How cookies crumble when power crashes

The third try was the charm for these tasty oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. BY JACK CLEMONS
October 29, 2012

Did you ever have one of those days when nothing goes as planned? For me, the plan was exquisitely simple: test chocolate chips. I would bake oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with two different kinds of chips, the standard, semisweet morsels in the familiar yellow package, and the slightly larger, gourmet-style chips from a famous California chocolatier. I had my recipe, all the ingredients arranged on the counter and the cookie sheets lined with silpats (silicon baking mats).

Everything was set; even the oven was efficiently preheating. But, as I creamed the butter and sugar, the GFCI circuit tripped and cut off power to the mixer. After I pressed the reset button on the outlet, things seemed to be back to normal. Unfortunately, I was mistaken; it happened twice more when I was beating in the eggs and the vanilla extract. My frustration got the better of me when the beaters stopped just as I added the dry ingredients.

I left the mixer resting in the bowl, hit the reset button and watched a cloud of flour rise into the air and cover every available surface – cabinets, counters, canisters, coffee maker, can opener – you can probably visualize the scenario. By the time I had the mixer under control, I had no idea how much I’d changed the recipe proportions, but I carried on, dropping rounded spoonfuls of dough onto the cookie sheet.

The result was definitely not as desired. After eight minutes in the oven, there was a thin sheet of inedible brown cement dotted with chocolate chips. After wrestling the mess into the garbage disposal, I started on the next batch. Although the power didn’t drop out (we think maybe the preheating oven and the high-speed mixer were competing for electricity on that particular circuit) something else went awry and the second round of cookies were as flat and hideous as the first.

As I was looking for the cause, a few options came to mind. The baking soda might be past its prime; the jumbo eggs might be too big, or the oven was too hot; maybe the silicon mats were too slick. To make the lovely batch in the photo, I changed all four factors. Not only did I use a brand-new box of baking soda, I also added some baking powder. A normal-sized egg, parchment paper and an oven temperature 50 degrees cooler all helped this last effort succeed.

As it happens, cookies were the original oven-temperature testers. Before we had electronic temperature controls, cooks would bake a small bit of cake batter to make sure the heat was correct for a large cake. The Dutch word for “little cake” was koekje, the source of the name we use for cookies. And while we’re on the subject of chocolate chips, we need to mention Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn.

The story of her invention of chocolate chip cookies is one of a happy accident. Ruth, a talented cook, discovered she was out of baker’s chocolate as she began assembling a batch of cookies. As a substitute, she chopped up a bar of Nestle’s semisweet chocolate, expecting the pieces would melt into the dough like her regular chocolate cookies. But the semisweet bits held their shape, and the chocolate chip cookie was born.

As you can imagine, the new cookie became popular, and her recipe appeared in a Boston newspaper. When the Nestle’s company researched the surprising increase in semisweet chocolate bar sales in the area, they struck a deal with the enterprising baker. They would print her Toll House Cookie recipe on their package and she would be supplied with their semisweet chocolate for life. Ultimately, the company began marketing the small chips they called morsels, designed just for the cookies.

I’ve included her recipe (also available on the yellow package of morsels) as well as the recipe for the cookies in the photo - adding oatmeal helps bolster the claim that there’s some health benefit in this delicious, chewy treat. Plus, I needed the energy to clean the kitchen.

Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 C flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 C softened butter,
3/4 C granulated sugar
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1 t vanilla
2 eggs
2 C Nestle semisweet chocolate morsels
1 C chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl; set aside. Beat together butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour mixture, mixing to combine. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 9 to 11 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: 5 dozen cookies.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 C butter
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
1 t vanilla
1 egg
1 C flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t apple pie spice (optional)
1 1/4 C rolled oats
6-oz package chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Cream together butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl. Beat in vanilla and egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spice (if using) in a small bowl. Mix dry ingredients into batter. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake until slightly golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Yield: 3 dozen cookies.

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