Friday, November 13, 2009

"Exactly As Written": Thomas Keller's Chocolate Chip Cookies and an Ad Hoc At Home Giveaway!

"Exactly As Written"

That approach to trying new recipes is very appealing, especially in theory - how else can you know how good a recipe truly is? For various (I think good) reasons however, in practice I often change recipes the first time I prepare them. But when on the hunt for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, I'm not likely to stray from the recipe. Especially when the recipe's author is Thomas Keller.

I've been eagerly anticipating the release of Thomas Keller's cookbook Ad Hoc at Home. His other books, notably The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon, while beautiful and undoubtedly filled with amazing recipes, are a little beyond my culinary reach. But Ad Hoc, the restaurant Keller opened to celebrate home-style and home-y food, seems a lot more accessible and I was hoping the cookbook would be as well.

My copy of Ad Hoc at Home arrived on my doorstep this week, and my intentions to save it for Christmas lasted about a nano-second. Before I knew it, the shrink wrap was off of the book and - oh, my! - what beautiful photography and delicious sounding recipes are inside the book.

It seemed easiest to start with a cookie. And what cookie is more iconic than a homemade chocolate chip cookie? Keller's recipe has some interesting twists, and I went into the baking session with the intention of following the recipe to the letter. I wanted to see what the Keller touches would produce. "How refreshing," I said to myself, "to be able to say, for once, that I made the cookies 'Exactly As Written'."

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe for the Ad Hoc Chocolate Chip Cookies here.

- The recipe calls for two different kinds of chocolate, one sweeter and one more intense: 55% (a semi sweet) and 70-72% (a bittersweet). In an attempt to meet the letter of the law, I visited a couple of stores to locate just the proper chocolate. Finding the 70% was simple, but I did have to settle for 54% rather than 55%.

- The recipe calls for "molasses sugar", and I'm pretty sure that's the same thing as dark muscovado sugar, which is readily available, if not exactly common.

- Keller's directions provide for chopping the solid chocolate, then sifting it in a fine mesh strainer to shake out the chocolate dust. I didn't do that when I baked the New York Times cookies, and you can see how the little bits of chocolate melted into the dough. I'm pretty sure that this is more an aesthetic consideration than a matter of taste.

- The butter is creamed in two parts, which is a step I've never come across in a cookie recipe.

- Before mixing, I measured each ingredient (Exactly As Written) and had it ready in a cup or bowl. Once my dought was mixed, I noticed 1/4 c of the sugar sitting on the counter, so I stirred it in. Then I re-read the recipe and discovered I'd forgotten 1 T flour, so I added that and stirred a bit more.

- For me, 2 tablespoons of dough weighed 40 grams. I weighed out that amount of dough for each cookie, then rolled it into a ball. I baked half a dozen (chilled in the fridge first, although the recipe doesn't say to chill it) and froze the rest for future baking sessions. The dough yielded around 2 dozen cookies.

- I wish I could report how long these cookies took to bake, but I forgot to set the timer. Luckily the recipe has a great done-ness test: bake "until the tops are no longer shiny."

the verdict:

There are many things that I love about these cookies. Love the two kinds of chocolate. Love the dark toffee flavor from the molasses-tinged sugar. Love the chewy centers. Love the precision of the recipe (even though I wasn't able to replicate it faithfully in my kitchen!) Are these THE chocolate chip cookie? I'm going to waffle here, and say that I need to bake them again, and maybe do a side to side taste test. I will say that they are much better once they've cooled than warm from the oven.

My cookies baked a little darker on the bottom than I'd like, so I'll have to fiddle with the temperature and oven rack placement in my oven when I thaw and bake the remaining cookies. And even though it isn't written in the recipe, I think I'll sprinkle a bit of sea salt on the tops (a la the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies and Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies.)

