Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#cookiequest: The Plan

So, because I'm a nerd and planning is my middle name and I'm on a "quest" so it feels like its more than just jumping in the kitchen and playing around, I felt like I needed a plan.  A specific order and set of steps for discovery.

1.  Based on research, bake the 4 basic chocolate chip cookie recipes
2. Bake 4 of each cookie as is, immediately following mixing - bake, photograph, taste, observe

3. Save 4 cookies of each (same size as others) and refrigerate for 24 hours - bake, photograph, taste, observe

4.  Decide which recipe is best and tweak the ingredients.
  • I'm determined to see if bread flour makes a difference
  • I'm determined to see if size of cookie makes them bake up different
  • I'm determined to find out if there is anything to the butter/butter-Crisco myth
  • I'm determined to find out if the sugar combination matters to baking or taste
5.  Several other "type" of recipes have come out.  I personally LOVE an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, so I will be trying some variations after I determine the basic recipe.  (if you have any to add to the mix, email it to me!)

2 things I think should be stated from the beginning about my cookie experimenting:
  • NO cookie should ever have nuts in it.  For you nut lovers, I'm sorry, you will be disappointed here.  The best way to ruin a chocolate chip cookie is to put nuts in it.  So, if one of these recipes calls for nuts, I'm skipping that step like it doesn't even exist. 
  • I bake all cookies on a seasoned baking stone.  Its always been the PERFECT thing to cook my cookies on.  The one I use I've been cooking on for 10 years.  Its seasoned,  The cookies cook perfect, they slide off easy and I have less clean up.  I do have a back up that I'll use on the days I'm cooking dozens at a time, but for now, expect to see the dark brown, seasoned baking stone...I'll swear by that thing.


Monday, November 24, 2014

#cookiequest: Prediction

So, with all research in hand (that was last week), I decided a true experiment needed a real HYPOTHESIS (that was always my favorite part of science classes, making an educated guess and seeing if it was right).

My prediction for now, for the variable ingredients that will make the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie (still looking for the name)
  • Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe
  • Butter flavored Crisco
  • more brown sugar than white sugar - but both needed
  • refrigerate dough for 24 hours
  • bake at 350 for 10 minutes (that's always been the rule at my house, so we will just test it as well!)

Any thoughts...anybody else ever embarked on this?


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tigers in Overtime

I shared this earlier in the week on social media, but I'm sharing it here.  For my memories.  And, because the words are still in my heart.

In college, we all have our place and our people.  They are who make our experiences rich and who fill our days with memories.  I worked in the athletic office at Ouachita Baptist University during college.  I met the men who's names line the trophy cases and Hall of Fame boards.  The guys who hold records from "back in the day" and who accomplished the banners that hang from the stadium rafters.  They are some great men, men who know what drive and determination can do to a soul.  Men who fought battles on grassy hills and flat plains. 

My beloved Tigers won a pretty big game last weekend at "the school across the street".  It was an epic win.  The greatest season in a history that began in 1895.

And, as the week has gone on, so many more accolades have been added.  So many things for those in the Ouachita family to be thankful and grateful for.

On Thursday, as I ate leftover Chinese food at my desk, I almost choked on rice as I read the words of the infamous Rex Nelson.  His words are always Southern Fried, but when they talk about my beloved Tigers, they taste so sweet.

He relays the fullness of the day and mentions some men who shaped my life too.  Men, we all loved and respected.  And, who we hold so close in our hearts.

Whether you like football or not, I challenge you to read the tale.  Whether you even know where Arkadelphia or Ouachita Baptist University are or not, let me encourage you to take a moment.  Whether you know the men or the places mentioned, I assure you, you can relate.  And for pete's sake if you want to hear a tale of so much to be thankful for..read and breathe in every word.

Tears at 10-0

That Rex Nelson has a gift...a gift he learned while being a Ouachita tiger!

Friday, November 21, 2014

#cookiequest: Research

Yes, I made even making a chocolate chip cookie, nerdy!

