  • I couldn't get myself to spend $50 on Valrhona chocolate feves so I opted for Guittard Bittersweet Baking Wafers from Target ($8)
  • luckily I had bread flour sitting around but made my own cake flour by adding in cornstarch to all purpose flour. find out how here
  • I had some trouble mixing the dough since I believe I added too much chocolate (as if that's a real problem) but in my defense, there was barely any cookie dough in my dough balls. So mix in a pound at first and see if you need the extra 1/3lbs of the chocolate wafers. 
  • recipe advises to flatten the chocolate wafers so they don't poke out of the dough--this achieves a more handsome cookie (but also makes it more high maintenance). 
  • calls for light brown sugar
  • need time to have butter come to room temperature to cream it 
  • topped cookies with fleur de sel (fancy salt) before baking
Overall: These felt fancy with the intense melted chocolate throughout the cookie. I loved how the cookies looked visually, with its ripples and chocolate gooey blobs throughout the surface. These are stinking good cookies: crispy, chewy with an almost overwhelming amount of chocolate. There is a depth of flavor but I was kind of craving a brown butter flavor that I had been baking with recently.

Current rankings:
  1. BraveTart
  2. America's Test Kitchen
  3. Jacque Torres
  4. NY Times Thick and Gooey

February 2, 2019

Chocolate Chip Cookie Test No. 3-Old Fashioned Cookies

I was gifted the BraveTart baking book for my birthday a few months ago but hadn't baked anything from it yet (I did help the Twin in making her brownies over the summer). I decided that for my first recipe out of the book I would turn to her chocolate chip cookie recipe. But in keeping with the brown butter theme, I used the brown butter variation.
Like the Food Lab's Kenji, Stella Parks also painstakingly tests her recipes, so I put my trust in her recipe. These are old-fashioned in the sense that they use chopped chocolate, which was how cookies were made pre-Toll House cookie recipe in the late 19th century.
The Recipe: BraveTart's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies but instead of creaming the butter, I browned 10 tbs of butter (and let it cool) and added an extra egg, as Stella advises in her book.
Recipe Highlights:
  • used semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate chunks
  • calls for baking soda and baking powder
  • uses light brown sugar
  • the addition of nutmeg is used to enhance the butterscotch flavor
  • in addition to a chocolate chunk being added to the top of the cookies before baking, flaky sea salt or fleur de sel is sprinkled as well
  • used weight measurements instead of volume in hopes of achieving the best results
Overall: These cookies had a good contrast between crispy edges and a gooey center (since I underbaked them). These had maybe a tiny bit less nutty-caramel flavor than the America's Test Kitchen cookie but these also had a nice salty bite. And they were so beautiful since they were speckled with the chocolate chunks and so nicely dolloped with a large chocolate shard on top before baking. 

Current Rankings: Tied 1. America's Test Kitchen and BraveTart 3. NY Times-Thick and Gooey

January 27, 2019

Chocolate Chip Cookie Test No. 2-America's Test Kitchen

I've been reading a lot about chocolate chip cookies and this particular dissertation on the subject by Kenji Lopez-Alt is a thorough read on the subject. He and I have similar feelings about the perfect chocolate chip cookie: "barely crisp around the edges with a buttery, toffee-like crunch that transitions into a chewy, moist center that bends like caramel, rich with butter and big pockets of melted chocolate."
And since he did very extensive research and testing on the subject, I've decided to bake his recipe last in my quest for the perfect cookie recipe. I'm hoping I'm saving the best for last. But in the meantime, I'm taking cues from his research: brown butter gives the cookies the deep caramel flavor I crave. I turned to America's Test Kitchen's recipe in their The Perfect Cookie book as my next cookie test. 

This recipe was appealing since I didn't have to do any resting time with the dough. As soon as I browned the butter, the recipe was ready to assemble and bake. 

The Recipe: America's Test Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookies (and there's a nice accompanying video)

Recipe Highlights:

  • browned 10 of the 14 tablespoons of butter needed in the recipe
  • a 3 tablespoon dough ball yields crispy edges and a soft center
  • bake until the cookies are still a little pale to get a softer cookie
  • called for dark brown sugar
  • only required using baking soda
  • used bittersweet chips for a less sweet flavor from the chips (last time I used semi-sweet)
Overall: These cookies had the deep, caramel/nutty flavor I've been desiring and also had a perfect salty bite amongst the sugary cookie base. The use of bittersweet chips definitely helped with flavor but the texture wasn't all I had dreamed and hoped for. Once the cookies cooled, they didn't maintain their soft, chewy texture that I preferred but were still delicious. This recipe is almost the perfect cookie in my eyes. 

