This Bites

Here are a few Sizzle facts:

1) I don’t like failing at things.

2) Baking is something I enjoy doing and that (usually) comes naturally to me.

3) Chocolate chip cookies are over-rated in my book.

4) Chocolate chip cookies will be the death of me. (Ok, a slight overstatement on my part but run with the hyperbole.)

In the last week I have somehow gotten a (proverbial) bug in my ass about baking the perfect chocolate chip cookie. One that is moist and chewy and full of delicious chips. One that makes people’s eyes light up with delight. One that I can give away to my loved ones and not cringe with worry that they are subpar. . .that they could be used as hockey pucks or weapons and definitely can’t be “enjoyed” without a big glass of milk.

Things are not good in the Sizzle kitchen. It is common knowledge that I can bake really yummy muffins, pancakes and chocolate cakes, banana bread, and other types of cookies all from scratch so why in the hell are chocolate chips so difficult? Chocolate chips are to the cookie world what spaghetti is to the pasta world. Simply easy.

And yet I fail miserably.

I tried different recipes than the usual Toll House one because that one fails me every time. I tried a recipe for ginormous cookies and must have over blended because they ended up rather dry while all the reviews of the recipe swore up and down they were super fabulous moist cookies. Then I tried the Ghirardelli recipe. This one was better but not fantastic. Chewier but thin. Dunking was not required to make them edible. Still, not up to snuff. What is wrong with me? I can’t bake these damn cookies! And of course, wouldn’t you know it, they are the Fella’s favorite.

I can’t be alone in my baking failure. Please share with me your baking debacles so I won’t feel so lame.

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71 thoughts on “This Bites

  1. mmmm. i dont do a whole heck of a lot of baking, but now im craving a cookie! it is pretty hard to master the perfect cookie though. my mom makes the best.

  2. I “made” cookies 2 weeks ago and when it came time to form them into balls and put them on the cookie sheet – the batter was still all liquid. One cannot “make” cookies with liquid. I honestly don’t know what step I missed.

    I have also several times forgotten to spray the cookie sheet and wound up with a mass of cookie spread out and stuck to the pan.

  3. I have a very good choc chip cookie recipe I will send you.

    Baking debacles? Well, as much as I love to bake, and I am good at it too, I can’t count the number of times I’ve dumped a whole batch of something or another in the trash because it didn’t turn out right.

    I have learned that if you do bake whatever and it doesn’t turn out quite right just take it to work and they’ll eat it ALL making you feel like a superstar. I just don’t tell them I made it.

  4. I bake well but my oven is not calibrated correctly so I have to compensate by 50 degree sometimes.

    When I cook/bake, I don’t measure everything exactly (like I put in way extra Vanilla) but strange enough, my stuff turns out pretty good.

    I have a hard time making good homemade gravy.

  5. So I made my husband a birthday cake from scratch…And it was AWESOME.

    Just wait, not trying to make you feel any worse…

    I went to visit my sister and her family and my niece and I decided to make the same cake for her birthday.

    And it sucked.

    I mean, it was fine, but not the super-moist perfection of the first time. And the frosting was totally different.

    I have always had good luck with the standard Toll House recipe…But I don’t use their chocolate and I doctor it a little bit…

    If it makes you feel any better, I was making quinoa the other evening and when I was supposed to turn the burner down to simmer I turned down the wrong dial (a burner with nothing on it) and left the other burner on high…Needless to say, that was another stinky quinoa mess.

  6. Are you familiar with the Silpat baking mat? Because if not, you’re gonna want to go out and get yourself one right away (about $20 at BBB). It has revolutionized our cookie baking experience. Something about the mat yields the most perfect cookie every time, whereas before without the mat, cookies spread too much or came out crunchy. Now? Cookies come out soft and chewy, the perfect size.

    Another thing you might want to check is the actual temp on your oven. We bought a oven thermometer (like $10 at BBB) and discovered that our oven runs about 15 degrees hotter than it should. We’ve since adjusted baking temps accordingly, and it has made all the difference.

    Lastly, we use a butter scooper for portioning cookies pre-baking. This seems to the right amount of dough to make the perfect-sized cookie. And it drops the dough on the cookie sheet in round balls, which means you’ll get the same shaped cookie every time. And? Less mess, too.

    So don’t give up on the chocolate chip cookie! It might just be your oven, and investing in a Silpat will undoubtedly help, too. Good luck!

