Monday, June 20, 2011

The Chocolate Chip Cookie debacle

(Ha-ha… the title sounds like the name of a Big Bang Theory episode, doesn’t it?)

Anyway guys, let me start off by saying that this isn’t one of my typical posts about my happy cooking success or a ‘vaps’ gone according to plan.  
Well, the vaps was definitely there, and it was for something I had never attempted to make before… the chocolate chip cookie.
I wanted something different for us to munch on yesterday, so I scoured the internet for a good recipe to try. A deceptively simple one was found on YouTube and luckily, the ingredients for it were all on hand. On my facebook status, I typed: “Experimenting with a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Hoping for a good outcome! ;-)

And I really was.
Sadly, the cookies flopped. Look, even the best of home cooks and top chefs have their days when things go wrong, despite their best attempts. At least with cooking, some mistakes are easier to fix, like, if there’s too much salt in a stew, you can correct that with a raw potato. By the way, did I ever tell you about the time I tried browning up some beef in the pressure cooker, and then cooked it under pressure? Well, folks, the beef came out looking like a black sugar cake.  (My boy actually christened it Tooloom Beef, yes…)

Anyhoo, my years in the kitchen with Granny have taught me that baking is like science. Exact chemical reactions are expected to happen with things like yeast, baking powder or baking soda, and too much or too little either way means disaster. Plus, conditions must be perfect. And looking over my jokey cookies, I realise that my conditions were good up until the dough was mixed… Let me show you what happened…

Okay, the recipe called for 6 tablespoons each of white and brown sugar in 4 ounces of room temperature butter. In another bowl, I measured out 1 and 1/8 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and a ½ teaspoon of salt, which I whisked together.

In a small bowl I broke an egg and beat in a teaspoon of vanilla essence.
Using my hand mixer, I mixed the butter and sugar til creamy. In went the vanilla & egg, which I beat in and then gradually added the flour.

The dough came together nicely. Mixed in 6 ounces chocolate chips as directed, then poured out the batter onto some plastic wrap and wrapped it up good to chill in the fridge.

Now here’s where things got a bit wonky. The video said to chill the dough for an hour. At the end of the hour, the dough was cold, but still soft and in no way as firm as the video showed.
So I put it back in the fridge for an extra half hour. Still soft.
Another half hour later… Still soft.
Yet another half hour later… You guessed it.
Eventually, I got tired of waiting and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes, which seemed to do the trick and firm it up… a little.

So I brought it out and divided it into 12 blocks. Cutting them with the knife wasn’t easy as the dough was still sticky. I rolled each square quickly in the palms of my hands and placed them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Each had the required 2 inches of space between them. Into the 325°F oven they went to bake for 17-19 minutes – as directed.

At the end of 20 minutes, they were still white and raw… so I sent them back in for another 12 minutes. At the end of that time, they were barely beginning to cook. Were ‘Trini conditions’ to blame, or my oven? Rather than raising the heat, I decided to let them stay in longer, only this time I turned the oven off and let them ‘soak’.
Well, I am sorry to say that what I ended up with were some flat brown discs that spread into each other to look like giant, ahem… bottoms. They looked nothing like the beautiful, round, pillowy cookies I saw (and hoped for) in the video at all. I’m sorry I didn’t take a pic of them in the baking sheet, but I was just too sad. 

Sorry, Cookie Monster, lol!

After letting them cool for a couple of minutes, I removed them from the baking sheet and put them on the cooling racks and looked long and hard at them. The chocolate chips got buried and some even sank to the bottom. I took a hesitant bite. The taste was there, at least, and they were crunchy, but not chewy. Then I came and wrote on my fb status: “The cookies were an epic fail. *sigh*”

Still, it didn’t stop my boy from grabbing one and my daughter made away with two. The rest were put into a Ziploc bag. I guess they loved my cookie mistakes! :-D 

So, what did I learn from all this? 

First off, I shouldn’t have picked a recipe that required me to chill dough. I wasted nearly 3 hours trying to get it to firm up. Why it took so long, I’ll never know. In hindsight, I could have let the dough sit overnight in the refrigerator and baked them the next day, but being a newbie to cookie making, I had no idea.

Secondly, if I were to attempt this exact recipe again, I would not put all of them in one baking sheet. Though my sheet’s dimensions were the same as those in the video, the cookie dough was softer than it should have been prior to going in the oven.

Thirdly, I’ve learned that I should have widened my search for a chocolate chip cookie recipe that has a brand behind it, e.g. Hershey’s, Nestle, Ghirardelli… these folks MAKE chocolate chips, so it stands to reason that they should have their own tried and true recipes on the packaging.
(Cue Homer Simpson: “D’oh!”)

Glad to say, though, the initial feeling of failure has passed and I am chalking this one to experience. Looking on the bright side, they didn’t burn, and my daughter is making quick work of them. It won’t stop me from trying my hand at cookies again, though next time I will try a different chocolate chip recipe… or a different cookie! (Gingerbread, anyone?)

Till next time, my friends, and doh forget to mind the pot!  :-)


  1. Just in case this may be a cause of the problem: did you by any chance substitute margarine for butter/shortening? Margarine has a different structure and different firmness, and based on the problem of it not hardening up enough in the fridge, the culprit would be the type of fat used (that would also be responsible for the texture--flat vs pillowy, etc). Could that have been it?

  2. Hmm, you could be right, Marc. I used Blue Band butter instead of Anchor, and even though I had thawed out some Cookeen shortening I still went with the Blue Band... maybe that's it. Wondering if I should make a go of it again with the Cookeen after all, hahahaaa!

  3. Oops, I meant Blue Band margarine, lol!

  4. If you can find it, check out the Good Eats episode on chocolate chip cookies (it may be on youtube or something). Alton actually goes through all the different types of fat and the effects they have on the final cookie :)

  5. Will do, Marc; I'm also curious to see the science behind the baking. Thanks for recommending it. By the way, I forgot to mention that all the cookies have disappeared now, hahahaa! Guess they loved them anyway! :-)

  6. This really looks delicious. I'm definitely craving for a plate of that right now. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. This is definitely a must do recipe this weekend since I got my Food Handler Certification. Happy Valentines Day!!