Maui’s humidity does terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things to crispy food items. Within hours a bag of tortilla chips goes completely stale. Crusty bread? Forget it. No such thing.
The worst, well, the worst for me, is chocolate chip cookies. I make excellent chocolate chip cookies. My secret? Caramelizing the brown sugar and browning the butter. This Cooks Illustrated recipe does a good job of explaining why these two things are soooooooooo important.
Tis the season to bake, and while the humble chocolate chip is not the most Christmas-y of cookies, I stand by it as a tried and true friend to anyone with a sweet tooth. And sometimes, it’s the only one that satisfies.
I like making mine with the very best ingredients I can get my hands on. My taste tests have confirmed Ghirardelli 60% (or is that 65%, I can’t remember) dark chocolate make the most sophisticated choice, but Tollhouse is, of course, comforting.
If you attempt these cookies while on Maui, my best advice is to keep an eye on them while they cool. As soon as they have reached room temperature, rescue them from the island’s humidity! Take a tight container, layer the cookies between sheets of wax paper, and quickly get them into the refrigerator, where they will last for two or three days. When ready to eat, simply leave at room temperature for about five minutes to get them back to their lovely, chewy-on-the-inside-crispy-on-the-outside texture.
If you don’t take these steps, you’ll end up with what I did a few years ago. Fresh from the mainland, I made my trademark cookies in the morning and proudly served them to our dinner guests, certain that they, like so many before them, would tear up as they took their first bite, and ask “How did you do this??”
Hubris! Instead, James’ gentle friends said nothing about my cookies, but pulled out their hostess gift for me, a box of Honolulu Cookie Company shortbread, and insisted that I try some. As I tried my own cookies, rendered limp, grainy-textured, and tasteless by the excess water they’d absorbed from the air over the previous six hours at room temperature, I was devastated.
The shortbread, on the other hand, were excellent. Crisp, with a perfect crumb, and a hearty but delicate butter flavor. Darn it.
Later, I realized the secret: they were individually wrapped in cellophane. What I had dismissed as unnecessary packaging, was in fact, dire necessity in the Islands.
Protect your cookies, darling. They are too precious to let expire within an hour. Either that, or make them and eat them all, immediately.