Remember what I said about everything being relative and how enduring terrible windstorms made the horrible windstorms seem not so bad after all? Right. The winds were only gusting to 55 mph the other day, so we packed up the pup and some gear for a little ski tour. It always feels worse in the parking lot because parking lots offer zero shelter, but once you are in the trees, it gets better. Except this time the couple of inches of fresh snow turned into a ground blizzard even in the trees. Still, we were happy to get outside and get the lungs pumping. Neva couldn’t care less about blowing snow or mature conifers dancing in the wind as if it were a rave. That pup is clearly happiest romping through the snow. None of us can give up snow.
a ground blizzard starting up
Sometimes we ski down with Neva on a leash, which requires that the skier maintain a steady speed and remain in complete control so that no puppies or people are harmed. Other times, Jeremy will ski down first while I hold Neva on leash. When he gets to a stopping point, he’ll call out and I’ll tell her to go find Jeremy and let her go. She tears off like a maniac and usually ends up wherever he is. A couple of times though, Neva has veered off into the woods. The last time she did it, she got stuck in a big snow drift and when I called to her, she ran back to me then ran to Jeremy upon my command. Treats don’t seem to have greater value than “sweet sweet freedom”, but we figured out what does (for now): her tennis ball. I tucked it into Jeremy’s pack before we left the house.
The whole way up, we worked on “heel” and “trail” to keep Neva from wandering in front of our skis or pulling orthogonally. It’s hard for her to control herself because the snow makes her SO EXCITED, but she is improving each time we ski with her. On the way back down, we ripped (climbing) skins and locked into ski mode. Neva did great running alongside Jeremy. For steeper sections, it’s more fun for all involved if we can take the hills unattached (no leash). I had Neva’s leash in my hand and before Jeremy took off down the hill, he produced the orange tennis ball. Suddenly, all of her world became that ball. He skied off and I told her to wait. She sat in the snow, but her front legs were trembling with eagerness and you could hear Neva whimpering over the howling wind. The moment Jeremy came to a stop, her front paw began to twitch. He waved to me and I said, “Go!” as Neva flew down the hill leaving cold smoke in her wake. I think I’m going to order 60 more of those orange balls (she likes the orange ones, the yellow ones aren’t as interesting for some reason).
now that’s a happy girl
Once home, Neva took a big drink of water, ate some snacks, and then sprawled out in a sunny spot on the floor for a well-deserved nap. As Jeremy reached for a chocolate chip cookie on the counter, I stopped him mid-reach. “Not that batch,” I pointed, “THAT batch.” I had been recipe testing cookies over the weekend because I hadn’t made chocolate chip cookies in years. It’s a wonderful feeling to have a recipe you can always count on. I used to bake a cornflake chocolate chip cookie recipe all the time when I lived at sea level. It’s a recipe I got from an ex-boyfriend’s mother that was a hit with all of my co-workers, graduate department, and colleagues for over a decade. Then I moved to Colorado and the cookies didn’t bake right anymore. I made several adjustments and tanked several batches for the first year. After a while, I gave up. You hear this from a lot of people who moved from sea level to high altitudes – they just stopped baking cookies.
With another decade of baking – this time at elevation – under my belt, and this great article on the science of chocolate chip cookies from The Food Lab (it’s Kenji week here at Butter headquarters), I decided to give it another shot. It’s not the ultimate chocolate chip cookie that I am after, I just want my cornflake chocolate chip cookies to not suck.
vanilla, cornflakes, flour, dark chocolate, eggs, sugar, baking soda, salt, dark brown sugar, butter
The first rule for high altitude baking is to stick with the original recipe. Sometimes they turn out with zero alterations, other times it’s just a small tweak, and then on rare occasion it requires a massive overhaul of the original recipe. I basically went with a mashup of Kenji’s recipe and my cornflake chocolate chip cookie recipe – which is a chocolate chip cookie with crushed cornflakes in the dough.
whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together
crush the cornflakes with a rolling pin
chop the chocolate
To make chocolate chip cookies, you simply omit the cornflake crumbs. But I’ll tell ya… they give such a delightful surprise crunch to the texture of the cookie that I can’t bear to make chocolate chip cookies without the cornflakes. Chopped chocolate or chocolate chips? That’s a matter of preference and everyone says to use the best chocolate you can. I like both. Chocolate chips are easy, but they exist as discrete volumes of chocolate in the cookie matrix (dough). Chopped chocolate makes a mess when you chop it, but it has a range of sizes and the small bits get blended into the dough. Kenji browns his butter, but I choose not to – mostly out of laziness. Honestly, if a recipe is too much of a pain in the ass to make, I won’t make it as often.
