How to improve on chocolate chip cookies

Facebook strikes again. Despite her best efforts to disconnect, Her Editorness can’t help checking it to see what her friends are up to; it has paid off in spades.

Back up to Christmas and a cookie-and-wine pairing that Richard Oh of Otter Cove Winery hosted. Well, she couldn’t go to the pairing but when he posted something about bacon-and-chocoate-chip cookies on Facebook it piqued her interest (most cookies do that) and she hopped in the car and went to his home in Pebble Beach and picked up the leftovers.

Then she was hooked. The quest for bacon-and-chocoate-chip cookies became her obsession. The reason she got up in the morning. There were recipes on the Internet, but she had to have the one from the Otter Cove pairing. She began prodding poor Richard every time he put a recipe out, looking for the bacon-and-chocoate-chip cookie recipe to end all bacon-and-chocoate-chip cookie recipes. Finally, and to her great delight, the author of the recipe, one George Herbert – a friend of Richard’s – saw her pleading on Facebook, took pity on her, “friended” her and gave the the recipe.

So our kitchen two weeks ago became a test kitchen as she mixed and measured and prowled through the cabinets for ingredients. We did have to go to the store for the thick cut bacon, but we actually had all the ingredients on hand, even the chocolate chips, which if she had been just a couple of inches taller and able to see them, might not have been. She was so excited it was all I could do to keep her from buying a new cookie sheet for the occasion.

There was flour everywhere. There were eggshells in the sink and she had brown sugar under her nails. The house filled with the aroma of caramelized bacon and the bacon-and-chocoate-chip chip cookies became an all-day project, if you count the cleanup and the taste tests.

So here’s George Herbert’s recipe for bacon-and-chocoate-chip cookies. Don’t get complacent, though. She has made some changes and those follow.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Candied bacon
1 pkg thick cut bacon (about 10 strips)
brown sugar for sprinkling

Chocolate chip cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
12 oz Toll House semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Make the candied bacon: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lay bacon on a parchment covered baking sheet so they are not overlapping. Sprinkle about 2 tsp brown sugar evenly on each strip of bacon. bake for 12 minutes, remove from oven, flip bacon and drag it through the syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet. Put the bacon back in the oven for another 12-15 minutes, until it is fully cooked and very dark (mahogany). Remove the strips from the sheet and cool on a wire rack. After they have cooled, chop them or quickly food process into tiny pieces.
Make the cookies: Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, both sugars and vanilla in a large bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and bacon pieces.
Spoon dough (about a Tbsp per cookie) onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 375 F for 9-11 minutes. Remove to cooling racks.
This recipe made a LOT of cookies. It took us a week and many friends and bottles of wine to get through them. Richard, by the way, had paired the cookies with Otter Cove Syrah, a full-bodied red.
Meanwhile, never one to leave things alone, Her Editorness began to make changes to what had once been the perfect recipe. The first thing was to get someone else to clean up the mess she’d made of the kitchen, but that didn’t work. The next thing came as a clue in the ingredients: Toll House. Aha! Isn’t there a Toll House Cookie store on Cannery Row? Don’t they sell tubes of cookie dough in the dairy case at SaveMart? What if you didn’t have the wine to counter the sweetness? Wouldn’t the bacon not need to be candied?

Then came the fatal decision: What if you left the bacon out and put in red pepper flakes? Don’t cringe. It was outrageous.

So another weekend of thrashing around in the kitchen, but this time with store-bought cookie dough. No flour in her hair, no eggs running down the cabinet front.

The first batch of red pepper flakes and chocolate chip cookies darned near took the top of my head off, and I’m a big man. The next batch, however, had just the right combination of fire and sweet and the recipe is dirt simple:

Red Pepper Flakes and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Buy a tube of dough (under $4) and let it soften
Mix in a tablespoon of red pepper flakes
Bake according to the directions on the tube.
If you buy a big tube (under $5) you can crisp up some thick-sliced apple wood bacon, leaving out the brown sugar, and use half the tube for bacon-and-chocolate-chip cookies. The best part, however, was the wine.

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