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time well spent

Recipe: alice’s chocolate chip cookies

Coming home feels good. There are many aspects of southern California that I miss and love: friends, food, cultural diversity (OMG, something other than WHITE!), and it’s familiar. But I can do without the heat, the smog, the traffic… the stress. For us, living in Colorado has fewer stressors – it’s simpler and we like it that way. That is why visiting California is so great. I caught up with more friends during the week over lunches and dinners and election results. Todd and Diane were so incredibly sweet to take an entire day off to meet with me and take me around Little Saigon.

a knock-off hello kitty seal on my milk tea boba

banh mi to kick off the food fest

These guys are like family to me – so generous, loving, open, honest, sincere. They are also ridiculously funny, protective of my interests, silly, and just plain fun to be around. Family. To walk through Little Saigon with the two of them is quite the experience. Todd speaks in Vietnamese with the little ladies in the stores asking about various produce and they LOVE him (who doesn’t?) while Diane explains what the popular snacks are or the difference between a Viet baguette and a French baguette. I noticed that she beams with pride and love when she shares this with me. It’s such a part of who she is and I really love that. I love those two.

diane smiles at a jar of her favorite pickled mango (i am addicted to it)

pâté chaud (puff pastry filled with chicken and vegetables)

But I was on a mission to find passion fruits. Most of the passion fruits on Todd and Diane’s vines were still green (and I don’t want to be picking their bounty clean anyway) and some were supposedly arriving in the markets and getting bought up quite early. We decided to try our luck and just see what was around. Lo and behold, there were passion fruits. BAGS of them! Let me just point out that the bougie bougie grocery stores like Whole Foods and Bristol Farms carry passion fruits. They carry about 12 small ones in some neglected corner of the produce department and they want $3.69 FOR EACH ONE. Diane asks the little lady in Vietnamese how much a bag is. The lady replies and Diane turns to me and softly says, “$10 a bag” and turns right back to the lady to haggle. There were 20 passion fruits in each bag. Diane is haggling, speaking softly in her beautiful native language and I whisper loudly to her, “Tell her I’ll pay $20 a bag! I’ll buy them all!” Without turning around, Diane waves her hand at me – the sign language for “SHUT UP!” She laughs and says, “If you buy three bags, she’ll sell them to you for $9 a bag.” I bought four bags. I hoard shop. It’s a Chinese thing.

score – big time

Next they brought me to their studio in LA for a tour and then to relax and start prep for dinner. We took a stroll around the ‘hood, visited with one of my oldest college friends back at the studio for a short while, and then guests began arriving.

this is willie

diane made passion fruit juice from some of our loot!

totally addictive sweet onion dip and the last candy-sweet tomatoes from their garden

We had a lovely evening with Allison, Son, Melissa, and Rene. [Brooke had to cancel at the last minute because of work and we were so sad to miss her.] The food was exceptional. I think that is a given with food bloggers – we know how to throw a dinner party! We began with that sweet onion dip (aka crack) and the tomatoes, then a lovely green salad with fresh picked fuji apples and homegrown pomegranate seeds. I believe Todd mixed some homemade apple cider sidecars for folks (a drink would have had me under the table). He also made his sinfully magical potatoes au gratin to accompany a one-pot chicken dish they learned from Three Many Cooks’ latest book. Allison brought her light-as-a-feather vanilla cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting for dessert. The conversation was a roller coaster of laughs, revelations, “tweetable” moments, stories, and musings.

who knew a small group could be so boisterous?

diane dishing up some amazingness

thankfully it cooled down enough to open the windows

By the end of my trip, I was feeling drunk on all of that quality time spent with people who are important to me. Several of these friends I’ve known longer than I’ve known Jeremy. It’s good to catch up in person even if you are in touch via email or other social media fairly regularly. In the morning, I watched the sun’s approach over the mountains in the East and began to pack my things, including the haul of 60+ passion fruits. It was time to go home. Home was calling to me.

