July 20, 2008

Believe the Hype!

YES! My days of searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe are over. That's right, folks, the cookie of my dreams made its debut in a New York Times article published two weeks ago. I am here to state emphatically that the cookie is awesome. Chewy on the inside, a bit crunchy on the edges and with something indescribable about the texture. The balance of flavors is just right and I don't think I've ever made, or eaten, a better cookie than one of these fresh from the oven.

Unfortunately, I fell down on the photography aspect. I took some really bad, unprintable shots of batter and didn't do much better with the finished product, aside from the one shot above. Note to self: keep reading that camera manual. With the next batch, I'll try to take more shots and add some to this post for an after-market upgrade.

And now, with no further ado, the recipe:

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The New York Times and Jacques Torres

2 cups minus 2 Tbs non-rising cake flour
1-2/3 cups bread flour
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
2-1/2 sticks sweet butter (1-1/4 cups), room temp
1-1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbs white sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 to 1-1/4 lbs bittersweet chocolate chips, chunks or feves
(minimum of 60% cacao content, best brand possible)
Optional: 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans or other nuts
Sea salt for sprinkling

1. Sift flours, baking soda & powder into a bowl. Whisk in the kosher salt. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars together until very light, at least 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla on low speed.

3. On low speed, carefully add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined, 5-10 seconds. Don't worry if some flour isn't incorporated. Drop in the chocolate pieces and nuts (if using) and do a final blending with a rubber spatula. Make sure all flour is mixed in but don't over-mix.

4. Cover the dough well, pressing plastic wrap right on top of the dough and then also covering the bowl. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours, preferably at least 36 but no more than 48, for best results. Dough can be chilled up to 72 hours if necessary but will be best between 36-48 hours.

5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Set racks in oven to top and bottom thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, a non-stick baking mat or foil. Scoop out balls in whatever size you like (I use a 2-Tbs ice cream scoop). Press down slightly with palm to flatten a bit. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown, about 14 minutes, switching the sheets front & back and top & bottom half-way through for even baking. Do not overbake! The cookies should look a bit underdone when they come out, with very light golden bottoms. Let cool on trays for at least 5 minutes and then transfer to cooling racks.

For the original recipe, click here.

A few technical and not-so-technical notes:

1. The recipe calls for two kinds of flour that you might not have at home. I have not yet tried to make it with only all-purpose flour to see if it's the flour that counts. And unfortunately the article did not explain why exactly this combination of flours might make a difference. But I have to say that I'm not sure I want to mess with it -- I know it works. As for why, really, does it matter?? Just enjoy them.

2. The original also calls for Valrhona "feves" which I couldn't find, even at my local Whole Foods. The best price I found online is at Surfa's. I used Ghiradelli 60% bittersweet chips which are available at most grocery stores. I recommend using the best brand you can find.

3. I baked my first batch after 42 hours of resting time, then at 60 hours and again at about 80 hours. The first batch was definitely best and confirms what the original recipe states, that about 36 hours is ideal.

4. I ignored the part about making enormous cookies in the original recipe. They're just too big for normal eating, hard to pack up to give away and too much temptation for me.

5. I forgot to put the sea salt on my first batch and didn't really miss it. I think you could just put a smidgen more salt in the batter, or skip it. It's a nice touch, but even for a salt-lover like me, I didn't find it necessary.

6. The original recipe calls for 1-1/4 lbs of chocolate. I used just under a pound because I don't like too many chips in my cookies, and for me it was just right. But I know many people like more chocolate so use your own judgment.

7. I think pecans would be a nice addition if you like nuts in your chocolate chippers.

8. The resting time in the fridge is important. I have always chilled my chocolate chip cookie dough before baking, if I have time. Years ago, at one of my catering jobs, I asked the pastry chef why the cookies baked up chewy one day when they had been crispy the day before; she said if the dough was cold, the cookies would be chewier. She was right (of course) and the article explains the science behind why this is true. I will say that resting time alone does not create a chewy cookie, because I have made ones that were still too thin & crispy for my taste even after chilling but it's definitely one contributing factor.

If you're still with me at the end of this very long post, please let me know if you make the cookies and how they turn out! I'd love some feedback.