Alice Medrich’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate, dogs and cookbooks. These are my addictions and I am not sure which order to put them in. Depends on the day. Today let’s focus on chocolate – chocolate chip cookies to be precise. I am a sucker for trying out new recipes and I decided to give Alice Medrich’s recipe a spin. She calls them “My Chocolate Chip Cookies” and they are from her newest book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies, which came out in November 2010.

At first glance, the recipe is fairly straightforward in ingredients, but Alice puts her personal stamp with specific techniques that insure, as she puts it, “crisp caramelized edges and rich chewy centers”. Those words are what drew me to try her version because that is exactly how I like my chocolate chip cookies.

Alice (as a friend, I call her by her first name) calls for unbleached all-purpose flour, which is my go-to as well for chocolate chip cookies. She recommends equal parts brown and white granulated sugar but the recipe simply states 3/4 cup (5.25 oz.) brown sugar and does not specify light or dark. In her Ingredients section she clearly states recipes can work with both light and dark and that it is a personal taste preference. While this is true I would like to know what she prefers here (note to self – email Alice and ask). As a default, I used light brown sugar. She lists a full teaspoon of salt, which I knew I would like, as chocolate chip cookies come alive with a nice dose of it. Alice likes to use melted butter (unsalted) as it adds to the chew factor – and also makes the dough very easy to make. She also recommends a rest in the frig, preferably overnight, but 1 or 2 hours will do. The last detail is her recommendation for using ungreased cookie sheets (just like the original Toll-House recipe).

Now, I make a living out of dissecting recipes. LOL that sounds so clinical. Let’s re-state that and call it studying recipes. As I mentioned, at first glance, this looks basic – there is butter and sugar and eggs and some chips and nuts etc. But truly, so many recipes are like this. (Think about how unwavering most pound cake recipes are). And yet, they all yield different results and it is due to the attention to detail of the recipe writer. (Or, maybe the writer is not specific at all and you are left to your own devices, in which case it can be hit or miss).

With Alice’s sure hand, if you follow her directions, you will get the cookies that she promises – with those “crisp caramelized edges and rich chewy centers” I was yearning to cram in my mouth.

When I test a recipe for the first time, I always prepare it as written – to the letter. In this way I can assess whether I like or not, and can think about ways I might like to tweak it.

I made Alice’s recipe as written, choosing Valrhona Equitoriale 55% semisweet chocolate and pecans as my chocolate and nuts of choice. I chilled/rested the dough for 2 hours. I hadn’t baked cookies on a naked pan in ages (being a fan of parchment paper). When the dough is in direct contact with the pan (I use heavy-duty half-sheet pans), the bottoms of the cookies get a more direct blast of heat and the sugar in the cookies caramelizes and gives you that wonderful crisp, almost butterscotch-like quality. As with any cookie where you want to retain some chew, you must not overbake. Just as Alice describes, you must pull them from the oven when the cookies are golden brown around the edges but still soft in the center. She suggests to pull them when they “no longer look wet on top”. The downside to using naked pans is the clean-up (with parchment, I do not have to wash pans every time). Also, if you do not remove the cookies from the pan while they are still a tad warm, they can stick to the pan. You can still get them off with a good metal spatula, but you might loose a few crisp edges.

They were a hit so I made them again, this time adding dried cranberries too. Check out Alice’s original recipe for (in her words) “My Chocolate Chip Cookies” but if you want to make them as pictured, use 3/4 cup pecans halves, coarsely chopped, 1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks (I used Valrhona Extra Bitter this time) and 3/4 cup dried cranberries. Here are mine, below.

The book is packed with over 350 pages of recipes divided into chapters labeled Crispy; Crunchy; Chunky; Chewy; Gooey; Flaky and Melt-in-Your-Mouth along with chapters on Ingredients, Equipment, and one called Components, which includes some basic recipes used repeatedly throughout the book (or would just be great to have in your repertoire), such as Spiced Sugars, Vanilla Dulce de Leche, Lemon Curd, Buttercreams, fillings of all sorts, Shortbread Crusts and a Mock Puff Pastry. There are color photos throughout and each chapter beckons with its promise of textural delights.