sunrise through our filthy window

You know what I like to do at sea level? I like to run. I ran and hiked during our trip to southern California because I feel like I’m on jet fuel with all of that extra oxygen in the air. There are things that are more difficult to do at elevation, like run… or bake. Some of my food blog pals like recipe testing and do it for a living. I have to wonder if they would love recipe testing if they had to bake at high altitudes. Because I *hate* recipe testing high altitude baking recipes. So one night I’m looking online for a good chocolate chip cookie recipe. I found Alice‘s recipe and it sounded like the perfect cookie. I gave it a try.

beat the butter and sugars until super light and fluffy

add eggs and vanilla

The cookies spread too quickly and were very crunchy when they cooled. Fail #1. I think I sent those into Jeremy’s department. On my second attempt, I added more flour, reduced the butter, and reduced the oven temperature. Too fluffy and not chewy enough. Also, I was using Ghirardelli chips which are a little large for my tastes and they seemed to overwhelm the cookie with too much chocolate. Fail #2. I took those on a photo shoot to feed the fellas.

stir in the flour and other dry ingredients

mix in chocolate chips

I switched the Ghirardelli chips out for my personal favorite: Guittard dark chocolate chips. The chips are smaller (well, normal) and I like the chocolate better because it has a bit more of a vanilla flavor than the Ghirardelli chips. I also reduced the leavenings, increased the vanilla and increased the temperature of the oven. These were better, but hard. Fail #3. I gave those to friends and made Jeremy take the rest to work. The fourth time around I reduced the brown sugar and baking powder, increased the vanilla and flour, and reverted back to the original temperature.

this was getting old

Thankfully, it was what I was looking for. A nice butterscotch taste, slightly chewy inside, crisp outside, good chocolate chip distribution, little crystals of salt scattered in the dough. Seal of approval. They don’t store as long as I would like (perhaps because it’s so darn dry here), but these are the best chocolate chip cookies I have baked at elevation. And I’m really happy that I don’t have to play around with it anymore. The recipe listed below is Alice’s recipe, although you will find my high altitude adjustments for 8500 ft. a.s.l. in parentheses.

all that trouble for a cookie

Alice’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
[print recipe]
from Savory Sweet Life

8 oz. unsalted butter, softened (Alice calls for salted, I use unsalted)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar (@8500 ft. use 1 cup packed light brown sugar)
2 eggs (at room temperature)
2 tsps vanilla extract (@8500 ft. use 4 tsps vanilla extract)
12 oz. all-purpose flour (@8500 ft. use 16 oz. flour) – yes, weigh it
1 tsp medium coarse sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsps baking powder (@8500 ft. use 1 tsp baking powder)
2 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Oven: 360°F (I found 350°F works better for me at 8500 ft.). Place butter, sugar, and light brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed for 3 minutes or until the mixture is light colored and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs and the vanilla extract and continue to beat for a couple of minutes. Again, scrape down bowl as necessary. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and stir in on low to medium speed until incorporated. Pour in the chocolate chips and mix well. With a medium cookie scoop or a spoon, drop approximately 2 tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet (I make mine about 1.5 tablespoons). Alice lines her sheets with parchment, I don’t. Make sure the cookies are 2-3 inches apart. Bake 12-14 minutes (@8500 ft. I bake for about 11 minutes) until edges are golden. Let cookies cool on the cookie sheet for another 2 minutes (@8500 ft. I remove mine to a cooling rack immediately). Then let cool on cooling rack. Serve. Makes 4-5 dozen.

38 nibbles at “time well spent”

  1. Wei-Wei says:

    I have never had experience with high-altitude baking – that could constitute a WHOLE other blog!

  2. Debbie says:

    Looks like you had a wonderful time. Beautiful pictures….great friends and great food…….and Willie is very, very cute!!!!!