  7. It took me years to make good brownies, that weren’t burnt on the edges and uncooked in the middle. And I fancy myself a darn good cook.
    Meanwhile, my boyfriend who…ahem…struggles a bit more than I do in the kitchen makes perfect brownies EVERY SINGLE TIME.

  8. I am not a good baker. Cook? Yes. Baker, no.

    That said, the best Chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had were based on a martha stewart recipe. THe trick is really to use way more butter than necessary (4 sticks instead of 2)… and I don’t like unsalted butter. Frankly, I think chocolate chip cookes are good with a teeny bit of salty to balance out the sweet.

    Alton Brown also has a really great recipe,if you like chewy cookies: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_13617,00.html

    Crisco also has a really great recipe on the back of their can, one that obviously uses crisco instead of butter.

    Good luck!

    ~jessica

  9. If you use the same recipe, and prepare the dough exactly the same way each time, there are too many other variables that can alter the cookies.

    1) is the cookie sheet brand new?
    2) is the cookie sheet really old and darkened with use?
    3) is the oven not cooking at the true temperature?
    4) are you using an electric mixer or wooden spoon?
    5) are you using a plastic, wooden, or stainless steel bowl to mix ingredients?
    6) if you are supposed to be creaming together the wet ingredients, are you over or under creaming?
    7) when you cool your cookies, do you cool on a wire rack, the cookie sheet they are on, or move them to the counter top?

    See, there are just too many variables. Those are only a few. But I’ve found that most bakery items fail to be perfect because of something that is over done or under done. For example, there’s a big difference between creaming the wet ingredients together with a spoon and using an electric mixer. Totally different.

    Hope this helps somewhat.

  10. Play with the temperature of your butter, and margarine versus butter and take them out before you think they are done, otherwise they are overdone. That being said, I can’t make great chocolate chip cookies either, but they are my absolute favorite. Well, oatmeal chocolate chip. I bet the fella is still enjoying the results even if you don’t love them.

    I have a couple people I can ask. They are both serious bakers. If I find out anything good, I will email you.

  11. Soooo not fair that you put up that yummy picture of a cookie…made me drool on my desk…seriously! Now I feel like the cookie monster!

  12. mmmm! I love chocolate chip cookies, they’re my favorite!!! But, I’m with you, I’ve never been able to make the perfect one. It’s always either too thin, too crunchy, or not well cooked if too mushy. I have tried the best one ever though, from Levaine Bakery here in NYC, and I read in a blog about a woman who was trying to replicate the recipe: http://www.cookiemadness.net/?cat=116
    Have you read her?

  13. Baking disasters, volume 1:

    1) I made an oreo cheesecake using a recipe from The Cheesecake Factory, of all places…and it came out like a tasteless, rubber brick.

    2) I used a red velvet box cake mix and instead of nicely filling the 9×13 pan as it baked, it shrunk and fell, making a 3/4 inch tall 7×11 piece of red sponge.

    3) I made lemon muffins using a Jiffy box mix. They came out more like hard lemon discs, since they never did quite rise.

    I could go on, but I think you catch my drift: I completely and 100% sympathize. I still can’t make cakes to save my life, but I’ve mastered a few cookies and pies since those other debacles. Keep trying, you’re bound to get there some day!

  14. Lately, all my chocolate chip cookies have turned out really flat. It’s so weird. I thought i needed to update my baking soda and powder and whatnot – that maybe it wasn’t fresh enough – but that wasn’t the problem.

    Odd. Do you ever read Cookie Madness? http://www.cookiemadness.com

  15. I use the recipe on the back of the cchip bag and it makes awesome cookies every time. The tricks I’ve picked up:
    1) At the butter/sugar stage, whip that shit like a red-headed step-child. Get lots of air in there. And make sure the butter is still a bit cold when you start. If you have a hand mixer, it helps.
    2) Use salted butter.
    3) Use extra vanilla.
    4) After the dry ingredients are in, only mix until just combined. I also stop using a mixer at this point, and instead use a wooden spoon.
    5) Undercook slightly.

    I know- these aren’t revelations, but it works pretty well for me.

    My problem is with berry pies. I CAN NOT, for the life of me, get them to jell. I swear I’ve tried everything- cornstarch, flour, tapioca… nothing works. BOOO!

