Been on a baking streak since getting the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. Currently have some loose dreams of cooking my way through the whole thing, but that will probably result in me and my friends all weighing 400 pounds. I did, however, manage to make the four kinds of standard cookies in Bouchon Bakery: oatmeal raisin, oatmeal pecan, chocolate chunk and chip, and double chocolate chunk and chip. Between the 4 varieties of cookies, I made 7 dozen, and as a result, I started to understand the technique that goes into making the perfect cookie.
The procedure for each of these cookies is nearly identical, all that changes is the ingredients. Butter and sugar are creamed until fluffy, then the eggs are mixed in gently until just combined. Then the sifted dry ingredients are added in two additions, mixing on low speed until just combined. The batter is chilled, then scooped onto Silpat-lined baking sheets and baked.
I had varying degrees of success with each cookie, I'll go through them from worst to best. Although, even the worst cookie I made was still a really good cookie. If you follow Keller & Rouxel's recipes to the letter, you will still end up with a good cookie, even if a few things go wrong during the baking process.
The double chocolate chunk and chip. A dough containing alkalized cocoa powder to give it the wonderfully dark color, sweetened with granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, and black-strap molasses. As shown in the above picture by the flat edge on the right side of the top cookie, the cookies spread too much in the pan and as a result ran together and had to be cut apart. You can also tell by the cracks in the cookie on the right that some of the cookies were overdone. And finally, as shown in the first picture in this post, these cookies are quite flat.
Learning from the double chocolate cookies, I managed to fix one of the problems with the next batch, the chocolate chunk and chip. The cookbook says to bake the cookies for 16 to 18 minutes, and in my oven, the baking time was closer to 18 minutes. But in the first batch of double chocolate chunk and chip, I rotated the two baking sheets at 8 minutes. Which means one pan spent 10 minutes in the top rack, where my oven is hotter, while the other pan spent only 8. Thus, I had one perfectly done batch, and the other was slightly overdone.
This time around with the chocolate chunk and chip, I flipped the pans closer to 9 minutes of baking time, so the cookies were evenly cooked. Unfortunately, however, they still spread too much (again, note the flat edge where they had to be cut apart), and they did not rise very much at all.
The oatmeal pecan (AKA the TLC). Between this batch and the last I went and purchased new baking soda, and a couple new oven thermometers (my old one had ceased to function). The new baking soda helped drastically with the rise of the cookie; my last box was clearly past its prime. And the new oven thermometers revealed that my oven was running about 5-10 degrees cold, which would partially explain why the cookies had been spreading too much. Nonetheless, this batch of cookies still spread more than I would have liked (especially in comparison to the book photos) while the oatmeal raisin (below) did not.
The perfect cookie. Moist, lightly crispy on the outside and delightfully chewy in the middle. A nice rise, and the cookies maintained their shape without spreading into each other. But, why the difference between these and the oatmeal pecan?
After a quick look at the recipes, I found out that the oatmeal pecan has about 33% more butter than the oatmeal raisin, which would explain their tendency to spread. Looking through some of my other cookbooks, I noticed that the cookie recipes in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook called for the cookies to be shaped first, then refrigerated, and then baked directly from the fridge while the dough was still cold.
The Bouchon Bakery cookbook called for the dough to be refrigerated, shaped, then brought back to room temperature before baking. After trying the oatmeal pecan using the Momofuku method, I achieved better results.
So what did I learn? First, baking cookies is a fickle art. The dough is temperature sensitive and what may work in my oven here in Austin, TX may not be what works in Chef Keller's ovens in California. Second, replace your baking soda. Now. The stuff is super cheap and having a fresh box makes a noticeable difference in the quality of your baked goods. Third, if you haven't already, invest in a couple oven thermometers to calibrate your oven. Ten degrees can make a significant difference in the quality of your cookies.
Last but not least? Go out and buy the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook. My sister got me my copy (signed by Keller and Rouxel!) for Christmas, and I absolutely love it. Look for some more posts from the book in the near future.
Hit up facebook for the rest of the photos.