The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment

A quick note on baking the perfect cookie. The most important part is probably the actual baking. So calibrate your oven with a thermometer for better results. I baked the rest of the dough in my wife’s hot and stable oven and pretty much every cookie came out better in my estimation. Secondly, figure out what you like in a CCC and proceed from there as people disagreed wildly on their favorites.

Anyways here are my rankings.

  1. Serious Eats  – Tons of chocolate and nutty caramel flavors.
  2. Top With Cinnamon – Almost crumbly texture with a hint of refreshing lemon flavor.
  3. Thomas Keller  – A small variation on the infamous Tollhouse recipe.  Very buttery flavor with a bit of spread.
  4. Flour Bakery  – Lifted cookie with a flavor and texture moving in scone direction.
  5. Cook’s Illustrated – Strong nutty caramel flavor and denser texture.
  6. NYT – Big, beautiful cookie with again a texture edging towards a scone.  However, dough is mostly flavorless.

Top With Cinnamon might actually win as I did add too much flour which required some extra egg.  Good excuse to make more cookies.  Surprising is how good the no frills Thomas Keller cookies are.  It is basically Tollhouse with no vanilla and a bit more sugar.  And of course some skill on my part.

So what did I learn?  Well first read the Serious Eats article on the science of CCC.  Then do the following.

  1. Calibrate your oven with a thermometer
  2. I use a two tier baking process where I blast them at 25 degrees higher than specified for half the cooking time before turning it down a bit.  This keeps them from spreading as much while still cooking all the way through.
  3. If creaming, cream them hard. 3 minutes with sugar, 5 minutes after adding eggs.
  4. You can brown butter in the microwave.  It usually takes about 3 minutes.  Use a hardy container and lid though.
  5. If browning, cool it in freezer/fridge until almost starts to congeal.  This will prevent spreading and help it contain air.
  6. Just barely combine dry and wet ingredients so as not to waste all the valuable creaming you did.
  7. Rest your dough in the fridge for at least a day to help build flavor.
  8. Bake straight from chilled dough to prevent spreading.
  9. Salt your cookies right after baking, it spreads it out and is much easier than pushing it into chilled dough.

To be honest, my favorite CCC will definitely have some toffee and pecans in it and that is up next with the Serious Eats cookie.

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Efficient Markets Hypothesis Debunked In One Example?

Read this article.  If people paid to analyze a company can’t keep track of an extra week every few years, then what hope is there that asset prices include all available information?  I mean this is open, predictable information and yet market analysts are not including it.  This violates the weak EMH, let alone the strong ones.

The Pancake Bible

Last week I ate nothing but pancakes for every real meal in an attempt to figure out how to make really good pancakes, maybe something to rival the legendary Original Pancake House buttermilk pancakes.  Here are the results:

Buttermilk Pancake Recipe:

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Buttermilk or milk
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp (melted or browned) Butter/oil
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tps Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • or double both for extra fluffy pancakes.
  • Optional:
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 1/4 tsp of Yeast

Typical combine dry and wet ingredients separately. Follow GOLDEN RULE OF PANCAKES: Mix batter until just combined. It should still be lumpy.

Cook on medium-low to medium heat until it starts to bubble and the edges are browned.  Flip and cook until browned/done.  Thicker pancakes should be done at lower heat to cook through without overbrowning.

If using active dry yeast proof in warm BM first, otherwise just add instant yeast to dry ingredients.  Leave any extra leaveners until right before making pancakes.  Let sit for at least on hour or overnight.

This is essentially the core ingredient list of every well regarded buttermilk pancake recipe.  If you want sweeter pancakes add more sugar or the vanilla.  If you want grittier pancakes substitute some cornmeal for equal parts flour.  The real choice are the leaveners.

Yeasted BM Pancakes:  These were first and were my favorite.  But the edge was so slight that I am not sure it wasn’t because of pancake fatigue.  They manage to be fluffy without also being thick and they browned nicely but not before cooking all the way through.  If you add more leaveners do it right before cooking them or they will activate early and you will have nothing to show but saltier, more metallic pancakes

BM Pancakes with low amount of leaveners: Very similar to above.  I am not sure it’s worth yeasting them when baking powder and soda work so well.

BM Pancakes with high amount of leaveners: I found these excessively leavened and they browned from the excess alkalinity of the leaveners (browning proceeds faster in an alkaline (high Ph) environment) before cooking through.

Whole Milk Pancakes: I subbed whole milk for the buttermilk and replaced all the baking soda with baking powder since you need the acidic buttermilk to properly activate soda.  Turned out a flat pancake that did not brown at all.

Krissy’s pancakes:  Looking at some non-BM recipes convinced me that I was doing it wrong.  I don’t find buttermilk excessively thick and it only has 1% fat compared to 3% in whole milk but it obviously churned out thicker pancake batter and thicker is fluffier for pancakes.  The obvious conclusion is to reduce the amount of milk to flour which is what Krissy did.  She also uses a high amount of baking powder.  They turned out great with crispy sides though they don’t get that nice brown color you get from a buttermilk pancake.  I would still prefer a BM pancake, but it’s hard to justify expense/bother of BM since I don’t know what else to do with it except use a small amount to make creme fraiche.

Red Star Yeast Pancake:  Now I had to try a yeasted pancake with whole milk.  This recipe further increases the flour/milk ratio in an attempt I am assuming to better capture the gas from the yeast.  I let mine sit overnight rather than the hour the recipe calls for and I think that was a mistake.  Too thick and didn’t cook all the way through.  I will follow the recipe exactly next time and see how it goes.

In the end I would eat all of these though especially with some cinnamon syrup (I found heavy cream tastier than evaporated milk, but that may be due to difference in boiling time).  Pancakes are pretty resilient and I suspect that you want to tailor them for your palate and make sure to cook them properly.

Novelty Pancakes

Chocolate Pancakes:

  • 1/2 cup of whole milk (4 oz)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 7/8 cup All-Purpose Flour (4 oz)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder (1 oz)
  • 1/8 cup sugar (or brown sugar) (1 oz)
  • 2 tbsp of butter

I want to add cinnamon some time and see if I can’t replicate Chocolate Toast Crunch

Sour Cream Pancakes: I actually made these with leftover homemade Creme Fraiche once but had to add more flour so it would stick together.  I also did protein packed and low calorie Greek Yogurt Pancakes.  They are tasty, but they are just so soft and mine don’t look like the picture at all.  I guess I need to actually use sour cream and see if that helps because a better texture would make these tops.

Waffle Addendum:  See here for yeasted and unyeasted

Yeasted Waffle recipes are remarkably similar to my buttermilk pancake recipe except with whole milk.  One variation even drops the extra water and proofs it in the milk.  Also up the sugar on the linked recipe otherwise it wont brown.

Overall, homemade waffles haven’t worked for me.  To be honest, I have always been a pancake man, but I think it might be our waffle iron.  I can’t explain the rave reviews compared to the slightly underwhelming things that I have made unless it is an equipment problem.  Then again, Krusteaz mix turned out fairly good waffles if a bit dense for my tastes.  I will try again, but I am fairly discouraged.