  16. you know…my mom swears by barefoot contessa’s…

    Chocolate Chunk Cookies
    Makes 36 ~ 40 cookies

    These cookies are so good. They’re crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, and the chocolate chunks make them just so gooey. Be sure to use chocolate chunks, because chocolate chips don’t have enough chocolate flavor. It’s important to underbake the cookies to get the right texture.

    1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
    1 cup light brown sugar, packed
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    2 extra large eggs at room temperature
    2 cups all purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
    1 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate chunks

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Cream the butter and two sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and add to the butter with the mixer on low speed, mixing only until combined. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chunks.

    Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using a 1 3/4 inch- diameter ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands and flatten the dough slightly. Bake for exactly 15 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

  17. I like chocolate chip cookie dough but don’t care much for the mixture after it’s been turned into cookies.

    Oatmeal raisin is the best — in dough or baked form.

  18. I am no help in the realm of chocolate, of course. BUT, I do have a baking confession: Though most everything I try turns out good, there have been times I’ve passed off something store-bought or mixed as my own. (gasp!)
    I didn’t so much say “I made this” as I just let them believe I had. Yep, I’m going to Betty Crocker hell.

  19. Hi Sizzle – I’ve been reading your blog for some time now, and I can’t get enough. You tend to write exactly what I think, and I look forward to seeing your next post daily :). I can’t help but commiserate with your cookie woes…but I can one-up you….I effed up baking *peanut butter cookies*….that’s right, simple-ass-a-monkey-could-do-em peanut butter cookies. What do you need? *3* ingredients, and they were totally inedible. I grew up with a deep-rooted value of never wasting food, and this entire batch went into the compost without a 2nd thought: http://amber-myhappyplace.blogspot.com/2007/06/martha-stewart-i-am-not.html

    Choco-chip cookies are indeed my favorite and I’ve yet to tackle them – when you do find the perfect recipe, I do hope you post it for us all 🙂

    Cheers ~ Amber

  20. I once tried to make my boyfriend a chocolate cake from scratch. I failed miserably. The batter alone looked disgusting and like grey. I never tried baking from scratch again. I’m scarred!

    I really want chocolate chip cookies though now. When you find the perfect recipe, feel free to send some my way 😉

  21. Well, you can always console yourself with the knowledge that you are a far better baker than me.

    Of course, with my total lack of baking skill, that might not be much consolation.

  22. I’m with Delmer. I’ll eat the dough until I explode, but the baked cookies don’t do much for me. On the other hand, my husband LOVES the dough and not the chips. He wants cookies with that dough, no chocolate. Heh.

    The dryness/lack of chewy could be due to your oven temp, as someone else suggested. I know if you’re baking cakes and junk, you can take a pan or pie tin filled with water and put it in the oven while you’re baking to keep the air in there from drying out too much. I haven’t tried it myself.

    Unrelated to cookies, but baking in general: have you tried the Edge Brownie Pan? Its shape gives you the maximum amount of edges. I am drooling just thinking of it.

  23. I think the first step is changing what your saying and the juju you’re putting out. Repeat after me: “I can totally make awesome chocolate chip cookies. Cha..”

  24. Oh geez don’t ask me for help! I can bake you a door stopper, a frisbee, and a lead weight, anytime you like. Lil Miss P however, can bake you anything you like and she’s only 12 – yeah, that makes me feel crap too!

  25. The ants liked my last batch of cookies more than me. I always bake cookies one minute longer than I should. Always.

    Anyway, my favorite pancake treat is blueberry pancakes. 2nd favorite is banana pancakes!!! With tons of syrup, no small tablespoon portions!

    Oh, just diggin from me memory. My mom said she achieves soft chocolate chip cookies by leaving the batter set in the fridge for several hours before making balls and baking them. I don’t know, I never tried it?.
    Happy Thursday to ya!

  26. Practice makes perfect. there are many variables. But i like to refrigerate my dough for about an hour before baking. Especially if I use butter. Keep trying. You will get it.

  27. A particularly bad failure was the time I made cheesecake, from scratch, for my office and forgot to put sugar in it. Yeah, it was bad. Really bad.

    As for the chocolate chip cookies, I use the Betty Crocker recipe and have found that the longer you leave the butter out to soften, the thinner the cookies will be. Also, adding a touch more flour makes them more cake-like. Try the Ghiradelli chips in the Betty Crocker recipe. When eating them the next day, heat the oven to 250 and let cookies warm for 5 minutes, it’s like fresh out of the oven all over again!