As for the foray into "Exactly As Written" territory? I used the correct ingredients, but still I hit the inevitable, for me, snags. No matter what virtues I may have in the kitchen, it seems that I cannot stick to a recipe even when I'm trying! But now I've read the "get organized" section of the cookbook and figured out where I probably went wrong: although I pre-measured all of the ingredients, I didn't immediately put the containers and packages away in their respective places. In other words, if my work surface had been neater, I probably wouldn't have overlooked the sugar on the counter. And careful reading would have clarified the correct amount of flour in the ingredient list. I'm pretty sure that stirring in these ingredients out of turn didn't make a huge difference in the finished product, but it's instructive nonetheless!

the giveaway:

This blog entry is the 300th time that I've hit the "Publish Post" button. I love marking the big round numbers by giving something to the folks who stop by my corner of the food blogisphere; this time around I'm giving a copy of Thomas Keller's book Ad Hoc at Home. It's hot off the presses, and is already a runaway hit! Check out Michael Ruhlman's blog post about the book reaching the New York Times best seller list, and here's a clip of Thomas Keller talking about Ad Hoc at Home:

You'll no doubt be seeing Keller's recipes on food sites all over the internet, but here is your opportunity to own your very own copy of this gorgeous - and hefty! - cookbook. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post by 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, November 18, 2009. I'd love it if you'd answer any or all of these questions in your comment (but it's not required):
When trying a new recipe, do you make it Exactly As Written (and can you do it successfully)?
What's your favorite chocolate chip recipe?
What's your favorite comfort food dish?
I'll let a random number generator choose the winning comment.


Di said...

Ok, I've now read both your post and Wendy's. My cookies don't look like either of yours. Mine are a lot more flat. But I still have dough in the fridge--I'll have to try baking them very cold.

As for exactly as written, I guess I'd have to say sometimes. I tend to stick close to the recipe the first time, unless it includes something I don't like, in which case I substitute. I do like playing with recipes, though.

Chocolate chip cookies? I need to bake more to find a favorite. I've only made a few recipes, and none of them are quite what I'm looking for.

Comfort food? I'd have to say anything involving potatoes. Though dishes with melted cheese are a close second. =)

Unknown said...

I wish I hadn't been sick so I could have baked these cookies with you guys the other day! I'm actually not a huge chocolate chip cookie fan, but Shane likes when I make "regular" things (i.e. simple) and chocolate chip cookies fall into that category for him.

I make recipes "exactly as written" fairly often. I generally only do substitutions if I don't have (or don't like) one of the required ingredients. I'm not terribly creative so I have no problem following the recipe as written.

I don't have a favorite chocolate chip cookie. I prefer to eat the dough & I'm not picky!

Favorite comfort food? I'd probably have to go with macaroni and cheese. Yum, I wish I had some now!

blukats said...

I like your blog and this is my first time for leaving a comment.

As for recipes, I have this bad habit of eyeballing rather than measuring unless I'm really worried something won't come out right. Luckily my eyes must be pretty good because things come out right. So in that regard, no I don't always follow recipes even the first time.

That is the cool thing about chocolate chip cookies, there is always a better recipe to be tried!

And comfort food, don't know if there is just one although Ben & Jerry's Half Baked Frozen Yogurt seems to make things better.

Thank you for posting this, I plan to try this recipe out!

Laura said...

I always follow recipes for pastries as written the first time I try them, then I modify them. For savory, I am not that precise, unless it is from a cuisine I don't know, in which case I try to stick to the instructions.

I use Nick Malgieri's recipe from his cookie book, but I am sure there are many better ones.

Starch is my friend for comfort, gnocchi, mashed potatoes, soft polenta, you name it.

I will have to try this recipe, exactly as written!

Anonymous said...

Great post! And I think you are too hard on yourself...your cookies look wonderful.

I think it depends on the recipe and how complicated it is and also on my mood and what I have on hand. Also whether the recipe lends itself to change.

The TK Chocolate Chip Cookies are my favorite right now. I really liked the NYT too.

Does ice cream count as a comfort food? Or does it have to be warm? If warm, mashed potatoes.

Patricia in Texas said...

I read recipes most often to learn technical information, but I combine that technical data with the the recipe ingredients, adjusting the recipe to remove items that we don't enjoy, and at times adding other items.

My favorite chocolate chip cookie is from a recipe that I found on a bag shortly after the peanut butter chips became avaialbe. In this recipe, the cookie dough is a rich chocolate, with the chips being made with a peanut butter recipe.

mike said...

Happy 300! I could just feel your self restraint waning, trying hard not to deviate from the written recipe. I think maybe you purposely left that 1/4 sugar sit there... :) I need to find that sugar!!!

1) As written - if I don't like it, then it's not my fault.

2) Chocolate chip cookies: lately I'm into browning the butter first - that toffee flavor is intoxicating.

