“I think I want to reinvent the chocolate chip cookie,” Charlie said as he got up from his work station and headed back toward the area the test kitchen used as their pantry/fridge storage area.
“Haven’t we, you know, done that about 80,000 times before?” Franco stopped stuffing his pork chop, washed his hands, and followed Charlie into the pantry. He needed some more brown sugar and it was always fun to watch someone raid the pantry.
“Not like this! I’m going to . . . well, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, but it’s going to legendary.” Charlie grabbed butter, shortening and canola oil off the fats shelf. The test kitchen pantry was one of Franco’s favorite places - shelves of flour, cocoa, chips, every spice imaginable. Some days he just walked in and grabbed five things to play with just to see where they took him.
“You say that every time you get an idea.” Franco rolled his eyes and headed back to his work station - those pork chops weren’t going to stuff themselves and he had at least two more techniques to try before the end of the day.
“Yup! And they usually are!” Charlie started arranging and sorting items on his work station. “Legendary, that is.”
“Including the time you suggested putting raisins in brownies?” Franco smirked as he spoke, because he was pretty sure no one was ever going to let Charlie live that fiasco down. They had never had so many taste testers spit out their product before.
“That’s why I said usually!” Charlie glared at Franco as he spoke, pulling out measuring cups and getting his mixing bowls in line. Like Franco, Charlie liked to measure everything out first, take notes, and then adjust.
Today they were working in the main test kitchen space; Franco on the Ultimate Stuffed Pork Chop and Charlie on his cookies. Sometimes they had assignments and sometimes they just got to play. Charlie wasn’t working on anything in particular so today was a play day for Charlie.
In the test kitchen, they each had mini kitchens spaces with stainless steel work surfaces that were spacious, full sinks, and double ovens. That’s was another Franco loved working there as opposed to his home kitchen. They also each had their own racks and tool storage areas because everyone liked things a little different. Charlie preferred glass bowls and Franco liked melamine bowls with spouts. That’s what made this place so fantastic - they all had the same end goal, but everyone got there in their own way.
“But seriously, Franco, I will think of something!” Charlie continued. “I mess around with the fat a little, maybe play with sugar volume - hell, I may even try some whole wheat flour or something wacky like that.”
“Good luck with that one - people don’t want whole wheat flour in their chocolate chip cookies.” Franco continued chopping his rosemary and tried to decide if he wanted to add a little sage to his spice mix.
“But how about a little brown rice flour or xanthan gum - those may alter the texture and give the cookie a whole new dimension.” Charlie started measuring out his flours and lining up his butters while he was talking.
“Might work - I’m not sure about rice flour in a cookie, but hey - trial and error.” Franco grinned and went back to concentrating on his herb butter rub for the chops.
Two days later
“Well, we can mark tapioca powder, brown rice flour, and xanthan gum off the list. That was a disaster. The testers spoke pretty loud and clear on that one - I won’t go so far to say as it was as bad as the raisins in brownies, but dude, that did not go well,” Charlie said, resting his arms on the work table and staring at his ingredients, as if he was willing them into the right combination to make the perfect cookie.
“Win some, lose some. I’m still working on that freaking pork chop. I cannot solve my moisture problem.” Franco butterflied another pork chop with a little more viciousness than was probably necessary.
“Yeah, but I’m not coming up with anything! I’ve done additives, I’ve tried resting, which - while great in theory - doesn’t really do enough to make the home cook want to take the time. I even tried cake flour and you saw how well that turned out!” Charles said glumly. Franco had been there to test the first batch of cake flour cookies that had come out of the oven and and the texture had not been appealing; they’d been way too crumbly.
“I think this is the make it or break it moment - this isn’t an assignment. You’re just experimenting, so you can stop and move on to the next thing. I hear they are looking for ways to fiddle with grilled vegetables - you like those - so you could totally take on that assignment.” Franco walked over the fridge to grab some more butter to mash into his herb and apple mix that he was using for the base of his stuffing.
“I’m not ready to give up! It’s time to play with the fats.” Charlie paused to grab a pan from his rack. “I was thinking of browning the butter and possibly futzing with the brown to white sugar ratio.”
“Browned butter? That sounds promising. Those browned butter Rice Krispie treats Kate did a while back were a total hit. That should increase your chewiness and add to the flavor. Go for it!”
Six Hours Later
“Now that is a good start! Those cookies are fantastic, Charlie!” Franco had noticed Charlie’s spirits had certainly lifted since the first browned butter batch came out of the oven. He still had some work to do, but Franco could tell Charlie was on the right track to the cookie he was hoping to achieve. For his own work, Franco had finally mastered the pork chop and had moved on to the blueberry muffin - an oldie but goody.
