I almost didn’t write this post. After all, we’re taught–whether overtly or implicitly–to hide our failures. But failures are important. Not only that, a “failure” (failed failure?) is ostensibly how chocolate chip cookies were invented to begin with, which makes it seem all the more relevant to discuss my semi-failure to make cookie shots.
I think the photo of Dominique Ansel’s chocolate chip cookie shots, debuting today at SXSW, had been on the Internet roughtly 3.7 seconds before my husband announced a desire to eat them. And since I frequently am away for work at fun events (like SXSW) drinking shots (that aren’t just milk) without him, I feel a certain obligation to deliver on baked goods when I’m home.
But before I get to that, let’s talk about Pinterest, the now common source of wacky baking and craft ideas. Cookie shot creator Ansel is previously known for the creation of the cronut, so I think it’s safe not to hold yourself to the standards of a professional baker.
But if you haven’t been on Pinterest and felt like an abject failure as a mother and crafter, then either you haven’t been on Pinterest, or you have much higher self-esteem than I do. It’s part of why we started the GeekMom “Pintrusted or Pinbusted” series. Does that fantastic idea you saw getting shared on everyone’s board actually work? Or is it another glowing Mountain Dew hoax? Even if it works, is it going to turn out like that beautiful photo, or is going to be a candidate for Epic Pinterest Fail?
It doesn’t take too long on that site before you’re convinced that everyone but you has a fantastic DSLR, which they use in their naturally lit home photo studios to capture the exquisite creations they make while their children sit quietly coloring yet another “World’s Greatest Mom” picture to hang on the stainless steel refrigerators that, like the immaculate counters where they photograph their baked goods in progress, are completely free of fingerprints, stains, or dripping finger paints.
I’m calling BS.
Nobody’s that perfect.
Myself included, which is why instead of spending the weekend perfecting these cookie shots that my husband and children were going to destroy faster than you can say “Chewbacca,” I’m going to share it with you exactly how Version 2.0 went, imperfections and all. (Version 1 is crumbled in a pile on a plate by the stove.) It’s up to you to take this and either improve on it to make your own jealousy-inducing pretty Pinterest post, or just straight up make the messy ones and throw them down your gullet. Either way, I’m going to tell you where I went right and where I know I could have done better. Then it’s up to you.
Here’s the trick with this. You want a strong cookie. A crunchy Chips Ahoy style chocolate chip cookie, not one of those pansy Soft Bake floppy things. What the heck, you might even try this Chips Ahoy clone recipe. I’m not that smart. I decided to wing it based on a three understandings:
1. I wanted low moisture for a sturdy cookie, which means eliminating at least some of the brown sugar, which play a large part in giving chocolate chip cookies that je ne sais quoi that you love. Sadly that means giving up some flavor for the fun of having a cookie shaped like a cup.
2. I thought shortening might be a little sturdier, but butter is butter. Butter. It’s one of my favorite kitchen items. I split the difference and went halfsies.
3. Worst case scenario, I have to toss it out and try again. This also led me to go with an egg-free recipe so that I could cut the quantity down without ending up trying to add 1/3 of an egg. Bonus, you can eat the dough without hearing your mom in your head warning of salmonella.
Here’s what I used:
1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cups of white granulated sugar
3/8 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp vanilla
? of chocolate chips
That’s a very precise quantity of chocolate chips, you see. I’ll explain shortly.
First, cream the fats and sugars until they’re all light and fluffy. Resist the urge to give up here and just eat the sugary butter. If you’re unable to do so, first cream pure butter and sugar and eat that–it’s way tastier. Then add the rest of the ingredients except for the chocolate chips and combine until it’s mixed. It might end up like crumbly balls instead of dough. That’s cool. It’ll work out. I used the KitchenAid with the paddle attachment.
For Version 1.0, I mixed in the chocolate chips. Except I accidentally grabbed a bag of GIANT chocolate chips. This, while delicious, is an unsuitable choice when trying to make reasonably thin-walled cups. The chips looked like freakish cookie warts. It was not pretty. The first way to solve that problem would be to use mini chips instead. I decided to just take them out of the dough altogether–but don’t worry. They come back later. As to the quantity? I’ve never measured chocolate chips in my life. Just pour them int until it looks “chippy” enough. Nobody’s ever said, “Take these cookies back! They have far too many chocolate chips in them!”
Now it’s time for the hard work. As soon as I saw the shots, I knew what pan I could use. Some number of years ago, I bought this Ikea “muffin tin”. What it actually is is a popover pan. Because I was totally going to make popovers, which I’ve done exactly twice. Now it’s got a purpose. I’m sure it feels better about itself.
I tried both molding over the outside of the pan (upside down) and using the interiors, and the interior option was far superior. I sprayed the cups because even though there’s plenty of fat in these cookies, I wanted to be darn sure they released in one piece. Then I took small bits of dough and pressed it against the sides until it made a cup shape. Save the bottom for last since bits will crumble down as you’re working. It’s OK to press it pretty thin; these rise. Balloon? Expand? Whatever you call it, I’d consider trying cutting down the baking soda to reduce the expansion. Then I made plugs out of crumpled foil to shove into the middles. Make sure the bottom isn’t wider than the top, or you’ll crush the cup trying to get it out again.
Once all your cups are made, stick it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or an hour or longer. (I let them sit in there while I made dinner.) Then bake them at around 375° F. I tried a few different options between 350° and 400°. I settled on 385° on convection, which more or less translates to 365° in a regular oven. It didn’t seem to make a huge difference in the results. Bake for 10-12 minutes. (I did this while I went to meet the school bus and hoped it wasn’t late. I feel like Perfect Pinterest Moms probably have the multitasking thing mastered.)
Voilà! Cups! More or less. Let them cool before getting the foil out.
Then this is where I brought the chocolate back in. Or, as I said to my husband, “Let’s see what happens when you melt chocolate chips that have globs of cookie dough stuck to them!” Spread the melted chocolate around the inside walls and bottom of each cup. I was pretty sure before beginning that this coating would be necessary, but I decided to test the theory. I have now poured milk into an un-chocolated cup so you don’t have to. It does not work. I delivered to aforementioned husband a plate of milk with a leaking cookie cup sitting in the middle of it. He gladly ate it anyway.
Now you have chocolate not-chip cookies, in a cup shape, ready for serving! Pour milk in the ones for the kids and Godiva white chocolate liqueur in yours. You deserve it after all that work, and I’m pretty sure that’s what the stuff was invented for.
Not only that, I assure you that when they’re enjoying all your hard work, not one of your family or friends is going to complain about the lack of Pinterest-perfection to the creations. “Look at those weirdly fluted edges and chocolate that’s not even a little bit smooth!” said nobody ever while eating chocolate chip cookie cups. So relax. You’re already the best mom ever.