3) Comfort food: it's always been a slice of toast, right out of the toaster. And I have no idea why.

Rene said...

I generally make a recipe the way its written for the first time. However, I do almost ALWAYS replace parsley with basil since I can't stand the taste of parsley. Weird I know. But for baked goods, the only thing I change if anything is any add ins. I don't understand the chemistry behind the ingredients and the amounts needed to be able to mess with that.

I LOVE Bakerella's chocolate chip cookies. They're probably the best chocolate chip cookie I've ever tasted and they received rave reviews from everyone that's tried them.

My favorite comfort food has to be pasta. It can be prepared in pretty much anyway and I'll eat it.

Cheryl said...

Oh man! I so want this cookbook. I was going to pick it up at the mall and it was sold out! I was bummed because we live a long ways away from the mall.

Anyway, my favorite comfort food is Corned Beef and Cabbage (made from scratch of course).

When I am making a recipe, I do tend to stick strictly to as written, but I may play with the seasoning a bit to suit my families taste.

christa @ mental foodie said...

I am curious - do you like this recipe or the NYT recipe better? I want to make some chocolate chip cookies but want to limit how much to make (need to watch the weight!).

I am a beginner when it comes to cooking, so I try to stick to the recipe as much as possible, though I do consult my husband (who cooks for us) every now and then if we don't have an ingredient, and see if it would affect the recipe a lot, or whether I can substitute.

Deb in Hawaii said...

Your cookies look amazing--I love thin cookies. It looks like an amazing book.

I am not good at making recipes as written. I try hard esp. when I review cookbooks but I always do something a little different and I try to lighten up recipes a lot too. Bad me!

My favorite choc. chip cookie is my Mom's which is a slightly modified Nestle Tollhouse recipe but oh so good.

Comfort food--my Mom's cookies warm from the oven with a cup of milk to dunk them in.

natalia said...

Ciao Nancy !! Happy 300 post !!I'm going to make these cookies they sound divine !!
I always follow the recipes exactly at least the first time .
I don't have a favorite chocolate chip cookies I always like to try new recipes !
As for confort food, being italian my answer is very tipical: pasta al pomodoro
Do not worry about the book : I live too far !!

Sarah said...

Wow, 300!!! Congratulations, Nancy! Your cookies look scrumptious! I have to say the NYT is still my favorite, though these were very good, and addictive. Especially at room temperature - thanks for that tip. I'm going to try to get my post on these up today.

I used to stick to more recipes the first time I made them than I do now. I guess I've been baking so much that I can look at a recipe at tell at a glance if there's something that won't work for me. I made these cookies as written, too, and I was actually thinking as I made them, "Wow, I didn't make any changes!".

I bet I'm the only person who will say this, but my ultimate comfort food is broccoli. Namely steamed broccoli (with or without kale) served with quinoa or basmati rice with a little olive oil and salt. It is what I have eaten almost every day of my life, and is the taste of home to me.

Jessica said...

So much to say! First things first, your cookies look fabulous! They look very close to the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I love chocolate chip cookies. I'm very, very interested in this recipe!

Exactly as written? I think it depends on both my mood and the recipe. If asked, I would say that I think it's a good idea to make a recipe exactly as written the first time through, take notes, and then tweak. I've spent too long around my dad and "the recipe is only a guide" though, so I tend to tweak recipes a little too early I suppose. Although, for baking I tend to stay closer to the recipe because of the chemistry aspect. (I'm getting ready to try the zuc swt potato bread again with some MAJOR tweaks. Wish I hadn't followed that recipe exactly the 1st time!).

I don't have a "favorite" chocolate chip recipe, and I think I might never have one. I used to want to find "the best" CCC, but now I think that I'm starting to enjoy the different nuances of CCC's. Top 3: NYT, Tates (so good!), and then Maria's (2 peas and pod) oatmeal coconut CCC's are fabulous when you're in the mood for some texture in your CCCs.

Comfort food for me is usually Italian food of one stripe or another. Bread is soooo comforting, especially with butter. A really good burger and fries comfort me, as do roast chicken and potatoes. Comforting desserts? CCCs for sure!

margot said...

Congrats on 300 great posts! Thanks for offering the giveaway, I don't know if I can hold off until Xmas for this book either!

