August 11, 2010

Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

I teach in an intensive English program for international students at UC Berkeley during the summer. The students are college students and recent grads from all over the world - mostly Taiwan, Korea, China, with a few from Russia, France, and other European countries. The students, unfortunately, do not have a very good impression of American food, and the campus eateries and greasy places around Telegraph Avenue don't help much. I feel that it is my patriotic duty to introduce them to at least one delicious American food. And I can proudly say that Americans excel in baked goods. Of course the French are masters, and I give them full credit for the beautiful things they do with butter and flour, but here in the U.S. - we created cookies. And brownies. And any number of combinations of fruit, butter, sugar, and flour - buckle, muffins, crisps, and pies. So every year, I bake up a batch of chocolate chip cookies, and feel that in addition to having taught my students about labiodental fricatives (pronunciation) and the language of negotiation (business speaking) I have also introduced them to one of the best parts of American cuisine.

Chocolate chip cookies are, of course, nothing new or creative in the baking scene or in the food blog scene, but these - these take things up a notch with the addition of homemade toffee. My mom used to make chocolate chip cookies with Heath Bar bits 'o brickle (yes, it's officially spelled like that, with the apostrophe before the o. It feels wrong to me, but I'm going to go with it) - basically a bag of toffee pieces (Heath Bar minus the chocolate), and they were delicious. This product is surprisingly hard to find, actually, and fairly expensive, at around $5 a bag. Then we had a revelation. What is toffee? It's butter. and sugar. Those things are neither expensive nor difficult to find. In fact, we can always find them right in our kitchen. Homemade toffee! Caramelized sugar with butter and a little salt! When we finally got a candy thermometer, we gave it a try, and the process was incredibly simple and fun.

Homemade toffee (hybridized from various online sources)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Dash of salt

Put all three ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter and sugar will melt, then begin to bubble, boil, and thicken. Keep cooking, stirring regularly, until the mixture starts to turn a deep amber color and the temperature reaches 285 degrees (I honestly think that you could fudge this without a candy thermometer by waiting just a couple minutes after the toffee turns brown - this took about 10 minutes for us).
Pour the mixture into an 8 inch x 8 inch baking pan (exact size doesn't matter; you just want something with sides that will let it spread out into a relatively thin layer). Let it cool and harden for a half hour, then break it into bits. There are a number of techniques you could use for this - smashing the pan on a hard surface works; we worked it by driving the point of a knife into the toffee and giving it a little tap, which started some cracks. we did this a few times, then broke up the rest with our fingers.

The chocolate chip cookie recipe is basically the classic Toll House Cookie recipe, with just a few modifications. I cut down on the sugar because the toffee is already adding some extra sweetness. I added some extra vanilla because, well, vanilla is awesome. And - this is the key - I always refrigerate the cookie dough overnight before baking (okay, not always - this takes some measure of self-control, since when one wants cookies, one usually wants cookies now. But you can still eat a little dough right away, which is half the fun anyway). This apparently makes the dry and wet ingredients soak into each other, integrating them - I don't know chemically what exactly goes on, but I can tell you that the cookies come out more uniform; thick, chewy, and not flat.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (tweaked slightly from the Nestle Toll House recipe)
- 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate
- 1 recipe of homemade toffee from above
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Cream the butter and gradually add the white and brown sugar, mixing until well combined (I use my KitchenAid stand mixer, but you could easily do it by hand). Add the eggs and vanilla and mix. Add the dry mixture in three parts, stirring until just combined. Stir in the chocolate and toffee. Let the dough sit in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat the oven to 375, and drop balls of about two tablespoons of dough onto parchment paper covered baking sheets (parchment paper is not absolutely necessary, but makes things so brilliantly easy).
Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, or until the cookies look nice and golden brown around the edge. Let them cool a couple of minutes before removing them from the baking pan onto a cooling rack.

5 comments:

  1. I love that overnight cookie dough trick. I swear it makes them taste better. Toffee (well, pralines, which are different) always defies me though. Perhaps I should stop trying to make it on a rainy day.

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  2. These look very yummy. Not much of a Toffee fan but I could see how this would make cookies quite yummy. Great pic btw.

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  3. I have a friend who puts those toffee bits on brownies - very good!

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  4. OMG I want these cookies!!!!

    Marissa

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