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Meg Hourihan’s Mean Chocolate Chip Cookies

Meg Hourihan co-founded the company that created Blogger.com, one of the Internet’s first blogging platforms.

Tell me about yourself and what you do with food.

I started cooking, mostly baking, making very elaborate cakes, when I was eight or nine. I always liked cooking and technology, and went back and forth for a while. I had been working on the Web and doing the startup thing for a long time. I got burned out and decided to take some time off of the Internet, so I got a job working at a restaurant in a kitchen. It was a nice change of pace.

What similarities and differences between developing software and working in the restaurant did you find?

The kitchen has a very specific life cycle, just like a software project does, but it’s incredibly compressed. Every morning you come in and do your prep work, almost like your requirements phase. You figure out what you’re going to need to make it through the dinner service. You then get in the moment of cooking and then after the last order has gone out you break down your kitchen and clean up your station. The whole life cycle comes to an end and you have a chance to say, “What did we do well? What can we improve on?” You get to learn from your mistakes, and the next day the whole process starts again. It reminds me of web-based stuff: once your product has launched, you can push an update every single day and respond to customer feedback rather than a packaged software cycle where you’re disconnected from end users. When you’re working in a restaurant, your end users will tell you in five minutes if that dish is no good and it’s going to come right back to the kitchen. You find out pretty quickly if you’re doing it right and who you’re doing it for because they’re right on the other side of the wall.

Have there been any real surprises in the learning process of becoming a better cook?

It’s one of those things that takes a lot of work. I’m lucky that I like doing it and have been doing it so long; I have this knowledge base to fall back on. My husband was making a soup the other day. The recipe said to cook the vegetables on medium heat for 45 minutes. He sent me a text message: “We’re not having the soup tonight, the vegetables are burned to a crisp.” I looked in the pot when I got home. The vegetables were just carbonized. I said, “Oh my god, you can’t cook these tiny little vegetables for 45 minutes on medium heat. This is exactly what’s going to happen!” He was so mad. He said, “But this is what the instructions told me. I was following the recipe!” If I had been making it, I would have known that that couldn’t possibly be right; I have enough experience. If you don’t have the confidence, the recipe becomes your crutch and you forget to back up and rely on common sense.

Is there a dish that you are particularly fond of?

When I was doing my blog I had asked people for chocolate chip cookie recipes. I was tired of the one I was using and I said, “If you send me your recipe, I’ll cook it to discover the best chocolate chip cookie recipe.” I probably got 30 or 40 different recipes and I realized, “Holy cow! There’s no way I’m going to be able to make and evaluate all these cookie recipes in any reasonable amount of time.” In talking with my husband, we decided that we were going to average all of the recipes and then make that cookie, whatever the result was. The recipe is crazy. Heat the oven to 354.17°F / 178.98°C. Use 1⅓ eggs. It’s all these impossible measurements because I just averaged across all the ingredients. You think this is going to be a really gross cookie because you just cobbled together all of these things and you can’t possibly average together 40 cookie recipes or whatever it was, but it turned out pretty good.

A Mean Chocolate Chip Cookie

Preheat oven to 354.17°F / 178.98°C, or as close as you can get.

In a medium bowl, sift or thoroughly whisk together:

2.04 cups (245g) flour

0.79 teaspoons (3.81g) salt

0.79 teaspoons (3.63g) baking soda

Set dry ingredients aside.

In another bowl, using a hand or stand mixer, cream until incorporated and smooth:

6.44 tablespoons (87.9g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2.1896 tablespoons (29.9g) unsalted butter, cold

4.2504 tablespoons (58g) unsalted butter, melted

0.84 cups (169g) light brown sugar

0.10 cups (20g) dark brown sugar

0.54 cups (109g) white sugar

Add and mix until all ingredients are combined:

1.33 (46g) eggs

0.33 (8g) egg yolk

1.46 teaspoons (6.08g) vanilla extract

0.17 tablespoons (2.51g) water

0.25 tablespoons (3.84g) milk

1.53 cups (257g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Add dry ingredients and blend until fully incorporated.

Cover and chill dough in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.

Place parchment paper on one-third of cookie sheet, drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto sheet. Some cookies will be on parchment, others off. Cook for 13.04 minutes.

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