I saw these on Wendy's blog last night, and it was only a matter of hours later before there was a batch in my oven. They are so good! I baked the first batch for 12 minutes and the second for 10, and the bottoms on the second batch were much nicer.

1) I usually stick to a recipe as written the first time, though sometimes I reduce butter or oil when I think I can. And I do sometimes swap things like vegetables or nuts depending on my preference or what I have on hand.

2) These might have pushed the NYT cookies off the favorite spot, but like you, I would like to do a taste-off.

3) Pasta is my favorite comfort food. Especially cheese ravioli.

Kayte said...

LOL on the title...I knew where that came from! The reason I always make it EXACTLY AS WRITTEN the first time is that I am not a good baker or cook and I don't know how anything reacts with anything so I do the recipe exactly and then the second time I can guess or add or subtract a bit. So, as if you needed me to answer this first question: Yes, I usually make the recipe exactly as written the first time. Then times after that, I make my own ways sometimes if it feels interesting to do so. Your cookies look puffier than mine, mine were a little darker, a littler flatter, and more "denty" looking. Hmmm...I like the looks of yours better. My favorite chocolate chip cookie to make for the guys recently has been the NYC ones that we all tried a little while back. They really like those. And, my favorite comfort food always always always will be no surprise to you either: French Onion Soup. Hands down! Oh, Magic Generator Pick Me, Pick Me! LOL! I giggled at the part where you opened that cookbook before Christmas...I would so be doing the same thing! I always think I will wait, but I never do!

NKP said...

They look fantastic! Let me know if you need help eating them..
Happy 300!!
Let's see.. fave comfort meal.. pasta, French bread and a rich red wine. (I get a whole meal, right?)
Choc chip cookies.. I like with oats (is that bad?)
Follow recipes as is? Nope, not generally.. I find there tend to be extra steps that aren't needed half the time.
Thanks for the fun give-away!

Nancy said...

300 Posts!! Way to go!

I always try to follow the recipe at least the first time...well almost always! I'm not as confident as you about making my own changes. I can hardly believe you made it through this recipe without changing anything!! LOL!

I know this is probably horrible - but I still like the good ole Tollhouse Chocolate chip recipe. I may mix it up a bit with oatmeal or a little of this or that, but it works for me.

Comfort food for me is spaghetti and meatballs! I can't think of anytime I'd ever turn that down!

Unknown said...

300! And having read quite a few of them, I can say that they're always entertaining, informative, and drool-inducing.

It's so hard for me to stick to a recipe exactly as written - I'm not sure I could bring myself to sift chocolate chunks! I try to err on the side of "as written" when first trying a recipe or new cooking/baking method. After that, all bets are off.

My current favorite ccc recipe is Alton Brown's The Chewy - but I am always on the hunt for the next best thing...

And as far as comfort food, it has to be my family pasta gravy recipe, which involves whole pork chops and very few seasonings (northern Italian style). That or (I confess) Stouffer's macaroni and cheese.

Karen said...

I usually follow the recipe in baking something for the first time, sometimes to see if I like it, and sometimes to see if I learn anything new (techniques, etc.). In cooking I tend to fiddle around more.
Right now I like the CI Thick and Chewy CCC, and I'd have to say bread is my favorite comfort food.

emmanuelle said...

Congrats on 300 posts! :)

I've tried the TK bouchons... but failed. I didn't follow the recipe exactly because I didn't have the right dark chocolates on hand and was sooo excited to try them.. Too bad.

The cookies look great, although I do prefer a more bread-like chocolate chip cookie as opposed to the crispy kinds.. I can't wait to try them :)

Steph said...

As much as I love making a recipe exactly as written, I tend to make a few changes (using CI as a reference). It's really hard to make something exactly as written when through experience you know it will be way too sweet or too buttery. I tend to follow ratios for recipes and adjust accordingly. Even when I follow the ingredient list, I tend to change the directions. The only recipe I've made exactly are actually CCC's (although I do like to adjust the amount of chocolate - usually less than written, but I don't really consider that to be a change because it doesn't really affect texture).

My favourite CCC is the NYT version. I make it with less chocoalte because i feel like that recipe has way too much chocolate and you can't enjoy the wonderful texture.

I don't think I have a favourite comfort food. There might be something that I like, but then I change my mind quickly and get bored of it. It's kind of weird considering that I feel like I'm eating the same food all the time.

