July 13, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The New York Times ran a story a few days ago about the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. They interviewed a few fancy-pants bakers and pastry chefs and developed a recipe incorporating all of their suggested tips and tricks.

I whipped up a batch of these today to try them. I followed the recipe exactly, except for the following modifications: I did not go to New York to get Jacques Torres chocolate, and I couldn't find the Valrhona fèves at my local Whole Foods. This turned out to be a good thing, because I later found out that the Valrhona stuff would have been easily over $15/pound, and I really worry about how much the Jacques Torres stuff would cost. Instead, I splurged on some 60% cacao Ghiradelli chips down to the Safeway for closer to $5/pound. I also discovered after I started that I only had about half the unsalted butter that I thought I had, so I made the cookies with half unsalted and half regular butter. I also only refrigerated the dough for about an hour before cooking the first few cookies, because I'm impatient like that. I've kept the rest of the batch plus one whole other batch in the fridge, though, so I can adequately test the effects of the 24-36 hour refrigeration they recommend.

So, except for the above, I followed the recipe exactly. I even went out and bought parchment paper (which I love but can't normally justify) and cake flour (for which I would normally just substitute regular flour plus corn starch). I'm happy they provided weights for the dry ingredients, as I would much rather measure by weight for dry ingredients than by imprecise measurements of volume. I even weighed out the cookie dough to the recommend 3.5 ounces per cookie. I went through all this trouble because if the cookies did not turn out to be delightful, I didn't want to have to blame myself.

I'm pleased to say they did indeed turn out wonderfully. They really look like a fancy cookie that you'd pay >$3 for in some bakery. They taste great, although the large size and richness of the chocolate limits me to only about one before feeling like I'm overdoing it. Becki doesn't like chocolate chip cookies, and she didn't like these chocolate chips when I gave her some last night. That said, she thought this cookie tasted terrific, and was easily the best chocolate chip cookie she had ever had.

I would definitely make these again. The recipe is no more difficult than any other cookie recipe as long as you have the ingredients. If you don't have the right ingredients on hand though, it's not necessarily worth going to France to get the right chocolate for it or anything like that.

I think the techniques learned here are more important than the actual recipe. For example, I'll probably try the sprinkling of sea salt (which I do always have on hand) on other cookies and baked goods in the future. If the refrigeration trick pays off as well as they say, I'll try that with my cookies as well, no matter what the recipe. And I think the overall shape and appearance of the cookie owes a lot to the parchment paper, which will allow the cookie to spread the right amount on the pan without regard to pan composition. Normally when I bake a batch of cookies, I'll be using a variety of cookie sheets: some non-stick, some not, some light, some dark, some kind of new, some 40 years old. My cookies really come out a variety of different shades and consistencies as a result. I could get all new cookie sheets, but that's expensive, and sometimes I might actually need one kind of cookie sheet instead of another. Instead, I think I'm just going to make sure I always use parchment paper from now on.

So, bottom line: These cookies are good. Try them.

July 7, 2008


Back in the end of 2002 or so I cut my long hair down into short hair. I had no particular need to get that done all at once, so for two glorious days, I wore a breathtaking mullet and Camaro-mustache combination.

I tell people this occasionally, but I haven't had any photographic evidence to back it up. I somehow forgot to take any pictures of this myself. I do remember my aunt taking a picture of me at the time, and The Shambles gave me a picture that he took of all of us at the El Vez concert back then.

Up until now, I had assumed that those were the only two mullet pictures that existed. Yesterday, The Shambles sent along another one of the El Vez concert that he must have recently unearthed:

I'm kind of torn about this, because on the one hand I'm happy to have more pictures, yet on the other hand, this picture is so downright embarrassing. It's not even a good showcase for the mullet, although you can at least see the 'stache.

For the sake of completeness, here's the other picture of us with The Thin Brown Duke himself:

July 1, 2008

The Past Tense

Joey has always done well at language development, like rapidly picking up new words and easily following new grammatical concepts. One thing he latched on to pretty quickly is the meaning of "past tense".

When kids are learning to talk, they quickly learn that if they want to say that something happened in the past, they just add an "ed" to the end of the word. It works 99% percent of the time, so they figure it's a safe bet. With Joey, every time I heard something like "I eated that sandwich", I made a habit of pointing out "The past tense of 'eat' is 'ate'". I didn't really spend any time explaining what a "past tense" is or demonstrate the correct usage of the new word or anything. I would just throw it out there and see if he caught on. He did catch on really quickly and has a much better usage of all of those irregular declensions than other kids his age (if I do say so myself).

A couple of months ago, we went to Costco for the semi-monthly stocking up. Right after we finished checking out, Joey said, "Wow, look at all these things we buyed!" I responded, "Yeah, we bought a lot of stuff." Joey looked down and muttered, "That's right, the past tense of 'buy' is 'bought'" in his best "Please, Daddy, don't hit me for getting it wrong" voice. I was mortified, but quickly looked around and was relieved to see that no one had overheard this little exchange.

I was reminded of this yesterday when Joey walked up after having just finished a drink and told me, "Daddy, the past tense of 'full' is 'empty'." I could not argue with that logic.