I mean I cant just jump off into the abyss of chocolate chip cookieness without some education.

1.  The Google Search

So, I searched and researched a few topics and kept coming back to the same answers (which frankly is a really good way to get a solid answer as far as I'm concerned!)

-most popular chocolate chip cookie
-most searched chocolate chip cookie recipe
-perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe
-top chocolate chip cookie recipes

And every time I went to Google, my preferred search tool, I was led back to the same top 3 recipes with a few that rotated in and out of 4th and 5th place.

2.  Crowd sourcing
last week, I put out on my blog Facebook page and twitter to ask for input on "what makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie" I got some really good advice - someone else making them, chilling the dough, browning the butter and butter flavored shortening.  All items I'll consider as I move forward.

Crowd Sourcing round #2 consisted of asking for the "perfect" recipe.  I wanted to see if there was a consistent go to.  I got some good input.  One very specific set of instructions and I'll be keeping those in mind for sure...especially since they came from a cookie queen!

3. The NPR article and research of the "science"
First, I love when you put something on someone's radar because when people see anything about cookies, they have been sending it my way, and I LOVE it.  Last week an article circulated, "trended" if you will, on Facebook - it was the NPR article about the science behind your chocolate chip cookie and it was exactly what I needed to begin to understand all the "whys" associated with cookies.  Flour, sugar, butter, chocolate, powder, soda.....  I loved it.  I even found this little gem, an infographic about the science behind the ingredients.  There is so much stuff out there...It got overwhelming so I kept it to these two basics and will use them a reference when I jump into round 2 of baking.

4.  Asking the question
So, I did a little Sunday lunch survey.  I don't get to eat lunch with my family on Sundays very often so last week when I "called in" and they were all sitting at the table, I went around the room and gathered the answers to "What makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie?"

Dad- stands up, buttery taste, not flat, Janna Beall's recipe
Mom - crisp edges, chewy inside
Zak- no chips, ice cream on top
Maresa - lots of chocolate chips, that are not melted yet and still have their shape, thick and chewy

so, with those things in mind, I made a decision - I picked 4 recipes to start with and I made a prediction...

 (For the record, finding 4 basic cookie recipes to try was very overwhelming.  Everyone thinks their recipe is "the one".  I've got to work on a name besides "perfect", "ultimate", "best".  Any thoughts?!?!)


Thursday, November 20, 2014

#cookiequest: Perfect

So, since we are looking for the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie.  (and by we, I mean the voices in my belly) I thought I would jump off into a little rant about the specifics of "perfect". 

Perfect is subjective. 

Not just when it comes to cookies, but always.

Think about it.  My "ideal" or perfection is simply that, mine!  I get to decide what's best.  I get to decide what I want over something else.  I get to decide what makes something better than another.  My perfect is perfect for me.

Yes, I'm talking about more than chocolate chip cookies here!

We all find ourselves trying to find perfection.  The perfect hair cut.  The perfect car.  The perfect job.  Being the perfect girlfriend, daughter, husband, wife, mom, friend..... Being or finding perfection is something we are all obsessed with, but frankly never achieve.  I think it comes back to that comparison thing.  Obviously something has to have another thing to be perfect.  But, my version of perfect may not be yours.  Its why you can order your steak differently.

I never understood why my Papa always prefers to have his anything (biscuit, toast, cookie) be a little on the hockey puck side.  I remember eating breakfast at his house growing up and he would make toast on a charred black cookie sheet.  He would smear butter on the bread and then put it under the broiler.  He made it "perfect" for me.  But, it was his perfect.  I loved it and would love to sit down with him right now and have a piece of toast (maybe I'll do that on his birthday tomorrow).

But, his perfect doesn't satisfy me.  It doesn't even please me outside of the fact that its him and when you are 95, you know how you like a perfect piece of toast. 