When trying a new recipe, do you make it Exactly As Written (and can you do it successfully)?
What's your favorite chocolate chip recipe?
What's your favorite comfort food dish?

Unknown said...

When trying a new recipe, I stick to what is being said, until I find something I don't like and substitute, or just put things in it that I think will make it taste better.

I like chocolate chip and pecans recipes.

My favorite comfort food? So many. Biscuits and gravy, mac and cheese with lobster, mashed potatoes.

coriander said...

They look awesome!

I can never make a recipe EAW either because I tweak it (almost compulsively) or because I screw it up somehow. I think I may have done both this evening, to be honest ;)

My grandma's oatmeal chocolate chip recipe is my sentimental favorite, but I enjoy testing new recipes from time to time. I'm sure I will tweak (and then screw up) the Ad Hoc version soon enough.

My favorite comfort food is pho, preferably with fried tofu. Mmmm.

Penny said...

Happy 300! I am coming up on 100.

I usually follow the recipe as written the first time and then play around with it if I make it again. In baking I tend to stick pretty close to how it is written.

My favorite chocolate chip cookie is The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie from Cooks Illustrated. I blogged about it here.
My current favorite comfort food is Beef Bourguignon with mashed potatoes.
Thanks for sharing.

Megan said...

My mom just bought all of Thomas Keller's cookbooks, and I'm dying to take a look at them.

I just made a bundt cake that I followed exactly as written - for many, many recipes I do follow them, but a lot of times I'll have to make substitutions.

A favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is like a favorite brownie recipe - it's too subjective!

Comfort food? Probably mac and cheese. Although isn't that everyone's?

Mary Ann said...

Hmm, first I will go with just comments on the cookies and your post. I really love the way you do your posts because they are so informative and helpful. I wish I had this same sort of writing/posting style because I find it so much more interesting than how I go abt posting. oh well for me and kudos to you.
The cookies look amazing and I love hearing about all the interesting differences in the recipe.
I usually try to stick w/ a new recipe but I feel comfortable enough in the kitchen that I feel confident I will be able to make it work if I tweak it.

I must be crazy, but choco chip cookies aren't my fave. plus, my hubby prefers the refrigerated dough type- sad? yes, but true.
I need to do a real test and try the chewy, nyt ccc and these.

Fave comfort food- hmm. that is a hard one. I would have to say risotto, now that I know it is so easy and delicious.
great giveaway!

Esme said...

Thank you for introducing me to this new cookbook-I had not heard of it.

When I make a recipe-baking I cut the sugar down even if I am making the recipe for the first time-You can probably eliminate 1/4 cup and maybe more easily and still have a sweet recipe. Sometimes I do other changes like more vanilla-I think I am addicted to it. Baking is all about precision so you have to be careful.

Cooking-I taste as I cook-I never add salt-I feel that is for the eater to decide if they want salt-my husband and I both like spicy so often times I vamp up the spiciness.

Favorite c.c. recipe-neimen marcus has a great one-my friend bought me the book a few years back-I like them soft and chewy.

Comfort food-chicken soup, I did baked macaroni a few days ago.

Amanda said...

Nancy they look delicious! i've been craving chocolate chip cookies lately and have a cookbook here with a ton of different versions. :)

Leslie said...

Exactly as written?? What's that?! :-)

I was tickled by your earnest effort to make the recipe EAW (a new acronym!) When I do a new recipe that is technique specific, I try to stick to the foundation of the recipe. For example, I recently made a cheese souffle for the first time. I changed the type of cheese, but kept everything else the same.

I'm still searching for my favorite chocolate chip cookie (still need to make The Chewy and the NYT CCC). So I think I need to add these to the list and do a triple side-by-side comparison.

My favorite comfort food? Mac and cheese or grilled cheese.

I have Bouchon and have only made the vanilla ice cream from it, and I didn't think it could hold a candle to Dorie's (though a former co-worker RAVED about the roast chicken). I followed Carol Blymire's blog as she cooked French Laundry at Home and knew I could never source and butcher my own lamb. Ad Hoc At Home sounds much more accessible.

Congrats on your 300th! That is quite an achievement!

Katrina said...

