As the younger sibling, I got stuck with the easy stuff: the dry ingredients. The wet ingredients always seemed so much more glamorous. Looking back, I’m not really sure what Jessica and I were doing, because those cookies seemed to take forever to make. I think we must have spent at least an hour making the dough, whereas I can now throw it together in about 10 minutes or less. So I really don’t understand what I was doing that took me so long, especially since my main task involved mixing flour, baking soda, and salt together. Perhaps it was because we were climbing on the counters trying to reach the ingredients and we had to stop to snack on the brown sugar and chocolate chips?
One of my most revolutionary moments in the kitchen as a child was when I made this recipe alone. I was feeling adventurous and decided to go and do something just crazy out there and go off the recipe. The audacity of it all! The secret ingredient? About a tablespoon of orange juice. I got rave reviews on the cookies and just knew that it had to be the orange juice. I flaunted my culinary genius, but refused to divulge my secret ingredient. The next time Jessica and I made the cookies together, I snuck the OJ out and ran across the kitchen to throw it in the bowl when she wasn’t looking. There was no way I was going to share the best cooking secret of the century! I was determined to take it to the grave. Unfortunately, Jessica didn’t seem to care, so I broke down pretty quickly and told her what it was. Over the years I finally stopped adding the juice because it didn’t actually seem to make any difference. But to the ten-year-old me, it was the greatest discovery since chocolate chip cookies themselves. To the adult me, it was the time I learned that recipes don’t have to be followed precisely and that some of the best food and the most fun in the kitchen come out of tweaking and playing around with recipes.
Adding OJ to my cookies was a revolutionary moment where I realized that I could tweak recipes, and America’s Test Kitchen does just that, but to the 10th degree. They make a gazillion versions of the same recipe to try to come out with the perfect one – and one that is perfect every time you try it. I’m kind of obsessed with Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen. Joseph and I subscribe to the magazine, we have an online subscription, and we TiVo all of the America’s Test Kitchen shows on PBS. They’ve just never, ever steered us wrong. I’ve also learned more about food and cooking from them than I have from any other source, but even more than that, they’ve given me some of my favorite recipes such as their cream scones, the amazing double chocolate brownies (the recipe to end all brownie recipes), and especially the Thai basil chicken dish. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that it wouldn’t be an extraordinary cookie. One look at the recipe revealed that it begins with browning butter. Yes, please!