  3. Kate says:

    Ah, food crack in it’s various forms….are you sharing the sweet onion dip recipe? I always thought of the “hoarding” as Russian Rules of Shopping. Buy it when you see it because you might not see it again. Or at that low price. Someone has to test recipes, and thank you so much for explaining your process. I don’t live at high altitude but one person’s perfect cookie isn’t always your perfect cookie. Although I agree with your final version. ;) So, did the passion fruits fly in the cabin?

  4. Richard says:

    Thanks for the chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’ve failed at making chocolate chip cookies ever since I moved to Denver. I’ll try your adjustments at 5200 ft. and see what happens.

  5. LimeCake says:

    Wow you were certainly on a quest! I’m sure I, and all your other readers, will really appreciate the lengths you went to! They look perfect!

  6. Maria says:

    I have made Alice’s cookies-they are winners! Love them!

    So glad you were able to spend time with good friends. Great food too!

  7. Cookin Canuck says:

    It looks as though you had a wonderful time. There really is nothing better than enjoying great food with your dearest friends.

  8. Susan says:

    Beautiful post, Jen.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, recipes, and beautiful photographs.

  9. alice says:

    Loved waking up to this post this morning, Jen. Looking at your beautiful photos wishing I was there with you.

  10. Melissa says:

    Damn elevation baking. Sheesh.

    I loved Todd and Diane. How could I not? And I loved you. But that was never a question either.

    Making the crack this weekend. That shit is RIDICULOUS. Thanks again for inviting me!

  11. white on rice couple says:

    we really wish you lived closer Jen, but always know there’s a spare room in the house with your name on it! What a fabulous day and it was written in the stars for you to find that huge stash of passion fruits! Great job, but you really did need that quiet nudge of “shut up!”. ;) only $9 dolla!

    and Willie, oh willie is the sweetest. thank you for the great pictures! xo

  12. Kristin says:

    There’s something better than Ghiradelli chips?! Just made an onion dip from Fine Cooking this am…the one you posted looks fabulous.

  13. Yvonne says:

    Question about the Pickled Mango, is there a recipe anywhere, and where did you go in Little Saigon that I might find some? Yum!

  14. Bridget says:

    I know you have Pie in the Sky; have you ever tried that recipe for chocolate chip cookies? (I’m assuming there’s on in there; I don’t have the book myself, as I’ve been lucky not to have any high altitude issues here at 3300 ft.) I thought my mom said she tried it at 8000 ft and really liked it.

  15. vanillasugar says:

    i know i’m supposed to comment on the food (and it’s all fabulous trust me) but that collar of willie’s is so….so badass! lol

  16. Deirdre says:

    The perfect cc cookie is my absolute hands-down favorite treat. And that’s why I never make them. Can’t wait to try these, thanks for doing the legwork!!!

  17. sale e pepe says:

    you Hoard Shop!!! I love it!!!

  18. pinky black says:

    dark chocolate chip cookie. i love that. i love everything about dark chocolate. ill give this a try. can i mix small slices of fruits for this recipe? so it won’t be the ordinary chocolate chip cookie.

  19. Ruth Ann says:

    Thanks for sharing your time with your friends. Diane and Todd seem like such nice, down to earth people.
    The cookies look amazing. Will have to try them soon.

  20. brittani says:

    next time you’re in the mood to try another recipe [which, I’ll assume, won’t be for a while! haha] try this from smittenkitchen!
    honestly… i made these last week and the entire batch didnt even last 3 days! And by the last little delicious morsel [about 2.75 days old!] they were still chewy and delicious… i dont like really hard crunchy cookies. And of course, they’re always best straight from the oven, still warm with a glass of milk and a spoon to cut/”spoon dunk” into the milk. Delicious. :D

  21. Allison says:

    We had a blast! It was so much fun getting to see you again. And oh man, that sweet onion dip… and those potatoes… I’m definitely going to have to find excuses to make both… on occasions where there will be plenty of other people present, so I don’t eat them all myself. ;)

  22. Alyson says:

    Oh, I’m so jealous! Passion fruit is my favourite flavour of all time. What a score!

