High Altitude Baking: Chewy chocolate chip bars (recipe)
January 22, 2015
Editor's note: High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Chocolate chip cookies may be one of the few things on which all Americans agree … we love 'em! Honestly, have you ever met anyone who doesn't? Me either. So, this cookie, the iconic chewy chocolate chipper in bar form, is sure to be a favorite.
They're even more likable when you realize how easy they are to prepare. No need to get out your mixer, just grab a saucepan, whisk, rubber or silicone spatula and in about 10 minutes of active time, this dough will be ready for the pan. If you need a casual dessert in a hurry, then the cookie, cut into larger squares, warmed and topped with ice cream and commercial caramel or chocolate sauce, will fill the bill.
Your only uncertainty may be determining when they're done. The common error is baking them too long; you need to remove them from the oven before they look fully baked. The edges will be dry, like most bar cookies, but the center won't be cooked through. Once done, they need to rest overnight before cutting, so plan accordingly.
Feel free to experiment with the chips you use; as long as the total amount remains the same (one generous cup), then you can try any combination. A mixture of chocolate and butterscotch and/or peanut butter chips is a pleasing variation.
Chewy chocolate chip bars
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(Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and above. Make in an 8-inch-by-8-inch metal baking pan.)
5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spoon and level)
1 generous cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon canola oil
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the pan with non-stick aluminum foil or regular foil, letting it extend several inches on two opposing sides of the pan to use as handles when removing the baked cookie. Grease the regular foil and any exposed parts of the pan.
Step 2: In a large saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. When melted, reduce the heat to low, add the brown sugar and stir until thoroughly blended. Remove from the heat and whisk in the salt and vanilla extract. Cool until no longer hot to the touch.
Step 3: Add the egg and whisk to combine. Add the yolk and whisk again until smooth. Use a silicone or rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan and whisk again if needed.
Step 4: Add the baking powder, espresso powder and flour, and gently fold (using either the spatula or whisk) until only a few streaks of the flour are visible. Don't beat the dough; just mix it lightly. Add the chocolate chips and stir only until distributed evenly in the batter and all signs of dry flour have disappeared.
Step 5: Spoon the thick batter into the prepared pan, level and smooth it (use a wet spatula or your wet hands to do this).
Step 6: Bake until the top is golden and shiny, the dough has risen a bit and the edges are set. The middle of the top should be dry to the touch but not fully baked; a toothpick inserted in the center should be moist. This takes from 23-27 minutes in the oven. Don't over bake; the center will continue to cook as the cookie cools.
Step 7: Remove the pan to a cooling rack. Use the back of a spoon or silicone spatula to gently press down any shoulders (risen edges) so they are level with the center.
Step 8: Let cool for about 15 minutes, then use the foil handles to remove the uncut cookie from the pan. Still contained in the foil, let it cool completely.
Step 9: If glazing, melt the chocolate chips in a microwave oven (heat at a low-medium temperature, for 2-3 minutes, until only a few lumps of chocolate are still visible). Remove from the oven, add the canola oil and stir until smooth and shiny. Drizzle over the cooled cookie and let the chocolate set.
Step 10: Cover and store in a cool place overnight. Cut into bars the next day and serve. Store for three days at cool room temperature or freeze for a month.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbook "Cookies in the Clouds" (available at The Next Page Books & Nosh in Frisco), is a chef instructor with CMC's Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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