How to Make Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies (And How to Substitute Ingredients)

Chocolate chip cookies have never tasted better.
Chocolate chip cookies have never tasted better.
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Chef Tracy Wilk has made a lot of chocolate chip cookies in her day. This recipe, which she taught us at the Institute of Culinary Education, is her go-to. It balances savory and sweet and creates an addictive chocolate chip cookie that has some surprises in store (like a mix of white, dark, and milk chocolate).

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Makes 24 cookies

Ingredients:

235 grams (1 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour
3 grams (½ teaspoon) baking soda
2 grams (½ teaspoon) fine sea salt
170 grams (6 ounces) butter, room temperature
165 grams (¾ cup) light brown sugar
110 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
4 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
300 grams (2 cups) chocolate (mix of white, dark, and milk), chopped
Maldon sea salt, as desired for sprinkling on top of cookies

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Place flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together and set aside.

3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream together the butter and sugar. You want to mix on medium speed until the butter is fluffy. This will take about 5-10 minutes, depending on the temperature of the butter.

4. Once the butter and sugar is creamed, turn the speed to low. Crack your eggs into the container, and add your eggs and vanilla. Mix for about 30 seconds, just until combined.

5. Turn the stand mixer off and add your dry ingredients. Mix on slow speed until about three-quarters of the way combined. Turn machine off and add chopped chocolate, and mix on slow speed until the mixture just comes together.

6. Using a 1 ½ ounce ice cream scoop, divide the dough into 24 equal balls, pressing the palm of your hand against the scoop for a flat surface. Place cookie dough balls on a full sheet tray that has been lined with parchment paper and allow the dough to chill for at least 30 minutes.

7. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a pinch of Maldon sea salt.

8. Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from sheet tray.

How to Substitute Cookie Ingredients

Chef Wilk used the recipe as a starting point to teach a lesson on the chemistry of cookies. Here are a few substitutions she experimented with, and the way they affect the final product.

Chocolate chips: Chef Wilk's recipe calls for high-quality couverture chocolate, which melts into a gooey final product. Commonly available chocolate discs have a similar effect. Chocolate chips have a lower cocoa butter content, which means they don’t melt at the temperature used in the recipe. Use chips if you prefer a less gooey cookie.

Melted butter: Using melted butter, rather than the recipe’s softened butter, allows less air to enter the cookie dough during the “creaming” stage. This creates a cookie with less rise and a bit of extra crispiness, along with a slightly nuttier flavor that some find appealing.

Brown sugar: Brown sugar has molasses, so a recipe that subs out all the white sugar for brown has a more distinct molasses taste. Because brown sugar is more acidic, it also activates the baking soda a bit more, creating a slightly puffier cookie.

White sugar: Conversely, subbing out all the brown sugar for white activates less baking soda. The result is a cookie that rises less and spreads more. It also lacks a certain depth of flavor that the brown sugar provides.

Baking powder: By subbing out baking soda for baking powder, the cookie puffed up a bit more in the middle, but had a less uniform rise.

Gluten free: Using gluten-free flour created a predictably less chewy cookie (because one of the defining characteristics of gluten is the chewiness it imparts in the presence of water). It also had less structure, and was more apt to crumble rather than breaking apart.

Vegan: Chef Wilk also tried an entirely vegan “healthy” cookie, swapping in canola oil for the butter, vegan dark chocolate for the chocolate combination, coconut sugar for brown sugar, and whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose. As Chef Wilk admitted herself, there may well be a delicious vegan cookie recipe out there, but this isn’t it!

To Avoid Grocery Shopping, Quarantined Americans Are Reviving Wartime-Era Victory Gardens

Zbynek Pospisil/iStock via Getty Images
Zbynek Pospisil/iStock via Getty Images

For many people practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the supermarket is the one place where it's practically impossible to avoid crowds. When they do brave the stores, shoppers may struggle to find what they're looking for, with panic buyers clearing shelves of everything from pasta to produce. Though the circumstances are different, citizens across the country are responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak by reviving a trend from the First and Second World Wars. As The New York Times reports, victory gardens are making a comeback.

