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You know you love your great aunt's banana bread, but you probably don't know why you do. In Modern Comfort, Ashley Rodriguez from Not Without Salt figures out what makes our favorite classics work, and then makes them even better.
Today: We interrupt our regularly scheduled content to bring you the next in our "Meet Our Contributors" post—Food52's version of show and tell. We're asking some of the voices behind your favorite columns to share a recipe that represents them (and explain why). Here, Ashley explains how she became part chocolate chip cookie.
Tell us about this recipe—what about it makes it you?
Perhaps just by the sheer number of times I have made this recipe, it has become me. Not many recipes get repeated around here because I like to try new things and I challenge myself to use every meal as an opportunity for creativity and learning. These cookies, however, get made again and again. I think the recipe really grasps my cooking style: classic comfort food with a bit of a unique twist.
It doesn’t get more classic than chocolate chip cookies, but with the addition of turbinado sugar and dark brown sugar, along with puddles of bittersweet chocolate and a hit of flaky salt, these are not grandma’s chocolate chip cookies.
What is your desert island food (practicalities aside)?
Ice cream. In a wafer cone.
What is your fruit or vegetable spirit animal?
Rhubarb. It’s a bit misunderstood, yet it's greatly loved by those who know it well. It is pleasantly tart, but with a bit of coaxing, it can be sweet. It takes a bit of work to get to know rhubarb—you can’t just go and take a bite out of its tough stalks (and stay away from the leaves, they’re poisonous). Rather, you have to spend a bit of time with it, add some heat and sugar, a few spices, vanilla, and citrus zest. If you are willing to do that, rhubarb rewards you with great versatility, a beautiful rosy glow, and a flavor that is unique, complex, and memorable.
What's one food you pretend to like but secretly hate?
Shrimp. Hate may be too strong a word but I really can’t get past the rubbery texture. Perhaps it’s also because I cleaned hundreds of them in my restaurant days and that was enough to put me off for awhile.
What's something that someone wouldn't know about you from reading your column?
When I’m stressed or burnt out on food, I turn to painting. Watercolor, oil, acrylic—any of it. I just love putting color to paper and using my creativity in a completely different (and inedible) way.
Left: The "Ashley Sazerac" at Essex; peonies at the farmers market in Seattle.
Could you also tell us your hometown/about your hometown and share a few snapshots (instagram or otherwise) that represent your world, who you are, and where you live?
Seattle. Specifically, Ballard.
I cannot gush enough about Seattle. It has all the things I love about a city: great food, amazing coffee, museums, fun events, lots of interesting people. But it also has a small town feel. There are so many nearby places to escape the city that feel as if you're a world away. Sure, we may complain about the gray and the rain, but our summers more than make up for it. Also, I think the months that we spend indoors hibernating make us a creative and unique bunch. I like that.
You can buy Ashley's cookies in mix-form online and then make them into ice cream sandwiches.
From Date Night In (Running Press 2014)
This is my classic cookie. It’s what I crave and the reason that I often have butter coming to room temperature on the counter. The dough exists only to hold the chocolate in place. But without the chocolate, this dough makes a great base for any number of cookies: dried cherry, white chocolate and cardamom; chopped dates and walnut; or oatmeal and rum raisin (just replace some of the flour with oatmeal).
Use all three sugars; if you need cookies now and don’t have turbinado sugar (also known as raw sugar), add more dark brown sugar. You’ll miss out on a nice little sugary crunch, but the cookies will still be amazing. Don’t skimp on the time you spend creaming the butter and sugar. As the sugar cuts through the butter to create bubbles, you build air and structure. Most people think baking soda and baking powder create bubbles in baking, but they only make existing bubbles bigger. So cream until the butter and sugar mixture is very pale and light, which takes a good 5 minutes with your electric mixer on medium speed.
There is a lot of chocolate—good dark chocolate—in this recipe. Chocolate chips work too, but they won’t puddle and melt into chocolate layers. To cut down the cost a bit, I often use a combination of a great chocolate bar and chocolate chips.
Finally, don’t over-bake. The oven temperature is an obnoxious 360° F so that an extra burst of heat sets the outside while the inside remains gooey. The end result is a crispy, gooey, and chewy cookie. Let the cookies cool on the tray for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack—any less than that and the cookie will most likely fall apart from all that chocolate and gooeyness. Oh goodness, it's time to start softening more butter.
The dough is best made a day or two before you plan to bake the cookies—their flavor and texture improves with time. Leftover dough can be rolled into a 2-inch-thick log, wrapped in parchment paper, and then refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month.You can also freeze the baked cookies, but I prefer to freeze the dough.
One final note: I always double this recipe. Just thought you should know.
Makes 18 to 24 cookies
1⁄2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (170 grams) packed dark brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3⁄4 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
3⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces (170 grams) bittersweet chocolate (use the best-quality chocolate you can), cut into roughly 1⁄2-inch chunks with a serrated knife
Flake salt (such as Maldon), for finishing
Photos by Ashley Rodriguez