So, for the sake of my experiment, I'm going for my perfect.  What's perfect for me may not be your preference or tantalize your taste buds.  We can work on that.  I'll try to share my reasons for why and why not.  But, let me challenge you. 

Discover your perfect.  Not someone else perfect.  Or being perfect because that's what someone will think is perfect.  Discover your perfect.

And, be comfortable with what you choose.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Quest - #cookiequest

So, I shared yesterday that I'm jumping in to a quest.  My #cookiequest.

Since its 2014, I felt like this journey needed its own hashtag.  I mean if people can make up a hashtag for their wedding or 30th birthday party, then I could have one for my cookie discovery process!  I did a little research and found that my journey is not unique.  Other's are on the same journey, whether they call it a quest or not and whether they are documenting it officially or not, #perfectcookie, #chocolatechipcookie, #cookiequest all already existed.  When I looked at what others were writing about, it seemed the #cookiequest fit - so I'm just jumping in on the conversations.

My Quest: Find the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie (imagine a really cool typewriter font and each letter being penned as it is said)

But, that's what I'm up to these days.  And, because I'm such a freak (self-proclaimed) who has to have order and process to every thing, there is a process and a spreadsheet.  I know, I know you are laughing, but some crazy thing happened to me when I was young (I need a therapist to pin point the specifics!) I have to make a plan so I can at least have order to the chaos of the 1 billion opinions about cookies and the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

So, my new few weeks will look a little something like this:
  1. Research
  2. Predict
  3. Plan
  4. Bake
  5. Decide (may have to bake some more)
  6. Present my findings to the world!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dreaming and Listing

So, as I read, I dreamed.  I keep telling myself its perfectly normal to read any book with a pen and highlighter in your hand.  That most people write in the margins and when asked a question, they answer them (right there in the book).

So, as I read our little book, I made a list in the front, things I might consider a quest...or questing for:
  • take pictures in the same spot of all 4 season (a place or moment that's special to me)
  • 12 month quilt - square/month - represent where I am, mood or holiday - defining moment, hand crazy quilt, learn new stitches, words
  • outline/begin working on a book I've been putting off
  • photograph the alphabet
  • a photo a day - everyday at the same time  - journal through a separate instagam account with 1 word descriptions
  • write a letter to a person you don't know who's birthday is today - read about them- send them a message - introduce yourself and your quest - ask them to send something back, do something with the collection of items
  • try a different drink at Starbucks until you've tasted everything - even those weird "not on the menu" items
  • cook a series of somethings on Pinterest - actually try the recipes
  • find the perfect red lipstick
  • find my signature nail polish for each season
  • determine my "walk up song"
  • perfect the chocolate chip cookie
Yep, those are the things I came up with. 

As we talked and as I read, I really began struggling with the difference between a goal and quest. 

Honestly, I'm still not sure, but I've also discussed some of my obsessive nature for the details and I realized that I just had to give myself the grace and the space to just be and discover.  For me, that's the quest. 

Chris, the author, defines a "quest" by a few things - a quest:
  • clear goal and a specific end point
  • presents a clear challenge
  • requires a sacrifice of some kind
  • often driven by a calling or sense of mission
  • requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward a goal
  • Summary: a quest is a journey toward something specific, with a number of challenges throughout (pg 16)
He also makes a clear, bold statement on the facing page - "you must become a better person than you were before you started".

I like(d) the thought of questing and I like the thought of having a journey.  I just know my heart even has heavy palpitations as I type these words. 

So, for now.  I chose the last idea on the list.  It seemed heavy enough a task for me to jump on.  Its timely to this part of the year.  It felt substantial enough to really be something I could jump in to and frankly the biggest consequence at the moment will be my waist line. 

So, I'm jumping in.  With both feet.  I'm going to probably over think it.  I'll get way too nerdy and maybe I'll be serving or taking cookies to every party this holiday season.  But, I'm curious.  Is it possible to make the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie? 

Follow along with me #cookiequest!