This is a special post about a dessert I consider to be a backbone of American confection. A founding father, if I may. I might even be so bold as to call this cookie the Alexander Hamilton or the James Madison. Sorry, but the George Washington would have to be a pie—probably apple (future post idea!) Anyway—let’s get back to the good stuff—
As we’re all aware, the shutdown rages on. For some, it is a silent issue, something that has little-to-no affect on their life. For others, it’s detrimental to their livelihood and lives.
One such sector most hindered by this folly is the travel industry, specifically the states with popular National Parks. I read an article about a week ago about San Juan County in Utah; about 91% of the land in the county is federally owned land or indian reservations. About 70% of the businesses in the area rely on visitors to the national park to stay in business. Apparently, in Utah alone, about $100 million is revenue is generally generated by the tourism to the national parks in the month of October alone—a big month for the state and its inhabitants for this reason. And Utah was getting civilly disobedient about the shutdown for this reason–multiple counties were gearing up to remove the barricades, open and run the parks in spite of the shutdown. They decided the loses were too much to take and knew they could scrap together enough resources to get the most important parks back on their feet.
But it’s an odd concept, one that would not have been imagined if the times hadn’t called for it—the idea that a local government would run a national park. There is a whole hell of a lot of money on the line though, so it makes sense to think outside the box. Hold on to your hats because it gets weirder—The Department of the Interior saw what was happening in Utah and thought “That’s not good” so they took ‘control’ (if you want to call it that) of the situation. They approved a temporary resolution of sorts, States were granted permission to fund the running on national parks (yeah, I had to read that twice to make sure I didn’t mis-type)
The LA Times writes that “The source of money for these efforts varies: New York is dipping into its tourism budget, while Arizona is using state funds along with money pledged by municipalities. South Dakota said the $152,000 bill to run Mt. Rushmore will be paid with donations by nonprofit groups and private companies.”
The National Parks are arguably the most iconic destination in the United States. Who wouldn’t want to be awed by the size of the Sequoias in Yellowstone or the depth of the Grand Canyon? Barricading the beauty our country holds should be a crime really. It would be like baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies and telling everyone they weren’t allowed to eat even a crumb.
So, we segue into cookies. But the situation calls for something odd, something a tad off, something that might seem weird (state governments running national parks) but works out. The longer this shutdown lasts, the more people will innovate and find ways to provide for themselves what the government is failing to provide. It could lead to some cool stuff or some really bad stuff but only time will tell. Until then, let them eat cookies!
The National Classic Cookie — with a twist adapted from the infamous Jacque Torres Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
The Chocolate Chip Cookie was an accident (as so many things are). In 1930, a lady called Ruth Graves Wakefield owned and operated the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts. She was baking something up one day and thought, I’ll put these chunks of chocolate in and they’ll melt therefore resulting in chocolate cookies. Oh Ruth, no, no, no, but my I want to thank you for your naivety, thank you SOO much. But this lady sold the recipe to Nestle in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate chips, sweet deal, huh? Obviously, there are competing stories. Another account says that they were mixing up some sugar cookies and the movement from the mixture caused some bars of chocolate to drop into the batter and break into pieces….but…really?
Anyway, on to the cookies. Why are these different than all the others? What’s the “twist”?
- They Call for 2 types of Flour which if you know anything about flour, you know they have different gluten contents and therefore react different when mixed and create slightly different textures
- Dark Chocolate Chunks. Put the semi-sweet morsels DOWN. Do not use them. Don’t do it. Go to the store, buy some chocolate bars which are at least 70% cacao content and smash those things up with a hammer. You’ll have little flecks of dark chocolate throughout and big, melty pieces as well. Mmmmm.
- Top it with salt. If you’re like me, you could spend hours looking at chocolate bars. And I’m not talking about Hershey’s. I’m talking artisan chocolate which is spicy or has coconut in it or sea salt. The salt on top of these cookies plays of the bittersweetness of the chocolate and it’s amazing.
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
- 1⅔ cups bread flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons coarse salt
- 2½ sticks (1¼ cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1¼ cups light brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1⅓ pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
- sea salt or fleur de sel, for sprinkling
Instructions (read through before you begin)
- Sift together the cake flour, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
- In the bowl of your mixer, cream together your butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Add in the vanilla and mix.
- Gradually add in the dry ingredients, until just moistened.
- Fold in your chocolate until evenly added throughout the dough.
- Press plastic wrap against the dough, making sure it is completely covered, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or as long as 72 hours—This is an important step, as it allows the gluten in the dough to loosen up. It also helps the cookies to not spread out too much; warm dough spreads, cold dough stays in nice, uniform circles.
- When you are ready to bake, bring out that dough and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Scoop your dough out onto the sheets using an ice cream scoop—the regular size one—Do not press the dough down – let it stay the way it is.
- Sprinkle the cookies lightly with a bit of fleur de sel or sea salt.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes if you’re scooping them with the ice cream scoop, anything smaller won’t need to bake for as long
- Once out of oven–throw caution to the wind and eat IMMEDIATELY….just kidding….kind of.
- Allow the cookies to cool slightly on your baking sheet, then move them to another surface to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
Sometimes it’s good to make some changes. I’m still rooting for an end to the shutdown and hopefully full reimbursement for the state money being shelled out to support national parks. If the shutdown lasts long enough, these states might just want to take over these national parks 100%. I’m not quite sure what the ramifications of such an action would be but it’d be a shame to break up the network of parks that represent our nation.
Regardless, happy baking! And three cheers for innovation in the kitchen!