little paths so startled

living, decorating, and eating in hattiesburg, mississippi

chocolate chip cookies

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(or, Me vs. Monday Round 2.)

With these in my corner, I can't lose. Unless I eat them all.

Last week’s cooking to beat the pre-Monday blues seemed to work well enough, so Sunday night seemed like a great time to explore the art of chocolate chip cookies.  Not the store-bought, packaged cookies or dough – I mean the scratch-made stuff.  Now, I realize this is just the sort of food for which everyone has her very own, special, secret, family recipe, and I don’t doubt they’re all simply divine.  (And I’d love to have your recipe, while we’re at it.)  I’m just adding my voice to the din of “the best chocolate chip cookie EVER” recipes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies as Art

I haven’t always thought of chocolate chip cookies in the same way that I think of, say, crème brûlée, which takes careful preparation and is beautiful served as a dessert for entertaining.  Chocolate chip cookies are the after school snack, the girls’ night fare, the weeknight dessert, right?  Not according to New York Times food writer David Leite, whose search for the perfect chocolate cookie recipe led him to NYC gourmet baker Jacques Torres.  (Check out Leite’s delightful article and the accompanying recipe adapted from Jacques Torres.)  These elegant confections are well worth the forethought and care.

Gorgeous. (Photo by Francesco Tonelli for the New York Times.)

But these cookies aren’t vegan, and that’s not ideal for this proselyte to vegan baking,.  What’s more, sometimes I want my cookies right now.  Sometimes I don’t want to use all my bowls and spoons, and I don’t feel like searching for gourmet chocolate fêves.  The answer: Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s glorious recipe.  It’s simple, it’s quick, and it yields fabulous, I-can’t-believe-these-are-vegan cookies.  No, this recipe won’t necessarily produce the Jacques Torres aesthetic, but we can steal his secret (sprinkled sea salt!) and infuse these cookies with high taste.

No mixer required - one of the many perks of vegan baking. But that means at least a minute of brisk whisking (I use a fork) to blend the oil and sugars. You should get a smooth, caramel-like consistency.

Reserving some of the flour mixture for folding in the chocolate chips keeps the chips from dropping to the bottom of the bowl. Vegan dough needs it.

Jacques Torres' secret: a tiny sprinkling of sea salt just before the cookies go into the oven. Subtle and amazing. Consider using a bit less salt in your dough than the recipe calls for.

Another tip from Torres: press the plastic wrap onto the dough before refrigerating. Though I don't think the refrigeration period is as important in vegan baking, it certainly doesn't hurt, and it's always nice to have dough on hand for future batches or immediate consumption. No eggs, no worries.

Speaking of immediate consumption . . .

Notes and thoughts:

1. My cookies are browner than most because I use whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat flour, when I’m out of pastry.  I didn’t this time, but I do sometimes substitute agave for some or all of the sugar, at a ratio of 3/4 cup agave to 1 cup sugar.  (Warning: this requires math.)  Though food guru Mark Bittman insists that, in baking, the ratio of sugar to fat is not to be tinkered with, I’ve had success with substituting some of the oil with unsweetened applesauce.

2. I primarily use Pamela’s gluten free mixes when I’m baking for my gluten-intolerant friends and family members, but the last time I made cookies made from Pamela’s chocolate chunk cookie mix, my non-gluten-free friends snatched them up, too.  They’re that good.  I think Pamela’s magical secret is the cocoa powder in the batter.  Yes, please.  And talk about easy, now: Pamela’s mix + butter (or margarine, if you’re into that sort of thing – I haven’t tried oil or applesauce yet) and a flax egg in the stand mixer, then the oven.

3.  About that flax egg: try it.  Seriously.  One tablespoon of ground flax seed + 3 tablespoons of water = 1 egg.  You get the myriad benefits of flax seed, minus the cholesterol and animal product.  I mean, you can’t make scrambled eggs with flax seed, but I’ll stake my culinary credibility on the flax egg for baking.

4.  I’m always on the lookout for new and better recipes – send me yours, please!

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