Cookulus: Ultimate Recipes

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Icon

Cookulus: Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie app

Big changes here at Cookulus! We have been listening closely to the folks who have been using and talking about our Cookulus iPad app and we’re proud to announce two significant adjustments to the way we do things.

Each of our apps now has a specific focus. If you own the original Cookulus app you’ll find that it has been transformed into Cookulus: Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie. Far more than an icon change, you’ll find that you now have (at least) four Master Recipes:

  • Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and
  • Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you have purchased other recipes already they will still be there as well, though we are working on similar apps for Ultimate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies.

Soft & Chewy Icon

Cookulus: Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie app

Another development is that we are now offering Cookulus: Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie, a great way to try out what we do. Dedicated only to soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies (not crumbly or crisp), and only providing somewhat thin to somewhat thick cookies, though offered free, it gives you full access to all the features of the Cookulus: Ultimate Recipes apps.

Please let us know what you think about our changes!

And if you do own any of our apps, please don’t forget to rate/review them in the app store, “like” us on facebook, tweet about us, and generally help spread the word. Thanks!

Brownie Blog Day One: 0-0-0

The day after Cookulus appeared in the app store we got our first recipe request – for brownies. We’d already started on a master brownie recipe, but it was going to take a few weeks to perfect, so we thought we might stave your brownie hunger with a blog, a diary that would show you how we develop recipes in general, and give us a way to find out just what you’d like to see in the ultimate brownie recipe.

Our first step is to come up with a standard recipe that will become a centerpiece for the parametric sliders, what we call 0-0-0. So about a week ago we started to comb through dozens of brownie recipes in cookbooks, on the internet, in magazines, in our recipe files, and  in the files, cookbooks, and kitchen drawers of our friends and family. We came up with 23 recipes. Most were standard classic brownies, but we also went for those that claimed to embody key components of brownieness – chewy, gooey, crackled top, pudgy center. We also included those that pushed the envelope – healthy, lite, dark, dank, ugly (at this point in the process we try to stay open minded).

In order to compare them directly we have to standardize all of their measurements.  For brownies (as with most baking recipes) this means dividing or multiplying ingredients by factors that result in each recipe having the same number of whole eggs. Early on at Cookulus we decided that one of our cardinal rules in recipe writing was that no matter how much a slider manipulated a recipe you should never end up with a fraction of an egg. The large egg thereby became Cookulus’ standard unit of measurement.

So all of the recipes were divided by 2 or 3 or 5 (depending on how many eggs they called for) and then all ingredients were recalculated in grams.  In order to find an average amount of each ingredient everything has to be measured in the same way. At Cookulus we chose metric measurement as our standard for recipe development because grams are really small allowing you to get pretty precise calculations.

But there was a problem. We could average the ingredients but not the method. Of the 23 brownie recipes we had there were just as many ways for mixing up the batter – creaming the butter, melting the butter, cutting the butter into the dry ingredients, not using any butter. We were stymied and very hungry.  By this time we’d spent three days writing and calculating and hadn’t gotten a single bite.  We decided it was time to bake something.

We picked a recipe to begin our experimentation. We liked its method because it provided a good deal of flexibility. The chocolate is melted by adding boiling water instead of sitting over a double boiler, which gave us the option for using other liquids to vary the darkness of the brownie. It called for both butter and oil ( a great way for us to manipulate chewiness), and allows for both white and brown sugar.

We baked a batch. Home run! Great crackled crust, moist interior, pretty chewy, but still a little cakey, not too fudgy – a near perfect middle-of-the-road brownie.  Completely delicious and very little personality – just what we wanted for 0-0-0.

So we’ve got our mean recipe and we know what two of the sliders are going to be:

  • Chewy ———Cakey
  • Dark———-Sweet

We’d love to hear your thoughts about the third. Any ideas?

Chewing on Brown Sugar

Jeff Potter, self declared kitchen geek (author of Cooking for Geeks, O’Reilly Press), talking on the science of chocolate chip cookies yesterday at the monthly meeting of the Experimental Cuisine Collective fed us two fairly flat, pretty pale, decidedly crisp chocolate chip cookies, labeled 1A and 1B.  The cookies looked remarkably alike in shape and dimension, with only a slight variation in color. But when we took a bite there was no mistaking the chew of brown sugar in 1B.

At Cookulus we have been blown away by the difference a little brown sugar makes. Many  factors contribute to a cookie’s softness (baking time, oven temp, flour ratio) but moving from white sugar to brown in a formula is a simple change with powerful results. Dialing our chocolate chip cookie recipe just one point towards softness (a reduction of about 1 tablespoon  white sugar and an increase of 2 tablespoons brown sugar in a 24 cookie batch) increases the moisture content, the softness and the chewiness perceptibly.  The thicker and chewier you dial the cookie the more dramatic the difference becomes.

The best way to measure brown sugar is by weight, but if you only have measuring cups be sure to pack the sugar when you measure. If you don’t, you won’t get the right amount of sweetness.

Brown sugar is a mixture of granulated white sugar and liquid molasses. More molasses means deeper color but it also means less sweetness. The moisture from molasses causes sugar granules to swell slightly, so a cup of brown sugar contains fewer plumper sugar crystals than a cup of granulated white sugar.  Since it is the sugar crystals, not the molasses that gives brown sugar its sweetness, brown sugar is typically packed into a measuring cup to give it a similar number of sugar crystals (and level of sweetness) as the same volume of white sugar.

Light brown sugar is about 10% molasses, and dark brown sugar is closer to 20% molasses.  If you don’t have brown sugar you can make some by stirring molasses into granulated white sugar.

  • To make light brown sugar, stir 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses into 1 cup granulated white sugar.
  • To make dark brown sugar double the amount of molasses.
  • Turn light brown sugar into dark brown sugar by adding 1 tablespoon molasses to 1 packed cup light brown sugar.
  • Turn dark brown sugar into light brown sugar by blending equal amounts dark brown sugar and granulated white sugar.

You can find this kind of in-depth info about ingredients, equipment and cooking techniques in every Cookulus recipe.