Victory gardens started in 1917 as a way to supplement the commercial farming disrupted by World War I. As farmers became soldiers and farms became battlefields in Europe, the U.S. agricultural industry suddenly found itself responsible for feeding its own citizens as well as its allies abroad. Encouraging people to plant crops in any available space they could find—including rooftops, parks, backyards, empty lots, and fire escapes—was a way to lighten the burden.

The U.S. government formed the National War Garden Commission weeks before joining the war. Over the next couple of years, pamphlets were distributed to citizens showing them which seeds to plant and how to protect them from pests and diseases. One booklet read “The War Garden of 1918 must become the Victory Garden of 1919.”

Thanks to the effort, 3 million new gardens were cultivated in America in 1917 and 5.2 million appeared in 1918. The initiative resurfaced during World War II, and again, it was a huge success. At its peak, home and community gardens were producing nearly 40 percent of all fresh vegetables in the country.

For more than 70 years, victory gardens only existed as a footnote in history books, but now, they're seeing a resurgence. The U.S. isn't at war, and as of now there's no risk of the country running out of food, but the chaos and fear surrounding trips to the grocery stores are inspiring many people to turn to their own backyards. As many industries are struggling, seed companies are seeing a spike in business. Organizations dedicated to gardening are also seeing the trends. Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York normally builds about 10 community gardens outside homes, schools, and churches a year. But since the start of the novel coronavirus crisis, they've received 50 requests for community gardens.

A home garden is only useful in times of national hardship if it actually produces something. If you're interested in building a sustainable home garden and limiting your trips to the supermarket, here are some easy plants to start with and gardening mistakes to avoid.

[h/t The New York Times]

America’s 10 Most Hated Easter Candies

Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Whether you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday or not, it’s an opportune time to welcome the sunny, flora-filled season of spring with a basket or two of your favorite candy. And when it comes to deciding which Easter-themed confections belong in that basket, people have pretty strong opinions.

This year, CandyStore.com surveyed more than 19,000 customers to find out which sugary treats are widely considered the worst. If you’re a traditionalist, this may come as a shock: Cadbury Creme Eggs, Peeps, and solid chocolate bunnies are the top three on the list, and generic jelly beans landed in the ninth spot. While Peeps have long been polarizing, it’s a little surprising that the other three classics have so few supporters. Based on some comments left by participants, it seems like people are just really particular about the distinctions between certain types of candy.

Generic jelly beans, for example, were deemed old and bland, but people adore gourmet jelly beans, which were the fifth most popular Easter candy. Similarly, people thought Cadbury Creme Eggs were messy and low-quality, while Cadbury Mini Eggs—which topped the list of best candies—were considered inexplicably delicious and even “addictive.” And many candy lovers prefer hollow chocolate bunnies to solid ones, which people explained were simply “too much.” One participant even likened solid bunnies to bricks.

candystore.com's worst easter candies
The pretty pastel shades of bunny corn don't seem to be fooling the large contingent of candy corn haters.
CandyStore.com

If there’s one undeniable takeaway from the list of worst candies, it’s that a large portion of the population isn’t keen on chewy marshmallow treats in general. The eighth spot went to Hot Tamales Peeps, and Brach’s Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits—which one person christened “the zombie bunny catacomb statue candy”—sits at number six.

Take a look at the full list below, and read more enlightening (and entertaining) survey comments here.

  1. Cadbury Creme Eggs
  1. Peeps
  1. Solid chocolate bunnies
  1. Bunny Corn
  1. Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits
  1. Chocolate crosses
  1. Twix Eggs
  1. Hot Tamales Peeps
  1. Generic jelly beans
  1. Fluffy Stuff Cotton Tails

[h/t CandyStore.com]

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