Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Compost Cookies

When I was in New York in April, I stopped by David Chang's bakery, Milk Bar, to pick up a couple of their lauded cookies. The "compost cookie" that I had read so much about was tooth-achingly sweet and had a weird gritty texture from crushed breakfast cereal. Fail.

Although the cookie did not impress me, I thought I'd try my hand at baking them after discovering that the recipe was online. And my cupboard was chock-full of miscellaneous add-ins like white chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, a plethora of dried fruit, and about nine boxes of cereal. It seemed like a good way to get rid of last Christmas' left-overs before I started thinking about baking for this year's winter holiday.

Christina Tosi's recipe, as presented on the Regis and Kelly Web site, admonishes bakers to portion the dough then refrigerate it for a minimum of one hour before baking. Lacking the fridge space for baking trays and dough balls, I refrigerated the entire bowl of sugary goodness for about three hours. The first batch resulted in cookies that spread into a massive greasy mess, a uni-cookie, one which required refrigeration in order to achieve some sort of vaguely crisp texture.

It made a fine ice cream topping, but that was not my goal.

After that disaster, I froze the remaining dough, thinking that extreme cold would definitely help.

A few weeks later, I decided to attempt a two-cookie batch in the toaster oven. I set the temperature and the timer for the required 400º and 11 minutes. About eight minutes later, I removed two quite burnt specimens. They were, however, the proper size and shape. After letting the oven cool slightly, I tried again, this time ending up with two flat puddles, a near repeat of the very first try.

A week later, I went at it again, this time photographing the results. After 8 minutes in a toaster oven set at 350º, I had cookie-shaped cookies, albeit with very uneven coloring.

So why were the cookies such a failure each time? This clever blogger deduced that Tosi's recipe was for a professional kitchen with snazzier ovens. And that the flour should be increased by about 1/2 cup. While the home version seemed less cloyingly-sweet, they were overly greasy, which an increase in flour might alleviate. I had a suspicion that the dearth of flour compared to the amount of butter and sugar called for would create the spreading cookie issue, so I overcompensated by adding more than the required 1 1/2 cups of starchy add-ins (like pretzels and cereal; I used Cocoa Krispies, corn flakes, 2 crumbled Wheatabix biscuits, and dry oatmeal). Still, I could not overcome that problem.

While I like the idea of using a multitude of ingredients in a cookie recipe, I'm thinking this isn't the recipe for me. I should continue to experiment with a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe, maybe one with slightly more butter and sugar than the typical Toll House version, but not as much as the compost cookie recipe. Does anyone have suggestions?