the components are ready
combine vanilla, eggs, and sugar
whip until thick ribbon stage
beat in the butter and brown sugar
The recipe I list at the bottom of the post is intended for sea level. Any high altitude adjustments are listed in parentheses and indicated as such. On my first iteration, the cookies spread a little more than I liked. There are ways to fix overspreading like substituting an egg white for an egg yolk or adding more flour. I increased the flour by a small amount: 2 tablespoons which amounts to a 5% increase by weight. That seemed to help. Chewy versus crispy versus crispy outside-chewy inside is a matter of (deep) personal preference. I fall into the crispy outside-chewy inside camp.
beat in the flour mixture until just under-mixed
add the chocolate and cornflake crumbs
mix until just combined
refrigerate the dough overnight
Try not to over mix the flour into the dough because that can result in a tough cookie. I baked one sheet of cookies straight from the mixer to see if refrigeration of the dough made a difference in flavor. While the unrefrigerated dough produced pretty good cookies, the cookies from the refrigerated dough were far superior in that butterscotch flavor. So if you’re in a rush and you have to get the cookies out in the next hour or two – you can skip refrigeration. I’d probably reduce the salt to 1 teaspoon as the cookies were a bit on the salty side (even for a saltaholic such as myself). The salt seems to mellow out with refrigeration.
Kenji discussed a method for creating “craggier” cookies. That involves pulling the dough ball apart and smooshing the halves back together with the rough edges facing outward. I had never heard of such a thing, but after seeing pictures, I understood the “smooth” versus “craggy” finish on a cookie after baking. I gave it a try and rather liked the results. And instead of sprinkling flake sea salt on the cookie after baking, I gave the dough balls a sprinkle pre-baking because they stick better when they bake in. I mean, what’s the point of sprinkling good flake sea salt over cookies if they just fall off when you pick the cookie up?
rough side up
sprinkle flake sea salt on the dough balls
bake until golden
cool on a rack
For the first time in several years, I was able to make a cornflake chocolate chip cookie that I wasn’t ashamed to give to friends. In fact, I think the texture and flavor are far better than the cookies I made at sea level back in the day. I’ll probably do a little more fine tuning, but this recipe is pretty spanking awesome as it is. It feels good to know that I don’t have to give up baking cookies just because I live in paradise.
i, too, can haz milk and cookies
craggy, chocolaty, crunchy, butterscotchy, chewy
10 oz. (about 2 cups or 280g) all-purpose flour [add 2 tbsps of flour at 8500 ft.]
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsps kosher salt (or 3/4 tsp table salt)
5 oz. (3/4 cup or 140g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs (about 100g)
2 tsps vanilla extract
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
5 oz. (1/2 cup tight packed + 2 tbsps or 140g) dark brown sugar
1 cup (3 oz. or 85g) cornflake crumbs (about 2 1/2 cups corn flakes before crushing)
1 1/2 cups (8 oz.) good quality dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
flake sea salt to finish
Prepare the dough the day before: Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Place the granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whisk and whisk on medium high speed for about 5 minutes until the batter leaves thick ribbons when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat in the butter and brown sugar. Mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds until blended. Add the flour mixture and stir on low speed until just combined – you should still be able to see streaks of flour. Stir in the corn flake crumbs and chocolate until blended. Try not to over mix the dough. Place the cookie dough in an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.
Bake the cookies: You CAN bake the cookies the same day and they’re pretty darn good, but they are definitely better after the dough spends a night in the refrigerator. Let the dough sit out for an hour to warm up (otherwise it’s rock hard to scoop). Preheat oven to 325°F. Place 1 ounce scoops (about 3 tablespoons) of dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets about 3 inches apart. If you prefer a craggier finish, pull each wad of dough apart and smoosh them back together with the torn sides facing outward. Sprinkle some flake sea salt over each dough ball. Bake 13-16 minutes until golden, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom after 6 minutes. Remove from oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Makes about 36 cookies.
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