  23. Asianmommy says:

    Your cookies turned out so perfect! I’m going to have to get one of those mini-scoopers.

  24. Anna says:

    I drank passionfruit juice like water when I lived in Kenya, but it never even occcured to me that you could buy the fruits here! Apparently I have some Vietnamese market scouting to do. I love that stuff.

  25. Raquelita says:

    Ah, Jen, you are awesome! I live in the Springs…enough said ;) PS Have you ever tried “Pie in the Sky” by Susan Purdy – for her altitude adjustments?

  26. Michelle says:

    Oooh, those cookies look great. Everything looks delicious!

  27. Lucie says:

    What a great post! What is the difference between a Viet and French baguette, by the way? Ohh, banh mi…I love it!

  28. knitopia says:

    Yeah, I’ve been too scared to bake anything since moving up almost 5,000 feet. Some day I’ll try it!

  29. hannah says:

    I adore your blog…your trip to California sounds wonderful, so incredibly exotic….but that is because I am in the UK and obviously anything foreign sounds exotic to me…especially the pickled mango that sounds DIVINE!! How I would adore to sit in that apartment and share such a feast…Thank you

  30. jenyu says:

    Here’s the amazing sweet onion dip recipe from White On Rice Couple: (sooooo awesome)

    Kate – I will indeed, but I’ll be getting it from the same source that you can get it from now! See above. And yes! The passion fruits made it – every one of them :)

    Melissa – I’m glad we could totally geek out together! xo

    Yvonne – for that, I can only guess… Diane knows how to make it off the top of her head though because she rattled off the ingredients to me in the store. Maybe she’ll post a recipe? :)

    Bridget – yeah, I did try it and I really disliked her recipe which was why I was mooning about looking for a decent recipe all these years (okay, just the past 2 years).

    vanillasugar – yeah, Willie was TOTALLY cute.

    pinky black – you may make your cookie any way you like :)

    Brittani – I’m never in the mood to adjust recipes for high-altitude, it’s a pain in the patootie.

    Raquelita – yeah, I have her book and mostly I like it, but I didn’t like the choc chip cookies recipe.

    Lucie – well, the Viet baguette has crispy crust, but super light and fluffy inside. Diane tells me it’s because Viet baguette uses a little rice flour which changes texture.

    knitopia – it took me a couple of years to get the courage up. It’s really distressing for a baker :( Good luck!

  31. Steve says:

    Hey Jen!

    So, tried my hand at these cookies today. I’ve made only one batch ever of good chocolate chip cookies that looked exactly like your picture. Most come out like fail #1. I was hoping these would turn out, but alas they spread too much and were very crispy! Grr. I’m in PA, close-ish to sea level. Do you think I should try more flour, less brown sugar? Any help you could give would be appreciated.

    Steve, Mary, and Lorna

  32. Hettar7 says:

    Oh man. I’m jealous of the passionfruit. I tried them for the first time this summer and I want MOAR! You’re quite lucky to have been able to find that much for that little.

  33. jenyu says:

    Steve – try adding a little more flour. I’ve had them spread too much before because I followed the sea-level recipe instead of the high elevation recipe – gah! Really makes a difference!

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    […] size than the traditional semi-sweet. This cracks me up, because I’d just been reading a post the food blogger Userealbutter (who is a fantastic cook and an amazing photographer- check out her […]

  35. Barb Gornick says:

    Found it! your cookies look awesome. Out of any cookies in the world, these are my favorites!

  36. Barb Gornick says:

    I just reread and saw that was Alice’s recipe. Do you have the exact measurements of YOUR recipe, please?
    I am not in high altitude. Love your blog! Found it today!

  37. jenyu says:

    Barb – the recipe I use now is Alice’s recipe. The measurements are listed and the ones I use at elevation are listed in parentheses.

  38. Barb Gornick says:

    Made the cookies last night. They were awesome. I use Kosher Salt, did not have Sea Salt. Used Salted butter. They were incredible and even great the next day. Thank you!

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