I’m sure you’ve met the notorious online grump, spreading bad will to message boards, blogs, and food sites all over the internet. I imagine his creased forehead connected to his furrowed brows, and lips shaped into the start of a dis-satisfied “harrumph.” He wears oscar-the-grouch-colored trousers, to match his stinky attitude and unpleasant demeanor. If there were an online dating site for bad commenters, I could totally see Mr. “Shame on you for posting such a recipe” getting along with Ms. “I substituted this for that, and I changed the cooking method, and I’m so disappointed that it didn’t turn out!”. Thoughtful, constructive criticism is one thing, but Mr. Grump’s comment almost made me miss out on one of my favorite new ways to make chocolate chip cookies!
First, he chastized Food and Wine for tagging these cookie bars a staff favorite: “Did anyone on your staff even try these?” Then, he moved on to describe the dry texture. I half expected them to taste like sawdust. He ended with “Usually I try to figure out how to improve a recipe but in this case, I wouldn’t be bothered.” Sometimes, I heed the caution of others, not making a recipe that seems flawed. This time, I was just too tempted by the prospect of a cookie made with whole wheat pastry flour, and plenty of chocolate and toasted pecans. I chuckled at the passion at which the reviewer opposed an innocent pan of chocolate chip pecan cookie bars, then broke out the Kitchen Aid mixer.
These were easy to put together, and pretty darn tasty right out of the oven. The pecans turned sweet and almost buttery when toasted. I would have expected a denser texture from a cookie bar made using whole wheat flour, but the only telltale sign that the bars were made with whole wheat pastry flour was a more nutty aroma and flavor. I enjoyed the texture on the day that I baked them–crisp around the edges, and tender on the inside, with pools of dark chocolate wrapped around the toasted pecans. I thought that I had proved Mr. Grump completely wrong. To be fair, they were a little drier than I would have liked on the second day. I would make them again exactly as written if I wanted a more crisp cookie, say, to dip into coffee, but for an after dinner chewy cookie treat, I’d have to make a couple changes. So…the reviewer was neither wrong nor right, but still snarky and disagreeable.
I spent a Sunday afternoon on a mission to add a little more moisture to the dough, because I like my cookie bars to stay chewy for at least long enough for me to eat them all (and share with others!). On my first try, I added a banana for moisture, and a little extra flour (because I thought the dough was too wet). Not bad–kind of like a cake-y chocolate chip banana bread cookie, but not quite what I was after. I added two extra tablespoons of butter to the original recipe on my second try. When I brought a stack of them to my friends in the teachers’ lounge two days later, they were still nutty, moist and chewy in the center. Just what I look for in a chocolate chip cookie.
I’m sorry I was so hard on you Mr. Grump. Would you like a cookie bar?
- 1 cup pecans
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, (plus extra for greasing sides of pan)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or chunks)
- Preheat the oven to 350° and line the bottom of a 8-by-11-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Butter the sides of the pan to prevent sticking.
- Spread the pecans on a cookie sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool slightly, then chop and set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the butter and oil with the granulated sugar and brown sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and salt; beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients gradually on low speed. Add the chocolate chips and pecans. Mix just until incorporated.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool completely, then run a knife around the edges. Cut and serve.