  28. Holy crap, are you living in my brain?!

    I just tried the Ghiradelli recipe again yesterday, although I tried a different flour mixture. It still disappointed me, although I do love the fact that the cookies are chock full of delicious milk chocolate chips. Maybe next time I’ll try increasing the amount of sugar? Or vanilla? Or just a completely different recipe but with the ghiradelli chips. I’ve also read that using real butter instead of margarine results in flatter cookies as opposed to fluffier cookies…but I just can’t bring myself to use margarine. *sigh* Not that any of this stopped me from eating 3 disappointing chocolate chip cookies this morning and calling it breakfast.

  29. Also, a couple of weeks ago I totally burned my take-out-of-freezer-and-pop-into-oven mac & cheese dinner, so perhaps I am completely unqualified to give any sort of kitchen advice whatsoever…

  30. I am a fiend for baking, and cooking in general, but on a ski trip once with friends, it totally backfired on me. We bought some of those totally-cheating slice and bake cookies, figuring that they would be delicious no matter what. Because those jerks at Nestle didn’t put high-altitude directions on the packaging, the cookies were inedible. How dare you, Nestle…how DARE you!

  31. you are never a bad baker – it is just that the world is broken and sometimes it expresses itself through your kitchen. if you are to mend the world (tikkun olam, in kabbalistic terms), I urge you to consider the recipe found here: http://www.chucklehut.org/index.php/site/ind/eat_hearty/. The photo of me at thanksgiving has gone the way of all flesh, but the cookies – oh, how they endure. but in a good way, you know?

  32. I suck at baking. SUCK AT IT.

    I suggest asking Moosh in Indy, for some cookie baking tips (Or, if you see the link Casey, get over here and pipe up.). The woman is a fracking baking GENIUS complete with blue ribbons n’ stuff.

    20 bucks says she has an uber awesome chip recipe.

  33. As for debacles, I have non. This is not because I am perfect, it is because I cannot bake AT ALL.

    However, I can taste baking pretty well, so can I be your official taste tester?? I’m very quiet and only eat when I am told.

  34. The original Tollhouse recipe works. Use the ingredients on a normal-sized bag (not those Costco jumbo ones) but use crisco shortening instead of butter and add 1/4 teaspoon of water to the mix. Perch diligently in front of the oven with a cold glass of milk at hand and, when the cookies have achieved a perfect tan, reel them out and test immediately. After all, every oven is different and one must be certain of the crispychewiness of each batch.

  35. So, what are you doing with all the cookies that don’t turn out? I have a sad suspicion that they’re going in the garbage. 😦

  36. I can’t read all the comments so I’m sure somoen has already said this, (um, yes, two comments above) but you must use Crisco. It’s gross, but YUMMY.

  37. I’m not to shabby at baking, but there was this one time I was making banana bread with a friend of mine (mind you, this was YEARS ago when I was still in high school) and we thought we followed all the intructions to the T. But when when we tasted our baked banana bread it seemed to lack a sugary taste to it. Turns out, we forgot to add the one cup of sugar to the mix. Talk about a sugar-free banana bread.

  38. I haven’t had an oven in 6 years, which is a crying shame considering how good I am at baking. And I can bake cookies, no problem. What I can’t do is make anything involving a pie crust. Pastry type things go wrong for me every single time. Every! Can I tell you how many weird quiches I have made? How many strudels have been just terrible? Too many, my friend.

  39. I made a beautiful opera cake for a group of blogging bakers I belong to…and then dropped it when my cat darted under my legs. I’ve made an entire pie from scratch and until we bit into it, didn’t realize I must have mistakenly grabbed the big salt tin instead of the sugar tin. I’ve made a strudel and the filling became gooey and made the whole thing soggy. I can go on and on about my baking disasters. But for hands down the BEST chocolate cookies, Martha Stewart (bless her jail bird heart) has the definitive recipe.

    http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2006/10/the_best_cookie.html

  40. I am a very good cook and a very good baker and everyone loves my chocolate chip cookies. I follow the toll house recipe and make them on the under-baked side… soft and chewy is better than hard & dry. However, I once made a pumpkin pie and forgot to put in the sugar. Ugh!

