The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

The New York Times has a great article up on the Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.

All this crossbreeding begs the question: Has anyone trumped Mrs. Wakefield? To find out, a journey began that included stops at some of New York City’s best bakeries as well as conversations with some doyens of baking. The result was a recipe for a consummate cookie, if you will: one built upon decades of acquired knowledge, experience and secrets; one that, quite frankly, would have Mrs. Wakefield worshipping at its altar.

The keys? Resting the dough for a couple days, great ingredients, competent technique and making sure to add a bit of salt. If you want to try it at home (I know we will), the Times has an adapted recipe available.


A great little omelet pan

The Calphalon Commercial 10" Griddle / Crepe Pan

Calphalon 10″ Nonstick Crepe Pan

Our five-year-old Cuisinart non-stick pan finally started getting all peely and nasty, so it was time for a new pan. I like having a non-stick pan around for eggish things, omelets especially, so the hunt began. I read a few reviews in Cooks Illustrated and Alton Brown’s Gear For Your Kitchen, and both said the same basic thing: non-stick pans wear out, so there’s no reason to buy an expensive one.

CI really liked a certain model that’s apparently not made any more, but they also like some of the Calphalon stuff. With Calphalon in the middle of a new product launch, a good bit of their old fancy stuff is now available rather inexpensively, especially the old Commerical line. The Commercial line is really nice anodized aluminum with a wonderful non-stick coating and the pans carry a lifetime warranty so when the coating eventually flakes off, I can just send it back (to Ann Arbor no less!) and get a new one. We got ours last week and I’m loving it so far. If anything, it could be a touch bigger to make it a bit more general purpose, but for omelets, it’s just right.

Computers Food

Taking a Moment

I’ve been spending the last few nights reading Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef. I’ve enjoyed it immensely; I’d always wondered what it was like inside that campus after driving past it so many times in our weekend adventures northward from Tarrytown. Mandy and I never got the chance to eat at any of their restaurants while we lived downstate, but now we’re hopefully planning a trip south to sample the cuisine. Ruhlman is a pleasure to read and does a fantastic job conveying the passion and pressure of going through the Culinary’s course load. If you’re into cooking at all or want to know more about what it’s like to be inside the Culinary Institute of America (our other CIA), I heartily recommend the book.

Last night, as I was nearing the end of the book, I came across a scene that I’ve been replaying in my head all day. When you’re cooking in a professional kitchen, things move very fast and you have to come into it prepared and once there you have to be incredibly efficient to stay on top of all the orders coming in. When you get behind or overwhelmed, it’s called being “in the weeds.” While working at American Bounty, the premier restaurant at the Culinary and the last stop for the students before graduation, Ruhlman is working the grill station and another student is lost in the weeds. He’s getting behind and his station is getting messier and messier, enough so that the head chef asks him repeatedly to clean up his station. After a few such reminders, the instructor finally stops the student and tells him how he likes to get out of the weeds.

He takes a moment. He wipes down his station, getting it perfectly clean. He arranges everything he needs back into order, and this little restoration of order helps him clean up his mind as well. When you’re in the weeds, it’s as much a mental problem as it is a physical one. To perform quickly and efficiently, you have to be focused. The mess clouds your focus and that lack of clarity shows up in the final result.

This reminded me a lot of programming under a tight deadline. In the rush to get everything done and out the door, you tend to get messy. You don’t write tests, you don’t verify that code changes work in all the browsers, you check code in without actually compiling it first, and eventually the whole thing disintegrates. In your effort to go faster, you get sloppy and you end up slowing down.

So, a reminder to myself. When things get hairy, take a moment and clean everything up. You’ll probably get done sooner as a result.


Bittman: What’s wrong with what we eat

A great, amazing, completely worth it TED talk by Mark Bittman on what we eat and why we need to change. Definitely watch it.


Silvia *hearts* Wii

Thanks to Chet for finding this awesome hack for the Rancilio Silvia. Mandy and I depend on ours nearly every morning to wake us up, and though I’ve hacked a PID into mine, I don’t think I’ll be going this far. Still, it’s pretty freaking awesome.