Quote from Intro:

"Anyone can cook, and most everyone should. It's a sorry sign that many people consider cooking 'from scratch' an unusual and even rare talent.
In fact, it is a simple and rewarding craft, one that anyone can learn and even succeed at from the get-go."
-Bittman, HTCE

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies
Page: HTCE p. 880
Rating: ****

We are big fans of chocolate chip cookies at my house, but we are also chocolate chip cookie recipe snobs. It takes a really great chocolate chip cookie to please us: a touch of salt in the dough, bittersweet chips, good texture--a cross between chewy and crispy....

These cookies make the grade: they are chewy in the middle and crispy on the outside. The crucial salt is present in the dough and Mark even recommends bittersweet chocolate. They're a touch sweet. I might use a bit less vanilla next time.

Our biggest problem was cookie spread: in the oven, the edges practically ran over the cookie sheet leaving a small clump of dough (and the chips) in the middle of each cookie. This made for pretty good texture overall, but I like my chips to be evenly dispersed. I tried them as little frozen dough balls, too, thinking the chilled butter would work better. It did help. Next time, I think I'll chill them in the fridge for a bit, then form them into balls and flatten them once they're on the cookie sheet (one might almost think I'd just seen the folks on America's Test Kitchen do this to one of their cookie recipes the other night...).

So, 4 stars as is. If they work better in the oven once I try my newest theory, I'll update this.

Oh--my batch yielded exactly 2 dozen, and my cookies are generous scoops of dough. It's hard to measure the final cookie size because I think they'd be smaller around and taller/puffier if I tried the flatten-before-baking trick mentioned above. I'm guessing they're about 5-inches in diameter! (but, Mom, I've only had two...)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Baked Beans

Recipe: Baked Beans
Page: HTCE p. 416
Rating: ***

I've made these twice, now, and both times the beans weren't quite as soft as I wanted them to be. I've read that homemade baked beans are frequently not as mushy, but I think mine could have been softer. The flavor was *** when prepared exactly as written. I made a few changes the second time around and definitely upped the flavor component to ****. I think there are some tricks, here, if you want to make homemade beans that taste like the canned/restaurant variety:

  1. cook your beans until almost as soft as you want them before baking them with the seasonings and/or plan to bake them a while. They will soften in the oven, but it could take hours.
  2. Plan to bake them several hours--the seasonings just get better and better that way.
  3. They'll reheat fine, so you may want to make these the day before serving and leave them a touch runnier than you need (they'll get drier as they sit). Then, you can be sure they're as tender as you want and you can just reheat the day you need them.
  4. You won't need 8-oz of bacon. I used about 1/3 of a pound or so and chopped it. I sauteed the onion with the bacon and poured the whole mess into the bean pot :).
  5. I also added 1/4 cup of brown sugar, reduced the mustard to one teaspoon (ground), and added 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (mentioned in the "Ideas for Baked Beans" part). I tasted them as they cooked and made sure there was enough salt once the bacon flavor had permeated (I didn't want to oversalt accidentally since bacon is pretty salty).
I recommend trying them. I'll try them again for sure. It's just one of those recipes that will take some practice/tweaking since everyone has different ideas of what the best baked beans taste like. They're much cheaper than canned and do taste better overall. They're also quite easy; they just take a bit of time to cook.