Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chocolate Chip Molasses Cookies

These cookies have changed my life. Not to be too extreme or anything.

We're all searching for the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie, but what makes a cookie truly perfect? I know I like them really chewy with slightly-crisped edges. Not TOO chewy like the large cheap ones from the supermarket, but not hard either - I'm not a hard cookie kind of girl.

My intensive search for the perfect cookie recipe marked the threshold of my baking obsession, beginning with a batch of cookies that one of my team members' nannies brought to one of our school volleyball games as a snack. OH. MY. GOD. Any cookie I had ever had in the past vanished from my memory, vanished from existence. What I remember most about them was their pale tan, gray-tinged hue - not golden brown like most cookies. It was so perfectly chewy and gooey; a little overly sweet, but the texture and rich dark chocolate drops more than made up for it. It may have been 75% chocolate chips and 25% dough for all I know, which may have accounted for the gray color, but I guess I'll never know. Man, they were good.

So I embarked on the perilous journey that is surfing the internet. The recipe printed on the back of Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chips, which I had been making for years, was not longer gonna cut it. It's been 2 years since that fateful volleyball game and the first taste of what would give rise to a culinary passion, yet after sifting through literally HUNDREDS of online recipes, I haven't found one with a grayish tinge. I have no idea why that tinge was so attractive to me, but it almost lent the cookie a translucency so that when you examined it closely (yes, I'm weird like that), you could perceive the dark chocolate chips right beneath the surface of the thin layer of dough covering it. Like I said... I'm weird like that.

So anyhoo, I had given up all hope of ever finding the perfect cookie and was almost resigned to just bake whatever recipe showed up in my search bar when I encountered Joy the Baker's blog. Her incredible photography, apparent popularity, and original recipes were like my Northern Star, pointing me subtly in the direction of her Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies. Molasses?? I was skeptical because of the very little baking knowledge I had at the time. But the photo of the cookie couldn't lie: something couldn't look that good in a picture and then not be at least moderately decent, right? What did I have to lose?? I decided to go for it, and the results were astounding. I think I ate an entire dozen all by mysellf that day. Even now, it is my go-to, no-fail recipe that still manages to oogle people who I have made it for several times with their sheer awesomeness. Friend testimonials include: "You should open up your own bake shop!" and offers to pay me for a batch. It's all so sweet I can't help blushing. In the past, I have been reluctant to give up this recipe or its origins to the many many people who have asked. I know, I hate myself for being so selfish! But I'm sharing this gem with you now, and that's what counts, right??

PLEASE MAKE THESE, THEY WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. And feel free to write to me or post below what constitutes the "perfect" cookie to you; do you like them chewy? crunchy? super extra chocolatey? Also feel free to post any chocolate chip cookie recipes you feel are incredible - I'm always on the lookout for recipes! Thanks for putting up with this long post. And now, without further ado:

**NOTE: This recipe calls for making your own brown sugar. How freaking cool is that??? I do it in all of my recipes now and it lends an incredible taste! Also, it definitely feels more homemade than if you buy brown sugar from the store, right??**

A close-up, for your health. :)

adapted from Joy the Baker; you should definitely check out her blog because it's incredible in every way, plus her pictures are better than mine in regards to the process of making these!

Makes 3 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons bread flour (I use 1 c. + 1 tbspn. whole wheat flour, and 1 c. + 1 tbspn. all-purpose if you want to make it a little "healthier")
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon dark molasses, not blackstrap
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks
sea salt for sprinkling on top of cookies just before baking

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

1) Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.
2) TO MAKE YOUR OWN BROWN SUGAR: In a medium sized bowl, mix the granulated sugar and molasses until no large molasses clumps remain. I've found that the best way to integrate the molasses and sugar is to begin by blending it on medium speed with a mixer. Once the liquid is fully incorporated into the sugar but still contains large clumps, use your hands to mush it around. It tends to come together into a rich, uniform caramel color very quickly that way!
3) Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the homemade brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture in 2 additions and mix until thoroughly combined. 

**NOTE ABOUT SEPARATING EGGS: If you are inexperienced with this, don't fret, but maybe don't try to separate the egg over the bowl on your first attempt. It definitely took me some practice. The key is to gently crack the egg on a table corner or on the side of the bowl so that a tiny crack forms. Then, delicately peel the crack wider apart and allow the egg whites to slide out and down your hands. Do this over a sink. You can eventually pull apart the egg shell so that two halves remain, with the egg yolk in one of them. If you want to be really thorough, slide the yolk back and forth between the two shells until the last of the egg whites have been drawn out. If this is too complicated, another thing you can try is to simply crack the egg and pour the yolk out onto your open palm, letting the runny egg whites slide out between the cracks in your fingers until only yolk remains. You must be extra careful not to accidentally let the yolk slide through or burst if you decide to use this process! **
 Egg yolk after separating, about to be poured into the brown sugar/butter mixture

4) Stir in the chocolate chips.

Please excuse the poor lighting at the bottom and just enjoy the sheer bliss of this photo. I eat this with a SPOON. 

Chill the dough for at least 20 minutes in the fridge, or 15 minutes in the freezer. Longer is better - the flavors tend to congeal during this time and the cookie just bakes better. I don't know what it is, but you should definitely try to chill the dough as long as possible because it makes a huge difference! Of course, if you can't or don't have time to let the dough chill and simply must bake them immediately, they will still turn out amazing. :)
After chilling, scoop dough into walnut-sized mounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  Lightly sprinkle each dough ball with a few flecks of sea salt. <-- THIS IS KEY. DO THIS!!!! It really brings out the chocolate flavor.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Of course it varies whether you are a crunchy-cookie person, or perhaps like them to be little more than hot gooey dough. That's ok too. I won't judge. I like my cookies slightly underdone, so I usually take them out around 8 minutes exactly! 

By the way, if anyone made the connection, this very recipe inspired the name for this blog! I love it dearly and am so excited to be able to share it with you. Have a nice day!

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