On the issue of flour.

I've been reading more Jeffrey Steingarten lately. I just finished reading his chapter on the taxonomy, classification, aging, cooking, evaluating, eating, and understanding of the perfect steak. He knows more about food than I thought was possible to know. I respect his opinions as one who is accomplished in the world of eating.

But then I read something that made me skeptical. Early in the next chapter, on the eating of chocolate chip cookies, he mentions that one fail-safe option is to find the brightly yellow colored bag of Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chips in the grocery store, and follow the recipe printed on the back. Not terribly suspicious yet, but then he notes that if you go a little light on the flour, you end up with an even better cookie. I have to admit, this is causing me to doubt his entire body of work.

A couple months back I made cookies. I followed the recipe notoriously printed on the back of the NT bag, followed it to the letter. But the cookies floundered. They were no good. Flat, thin disks of greasy dough. A few rounds of experimentation, along with some help from a friend, exposed a ready solution, more flour! A week or so later when I repeated the baking feat, I added extra flour from the beginning, and the results were notable. Perfect, moundy cookies, tender texture, laden with chocolate chips, neither too dry nor too wet. I felt I had mastered the genre.

But the key was the extra flour. How could Steingarter possibly suggest that going light on the flour could solve anything? Has anyone else had experience with proper flour ratios in cookie baking? I remember that when I was in junior high I could make a batch of cookies from memory. But the proportions of flour I used at that time has faded from memory (along with other junior high experiences whose fading has been merciful!).


Anonymous said…
I've been making chocolate chip cookies since I was in junior high (a long time ago!) and going light on the flour always resulted in cookies that spread out all over the sheet and ran into each other. A little extra flour has always worked for me!
COmom said…
How come I don't remember your making cookies in jr hi?

And can we take Baby to Belton when I come to visit? yummmmm
The Balls said…
i too have experienced this...i've found that if the dough is refrigerated first, it doesn't give you flat cookies, but who wants to wait several hours?? i like to add 2 cups of oatmeal & eliminate 1/4 cup of [the 2 1/4 cups] flour & they turn out perfect (without having to refrigerate)!
Ed Eubanks said…
Jeff, sorry to be (very) late to comment here. I had this open in my feed-reader to comment and lost it in the tabs...

What sort of flour did the original Tollhouse recipe makers use? All-Purpose, cake, bread? Bleached or unbleached? From what part of the country? How finely-ground?

The answer is unknown-- and so, too, is the same data for your Steingarten dilemma.

The thing is, flour is incredibly fickle stuff. It turns out that "all-purpose" flour from the southeastern U.S. is fairly different from "all-purpose" flour from the northeast, etc. That's one of the reasons why southerners are thought of as making the best biscuits: they kind of flour that they (we) use is somehow better for biscuits.

Chances are good that this is the variable that you have discovered, and that Steingarten discovered as well (but with obviously different results).

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