“Now I just have to get the eggs and butter to the right amounts and I will have a damn good cookie!” Charlie started getting out bowls to measure his sugars. “I was thinking to increase my brown to white ratio - that will add to my chewy factor and not sacrifice flavor or shape,” Charlie paused mid-sentence like he was having an epiphany. “What about an all brown sugar cookie? That could be awesome!”
“I’m not so sure - I think you need the white sugar to balance the moisture, but go for it.” Franco went back to his blueberries while Charlie got to his baking.
One hour later
“Not so much, no.” As Charlie was talking he dumped the entire brown sugar batch into the trash. Franco hadn’t tried any of the batch (he would weigh 500 lbs if he tried everything that came out of every oven or off every skillet) but he saw the floppy, moist cookie and the look on Charlie’s face when he tried it had been grim.
“Move on to the next one - just play with your ratio. I think you are on the right track.”
“I think you are right! I think it has to be more, but how much is the question. Next batch!” Charlie started getting out many bowls to do yet another assembly line of measuring and baking.
The next day
“Woohoo! Sugar down. Fat down. Now eggs and bake time and I am golden like a perfectly baked chocolate chip cookie!”
Franco snorted that one. “You are such a cheeseball!”
“Yup, but you love it! You would have moved stations years ago if you didn’t want to put up with my yammering. Now I’m thinking egg yolks! Whites can be iffy and I want chewy perfection! And I think I need to futz with my flour, so much to do, so little time to do it.”
“Well, then how about you stop that yammering and get down to it! HEY!” Franco yelped as a cookie dough ball bounced off his shoulder. He turned toward Charlie who was grinning at him. Franco thought about chucking a blueberry back, but he didn’t want to clean up the massive food fight that would surely happen if they got into it.
“Chicken!” Charlie taunted, but Franco didn’t take the bait.
“Don’t you have some eggs to crack and flour to measure?” Franco retorted.
“Yup! And you are so going to eat your words of a few days ago - these are going to be the best cookie ever!
One day (and an intervening weekend) later
“Batch 42 was good. But I need something more! It’s just not quite - ” Charlie was interrupted by the test kitchen phone and he left his station to answer it.
10 minutes later
“Man, can my mother talk! Doesn’t she know I have cookies to bake?” Charlie said as he scooped his dough onto the baking tray.
“She loves you! And wants you to know all about what Mr. Winky did in the flower bed today. I still cannot believe she has a Rottie named Mr. Winky. That poor dog.” Franco was still working on his muffins, but he had made progress in the blueberry and top crumble aspects.
“Yes, she does. Anyway, I have a feeling about this batch! I think these are going to be the ones!” Charlie put his cookies into the oven.
“Yeah, you said that about 25 batches ago.” Franco grinned and mixed his batter.
“And you’re on what batch of those muffins? No offense, but I’m pretty sure there was super glue in that batch I tried yesterday.”
“Oh, shut it and watch your cookies bake.”
Seven minutes later
“Franco! Franco! Come here!” Charlie shouted as he set his sheet down on a trivet.
Franco walked over to Charlie’s station. The cookies looked nice - all crackled and glossy - just what Charlie had been aiming for. “I hope those taste as good as they look. What did you do differently this time?”
“I don’t know! Batch 43 had the same ratios as 42 but . . . the phone!” Charlie said as a look of realization came over his face.
“Your mother calling to tell you about her dog digging up her petunias somehow made your cookies taste better?” Franco knew that wasn’t what Charlie meant, but he had to tease him.
“No! The dough - it rested! It must have done something to the sugar. I tried resting overnight but maybe between the melted butter and the sugar resting in the liquids before baking it helped create the caramel effect I was going for! I’ll confirm this with the science guys, but still!” Charlie was practically bouncing in his shoes as he removed the cookies from the hot pan to wire racks to cool.
“That’s awesome.” Franco grabbed one of the still steaming cookies from the rack and bit in. He paused after the first bite because the cookies had the perfect toffee flavor, chewiness, and crispy edges that really would distinguish them from other chocolate chip cookies. “Dude! These are amazing!”
Charlie grabbed a cookie and took a big bite, practically groaning with pleasure as he chewed. “It only took 43 batches, over 700 cookies, and five days, but this is my cookie! I can’t wait to hold a blind test on this one - I don’t think there will be any spit-outs in this batch. I need to make more, but first, I’m going to sit down with a big glass of milk and two more of these cookies. Care to join?”
“Of course.” Franco reached into the cupboard to grab two glasses for their milk while Charlie grabbed the carton of milk and cookies. He had his muffins to get back to, but it was always nice to celebrate a success - besides it wasn’t every day that someone reinvented the chocolate chip cookie.