January 24, 2019

Soup Weather

It's full on winter over here in KC: ice, snow storms, frigid temps--the whole shebang. I've been layering up in heattech gear from Uniqlo and wearing my super fancy parka but also consuming as much soup to stay extra cozy and warm. Here are some of my favorites lately: 

This lasagna soup has been in regular rotation since Serena of Domesticate Me posted the recipe two years ago. I find it a good way to pack in lots of veggies so I feel kind of healthy while consuming a soup that tastes like lasagna. 
Red Lentil Soup with Lemon:
Big Sista makes red lentil soup regularly in her kitchen and I loved it so much when she made it for me once. Red lentil soup cooks up quickly with the help of split red lentils. It's hearty and with a Mediterranean flavor that is so delicious.
This may be my new favorite chicken soup since it's full of Asian flavors that remind me of the chicken soup I like to make when I'm feeling under the weather. And it has flour dumplings that are the same Korean sujebi hand-torn noodles my grandma would add to her seafood-based broth that I loved so much as a kid. 

January 19, 2019

Chocolate Chip Cookie Test No. 1-Thick and Gooey

Is there anything better than a warm, thick, gooey chocolate chip cookie? When I was halfway through the Whole30 last summer, I craved and dreamed about freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. And now I've decided to embark on a little project to keep me occupied through the long, cold winter: to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.
My ideal cookie has a soft center with the right balance between sweet and salty and a good caramel and buttery flavor. My favorite recipe for years was the Toll-House Cookie Recipe but the last time I baked them, I found myself wanting a more complex flavor profile (they seemed a little too sweet for me).

Last weekend during a snow day, I decided to try my first batch of cookies, turning to this New York Times Thick-and-Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. Thick and Gooey being in the title made it seem quite promising.
The Recipe: Thick-and-Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies from the New York Times

Recipe Highlights:
  • no fancy techniques like browning butter (but needed softened, room temperature butter)
  • required chilling dough for at least an hour before baking
  • called for baking soda AND baking powder
  • specified using LIGHT brown sugar
  • dough balls before baking were 1/4 cup and pressed down-which yielded spread and not thick and gooey cookies. I changed it to using my cookie scoop and keeping the dough in a tall ball form when baking, which slightly improved baked shape
  • I used semi-sweet chocolate chips from Trader Joe's (may experiment with bittersweet and other brands)
Overall: The cookies, while delicious, weren't all that thick or gooey, and had crispier edges than I would have preferred. I was also craving a more present caramel/butterscotch flavor. These were a tasty batch of cookies but nothing elevating it BEST COOKIES EVER status. 

January 12, 2019

All-the-Processed-Foods Stew

Happy New Year! I'm currently cozy under a warm blanket and enjoying a snow day here in KC. I have plans to make cookies soon and am going to enjoy a day of cable movies and might even channel flip to an important KC football game this afternoon.

I'm still getting used to living in a city with winter after having been spoiled for three years living in the South prior to moving to KC. But cold weather equals soup weather! And this Korean stew with all the processed foods is delicious and comforting on a chilly day.
Budae jjigae, also know as Army Base stew, is a spicy stew filled with hot dogs, spam, maybe even some Vienna sausages, ramen noodles, rice cakes, tofu and some vegetables. It was birthed after the Korean War when food was scarce and there was a surplus of canned goods. Since Koreans are very resourceful, they found a way to use the canned meats to create a tasty dish.

The Recipe: Budae Jjigae from My Korean Kitchen. This recipe uses store-bought chicken broth to speed up the process of cooking it. The add-ins are flexible but I find that ramen noodles, spam, hot dogs and tofu are a must. I'd be interested in trying it with cheese one day.

December 30, 2018

Best of 2018

2018 was a big year for Chungs: Twin Sista welcomed a baby girl in August, I received tenure at my job and Big Sista became an elected official. It was also a year of some firsts: I went on my first "diet" (the Whole30) and dyed my hair for the first time 💁🏻‍♀️. Here are highlights from twenty-eighteen: 

Best of 2018:

Best Meal: I suppose this year didn't have any extravagant meals but one of the best things I ate this year was a lobster roll from a pop-up restaurant at Columbus Park Ramen Shop here in Kansas City. It was buttery, flavorful with large, tasty chunks of lobster. 

Craziest Bite: The Flaming Hot Cheetos Cupcake from Sprinkles was a strange mix of pungent cheese, a sweet cake and spicy cheetos. Still not sure if I enjoyed it but it was a unique experience.

Best New Baked Recipe: My Saturday afternoon project of making Funfetti Macaroons was met with a delicious treat that I happily added to my baking repertoire. 

Best New Kitchen Gadget: The Bamboo Steam Basket aided me in making so many dumplings this summer. Soup dumplings, baos and potstickers were created with the help of this super handy basket. 

Best Cooking Adventure: My entire journey through the Whole30 was challenging in finding ways to avoid sugar, grains, legumes and still feel satisfied and satiated. I found some recipe keepers and really did enjoy the meals I made for the 1+ month I was on this meal plan. 

Best Cupcake: The apple spice cupcake from Bloom Baking Co. was the perfect treat after a month and a half away from sweets after embarking on the Whole30. It combined a light and flavorful cake that wasn't too sweet to make it my favorite cupcake of 2018! 

2018 By The Numbers:
47 blog posts (and this is also my 500th post!)
40 days on the Whole30 journey
7 cupcakes eaten
4 books read (this might be a record in the past decade)
1 city lived in (so happy not to be moving anymore!)