I love new ccc's and experiments.
Many, especially in the TWD world know, I cannot seem to follow a recipe exactly to save my life! ;)

Favorite ccc? That is a hard one! I most often make the NYT recipe and still, do things to change it up, but for the most part follow it. I love adding different things to that recipe.
I also love the copycat Levain cookies, but they are more of a splurge when I make those. I like making them to impress people with a huge cookie.

Comfort food? Ice cream, possibly!

Wow, 300 posts! You are awesome!

TeaLady said...

Your cookies look delicious, Nancy. Great job. I am the say way when a new cookbook follows me home or the mag comes in the mail. No waiting!!!!

I usually follow the recipe exactly because I am just learning to be creative. Thanks to you and other twitters it is getting easier. So far my favorite CCC is Alton's The Thin.

Thanks for the chance.

Hindy said...

Ooo. I get happy just seeing Thomas Keller's name. I can hear his lovely accent as he calls out the ingredients. I'd love to taste his cookies.
We're pretty good about following recipes, at least the first time through.
Right now our favourite chocolate chip cookie is Dorie's World Peace Cookie. We make it at least once a month.
My comfort food is always a fresh, still warm, chewy Montreal-style bagel with lots of salted butter. they are dense and sweet.

Pamela said...

These cookies look outstanding! Congrats to you on the 300th post. Time flies, doesn't it?? recipes...I usually try them as written the first time. I am getting so comfy in the kitchen though and I'm willing to try different things.

My current fave go-to CCC recipe is Alton Browns The Chewy. I am, however, willing to bake up a storm to see if they can be beaten.

And for me, when it comes to comfort food, I love a nice, gooey grilled cheese sandwich! Yum.

Anonymous said...

300 - I can't even imagine...

Whether I follow the recipe the first time depends on the recipe. Sometimes, I have to substitute ingredients, etc. I find that if it is a technique I am unfamiliar with then I am more likely to follow the recipe -- like when we made Genoise for TWD.
My favorite CC cookie recipe is the "neiman marcus" cookie with oat flour. But I am always up for experimentation.
Comfort food: vegetable soup or vegetarian chili and good bread. yum.

Amy said...

These cookies look delicious!

I usually make a recipe exactly as stated, the first time around. My favorite chocolate chip recipe is the New York Times Jacques Torres Recipe... but I love David Lebovitz's chocolate chip cookie recipe, too.

Favorite comfort food? Hmmmm... that's a tough one. I'd have to say a plate of buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup.

Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

Cathy said...

Your cookies look fabulous! I enjoyed baking along with you. I will say that while these are not my favorite CCCs so far, they are quite good, and my children seem to love them (even with the darker chocolate). And while I am generally an "exactly as written" person the first time around, I did not make this one exactly as written - I used all dark chocolate. I think I would have preferred a mix (as Keller calls for, of course), so if I didn't totally love them, it's my own darn fault.

But a side-by-side comparison is really the only way to go.

Oh, and FYI, mine spread exactly the same all three ways I baked them - unchilled dough, dough chilled in fridge, dough straight from freezer.



What's your favorite chocolate chip recipe? THE CHEWY, BABY!!!


Goooooo random number generator!!

dharmagirl said...

i'm often an improvising. when cooking, i generally consult several recipes and then go my own way. with baking, i only make safe deviations (swapping out types of sugar, changing add-ins, etc).

i made the cook's illustrated dried cherry, chocolate, pecan oat cookies this weekend...mmmm.

AmyRuth said...

Well, I would say I am evolving and becoming more adventurous with recipes these days. However, on a CCC I would probably follow to the letter. I attempt to replicate the authors intent. Then from there I think some tinkering is allowed. That's just silly ole me. I think as far as comfort food would go it would be my grandmothers home made biscuits with honey and butter. No longer on my menu. hehe I have a CCC which includes chopped good quality chocolate as well as hazelnut butter. They are pretty much wonderful.
So, does that score? hehe
Thanks for the fun.

Jeannette said...

*I'm an ameture baker and I'm still learning all the in's and out's of baking, so USUALLY I make the recipe as written (unless it calls for spices, then I substitute and add more/less depending on what I like). Once I feel comfy with the recipe, I'll modify IF I think it needs it. The success rate is usually 85%
*I'm still on the lookout for my favorite cc cookie recipe.
*Comfort food: apple crumble. This is a recent development. There's just something about warm, gooey, spicy apples and crunchy crumbly goodness topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a 'just for me' sized ramekin :)