  41. did you know that patty mac patterson patrick makes THE BEST chocolate chip cookies on the planet? that’s part of why i married him: that he BAKES. i love that. he did tell me that once when he first learned from his dear mama, he accidentally switched around the sugar amount with the salt amount, making for some puckering and putrid cookies. apparently his brother’s never let him live it down. the important part is, he managed to get over the abuse and now produces the most mouth watering morsels you’ll ever taste! i’ll have him send up a recipe perhaps!

  42. I’m late to the comments but I can probably help if you’d like. I need to know what you are using to mix them, what the weather is doing when you do, and then you can pick your recipe and I’ll tell you how to tweak it. 🙂

  43. I love cookies. I love chocolate chip cookies. The trick with cookies is not to over mix or to overcook. Make sure most ingredients are room temp. And use really good chocolate chips and vanilla.

    I’m going to check out the Alton Brown recipes. (His omelet technique works really well too.)

  44. Hmm. Maybe see if there’s an Alton Brown cookbook with cookies. I know he did an episode with all the sorts of variations (crunchy, chewy, etc.) for chocolate chip cookies.

    good luck!

  45. My mum always used to tell me to add an extra egg to any cakey stuff I was baking, and I think this might be the key to extra moistness. You should try it. Add one more egg than they say to. And if they don’t say to add egg. Add one anyway!

  46. I’ve never been a choc cookie fan. Call me crazy, but sugar, snickerdoodle, macadamia nut, or even peanut butter oatmeal spinach cookies are preferable.

    I think I just shocked more people with this confession than any of the net-drama going on now.

  47. Did you want to hear about the time I mistook baking sode for baking powder?
    Or the time I put cookies in the oven, got on the phone and didn’t remember the cookies till the smoke alarm went off?
    Of how about the cupcakes that came out like hockey pucks you could literally bat around and wouldn’t break?
    You can’t be perfect at everything Sizzle. Pick your battles.

  48. I’m not that great of a baker….or maybe I just don’t take enough time to do it but I have noticed my choc chip cookies haven’t turned out very well since I’ve been using the cookie sheet that is kinda layer….2 layers…I don’t know some fancy sheet. The old regular cookie sheet did a lot better on making them not so thin.

    I’m sure your fella loves them anyway.

  49. I’m sorry, hon. I love ya, but I gotta disagree… chocolate chip cookies are so not overrated. I don’t care what kind of difficulties you may be having. A well-made one is heaven! And Katie pulled off a angel army’s worthy batch a couple weeks ago.

    *drools*

  50. I’m going to make soem Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies this weekend. From scratch. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Wish me luck.

    The pic of the cookie (if that’s is your’s) looks yummy to me.

    Do you make TARTS? I hear they are yummy too.
    😉

  51. Baking is a bit of a mystery to me. You make the batter, follow the directions…and it seems to culminate either for the good, or for the worse. However, there is hardly a downside to fresh cookies!
    LOL.

    I have found good pans to be really important, but honestly, my Youngest has started baking things– and she has been AWESOME at it. I think people who worry overmuch about pans(like myself, ahem) are simply looking for something to make a difference dammitt!:-)
    You sound like you have the knack for baking–now you just need the repetition. Our grandmas were good at it, because they made stuff weekly. Keep on keeping on! People will always help you eat the products from your experimentations! heh.

  52. When ever my hubby wants to sneak in a good natured jab, he will reference a certain eclair recipe that effectively kicked my culinary bum.

    Chocolate chip cookies? All you need is Food Network. Hit their web page and pull Alton Brown’s page. He has four versions – The Chewey, The Crispy, The Thick, and The Thin. “My” chocolate chip cookies are pretty much The Chewey minus the milk and with more brown sugar.

    Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone!

  53. I know you know about my stupid macaroni pie thing, so I’ll skip that.

    I do have an awesome recipe for chocolate chip cookies though. It has cream cheese in it and is so yummy. Let me know if you want the recipe and I will try to dig it up for you!

  54. If your cookies raise but aren’t chewy, simply throw a slice or two of bread into the container. The moisture from the bread will be drawn into the cookies, and they will be chewy.

    Simply remove the bread/replace when bread dries out.

    Also? Use real butter, check the date on your baking soda/powder and your flour.

  55. I used to bake allll the time, then I got diabetes and now? Not so much. I hate to admit, tho’, that I do okay at baking and cooking. *sorry*

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