I am in love with chocolate chip cookies. Some people say they're boring but give me a plate of still warm chocolate chip cookies and a glass of Cruze Farm milk, a good book and a comfy chair and I'm in my own personal Shangri-La. Don't get me wrong - I'd never turn down a homemade cookie of any kind (although no walnuts please!) but chocolate chip cookies are the best of both my cravings. You get the buttery, rich cookie bits, the melty, transcendent chocolate bits and both tastes in one bite if you so choose.
As a kid, my Mom quickly learned that if any cookies were going to make it to whatever function she was bringing them to, she better make a triple batch and hide them well. I could sniff out a chocolate chip cookie better than a bloodhound can find his man. I'm still pretty good at it but I've found that extra minutes on my rowing machine are a far more effective deterrent than any hiding place my mom could ever come up with.
I've tried a lot of chocolate cookies in my day and I've eaten a lot of lousy ones. One thing I hate is when a chocolate chip cookie has too much chocolate in it, so much so that it really ceases to be a chocolate chip cookie anymore. You want the contrast between the cookie and the chocolate part. I also hate super crisp or chewy cookies. The edges need to be crispy enough to spray crumbs everywhere when they shatter. The inside needs to be soft - just on the done side.
A few months ago, Marcus and I discovered an amazing recipe in Cooks Illustrated. I realize that brown butter is very trendy but I could care less. If something tastes as good as brown butter, it's earned its trendiness fair and square and it's certainly a trend I'll keep following long after it's cool, just like my trusty Birks have made it past their heyday in my college years. Combine that with just the texture I've been looking for and this is our go-to recipe for plain chocolate chip goodness. I've made a couple of changes to it as far as the chocolate goes - I like to add a little grated milk chocolate to the batter. I also add chunks of semisweet chocolate to the bittersweet chocolate chips in my cookie. I like the flavor even better this way.
Bacon has also been getting a lot of attention lately, especially when used as an ingredient in something unusual, like a sweet or dessert. I had heard about Mo's Bacon Bar long before I ran into it last week at our local Earthfare. They had small sizes so I bought one and while I enjoyed it, it wasn't all that I had heard it was. I could see the potential though. I also have been swooning over this Bacon Caramels recipe at Not Without Salt. Since my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe has such strong caramel overtones and I knew the chocolate would compliment the bacon as well, I thought I'd tinker around with bacon in my chocolate chip cookie recipe.
The first thing I did was do some research and see what food bloggers were saying about their favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes. I found a couple that looked promising so we made a batch of both recipes and then a batch of our favorite cookie dough. We added minced bacon, chopped bacon, and a combination of minced and chopped bacon to some of each dough and baked a control cookie that had no bacon. In each case, we thought our standard recipe was the best. We also quickly decided that the chunks of bacon worked best and no noticeable additional flavor was added by including minced bacon.
Marcus and I brought three plates of chocolate chip cookies with bacon (and one plate with no bacon) to a party Friday night. It was hilarious listening to people talk about them. I think the most common refrain was "Holy %^$#! There's bacon in those chocolate chip cookies!" After getting over the weirdness, they were quickly gobbled down. At the end of the night, there weren't any of the bacon cookies left and only a few of the plain chocolate chip cookies were left. The ones that got the most praise were the cookies that were made from the browned butter. If the idea of bacon in your cookies freaks you out, just fry up a piece or two and add the bits to a few cookies and see if you like it. I'm willing to bet you do. And then you can run around like our friends on Friday night doing an imitation of this commercial:
Brown Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
4 oz semisweet chocolate bar, diced into 1/4" pieces
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli 60% cacao)
3 tablespoons milk chocolate, grated
1 cup bacon that's been fried until crispy and diced into roughly 1/4" pieces
Put your oven rack in the middle and heat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk 1 3/4 cups flour with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Set this aside. Try to do this like me and get as many floury fingerprints as you can all over your clothes.
Fry up a few pieces of bacon. You'll get about a cup from roughly eight pieces of bacon but if you're like me, you'll cook a few pieces extra just in case some disappear like it always seems to happen to me. You want the bacon to be as crisp as possible without being burnt. If you can find good, real hickory smoked bacon, use this.
Burn a few pieces so that you HAVE to eat them so they don't go to waste. Cut the bacon into roughly (and this is very roughly) 1/4" pieces.
Heat 10 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until melted. Continue cooking until it turns a dark, golden brown and smells divine. Swirl this pan constantly and stir the bottom frequently for good measure. Watch this carefully! I'm not going to say how I know this but this goes from ready to burnt quicker than anything. As soon as it's done, take off the heat and pour immediately into a heatproof bowl. Stir in remaining 4 tablespoons of butter so that they melt.
Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and add 1/2 cup sugar, 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoon vanilla. Lament the fact that you are now officially out of Penzey's Double Strength Vanilla.
Dip a piece (or eight) of bacon into the mixture and eat. Because I said so.
Add egg and egg yolk and mix until mixture is fully incorporated. If you don't have a mixer, use your whisk - it works just as well.
Let sugar/egg/butter mixture stand for a few minutes. Then whisk again for 30 seconds. Do this several times - you want to make sure that the sugar has "melted" into the liquid. When ready, mixture will be smooth, thick and shiny.
Chop your chocolate. Dust the cat hair off the few pieces that fall on the floor and eat.
Using wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in grated chocolate, chocolate chunks and bacon pieces. Don't over mix but make sure no flour pockets remain.
Using a teaspoon, place a heaping teaspoon of cookie dough on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I get about 14 cookies per baking sheet.
Bake for 10-14 minutes (my oven takes 11 minutes) until cookies are golden-brown and set along the edges but the middle is still soft. Remove from oven and set baking sheet on a wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes, keeping the cookies on the baking sheet. You see the two cookies fused together in the center. Those should be considered ruined and eaten so as not to expose anyone else to imperfect cookies.
TIP: I usually make a whole batch of cookie dough and freeze half of it. Just put it on a baking sheet like you're going to bake it, stick it in the freezer for a few hours and put the frozen clumps in a freezer bag. I haven't frozen the ones with bacon but I might leave that out and just stick a few pieces to the top when ready to bake. Take from the freezer, put on a baking sheet and add a few minutes to your normal baking time.