Chocolate Chip Cookies 101

Chocolate Chip Cookies 101 | Everything you need to make the best chocolate chip cookies ever. | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

When I was at the University of Vermont studying theater, studio art, English lit, philosophy, photography, Latin, art history and everything else a Liberal Arts Degree offers, I decided to throw a business class into the mix. Truth is, I was just fulfilling a math credit requirement. I learned how to balance a checkbook and some basic—very basic—accounting, which went something like this … don’t spend more than you make! Then the professor had us write a business plan. It was the mid-1980s and I grew up eating Mrs Field’s, David’s and Famous Amos cookies, which were the “gourmet” cookies of the day. While in college I was also the “baker” at a favorite breakfast joint in Winooski, VT and spent my free time baking to relax after classes. So, I wrote my business plan based on a fictitious cookie company called Zoë’s Cookies. I can’t remember how I did in the class, but six months later I was standing on Church Street in Burlington, VT, selling my cookies from a hand pushed cart.

This post is your chocolate chip cookie primer: the result of what I learned making those cookies and the countless batches I’ve baked in the 32 years since then. This post offers a really great chocolate chip cookie recipe, but it is also a Chocolate Chip Cookies 101. I want to explain what the ingredients do to a cookie and how baking can change them. You can tweak your cookies to be just how you like them using my cookie guide towards the bottom of the post. (more…)

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Tomato Water Sorbet with a Sweet Tomato Chip

Tomato Sorbet | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

It is the end of the growing season in Minnesota and time to harvest all the last hanging fruit from the tomato vines. Any day now we’ll get a killing frost, and I’m bracing myself for it. I only have one small tomato plant, sitting in a rather unceremonious pot on my driveway. I would have moved it, or at least transplanted it into something prettier, if it weren’t so happy right where it is. It’s a rather stingy plant, but when it does put out fruit (about one a week), they’re the sweetest, most magnificent tomatoes I have ever had. In total contrast to my meager harvest, my folks have grown a tomato farm in their yard.

Heirloom Tomatoes | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Several varieties, in every color and size. I am the lucky recipient of a tomato basket every couple of weeks. They’ve been made into pizza, gazpacho, caprese salad, sandwiches and this delicate, refreshing tomato sorbet. I was invited to a dinner party that was meant to pay homage to the mighty tomato. I wanted to bring a dessert that would showcase the essence of the fruit. Extracting just the water from the tomato was actually something I had at a local restaurant, where they served it as a chaser to a shot of tequila. The flavor was such a glorious surprise. I mix the water with simple syrup made with basil and then topped the sorbet with a paper-thin chip of green tomatoes. The flavor is vibrant and sweet without compromising the taste of tomato.  It was a wonderful end to a gorgeous dinner, which featured this lovely tomato and sweet corn quiche from my neighbor, Stephanie Meyer of FreshTart.com. (more…)

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