April 9, 2010

The final say

Chocolate chip cookies -- you may think that they're the basic, average sort of cookie that practically anyone can (and does) make, that there's nothing new or special about them, that there's practically no way to mess them up, but these assumptions are not exactly the case, not after you've tried this recipe, the ultimate chocolate chip cookie as I like to call them. It's a recipe that many food blog writers have already featured and adapted to their own tastes, and, of course, I've also adapted it to suite my own tastes (and pantry supplies). I found the article accompanying the recipe, printed in The New York Times a couple of years ago, interesting in its explanation of why it works and why you'll be hard pressed to find a better one. The thorough method of preparation, from combining specific amounts of ingredients to allowing the dough to chill for thirty-six hours before baking to cooling the cookies on the sheets for ten minutes just out of the oven, and much more, is what makes them more than just what any old recipe on the back of a bag of chocolate chips can produce.

Crispy on the outer edges, soft and chewy in the middle, and chock full of melting chocolate, with just a little sea salt sprinkled on top for a salty-sweet contrast, they are the ultimate cookie, decadent in every sense. Did I mention that these are larger than your average sized cookie? Oh yeah, they're enormous. After eating one, you'll want to eat another, despite knowing you shouldn't because they're so rich. One cookie is dessert enough in itself, although even I find it hard to resist having a second. Two is definitely pushing the limit.

Don't be tempted to skimp on some of the ingredients -- everything is used for a reason. That article tells all. While able to use some alterations with success, like using all purpose flour instead of the combination of cake and bread flours that the original recipe calls for, I still followed the ingredients and directions very closely. After baking a few batches in the time since first finding it, I noticed that even the slightest oversight can makes things change for the worse. If you make the scoops of dough too large, or allow the dough to warm up at all before baking (it needs to remain cold), or you don't bake them long enough, or too long, or don't allow them to cool on the baking sheets, your cookies will end up gooey, or spread out too much, or turn hard and stale, or something else that's just as bad and disappointing. Trust me, when you take that first warm bite out of a well made cookie, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Now, this is not some sort of hard feat to pull of, either. If you follow the instructions, you'll find it fairly straightforward, albeit a little unusual and lengthy. If you're anything like me, you'll actually enjoy the process, making sure each step is done meticulously and consistently. Eating the rewards is well worth the effort. It may seem time consuming, refrigerating the dough for a couple of days, but the process works out -- I made the dough for this batch Wednesday night and baked them this morning, chilling for a total of thirty-eight hours. So, it almost works around your schedule. Make the dough ahead of time and bake at your leisure.

One of these days I'd like to try using the fancy chocolate disks the author mentions, but until then, bittersweet chocolate chips it is. Like using the all purpose flour, some things are easier to find and keep on hand much more so than others. What's really important is that you may never want to bake another chocolate chip other than this. It's my one and only recipe for the classic now.

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie
Adapted from The New York Times, July 2008

2 cups minus 2 Tbsp (8 ½ oz) cake flour
1 cups (8 ½ oz) bread flour
       (or 17 oz all-purpose flour)
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp coarse salt, such a kosher
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups (10 oz) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp (8 oz) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 lb bittersweet chocolate disks or chips, at least 60% cacao content
Sea salt

Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk well, then set aside.

In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Carefully stir in chocolate pieces with a wooden spoon. Transfer dough to an airtight container, press plastic wrap against the surface, and refrigerate for 24-36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften slightly, but not too much -- the dough still needs to be cold when placed in the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop six 2-ounce mounds of dough onto baking sheet, making sure to space evenly (I weighed each mound on a scale to make sure each was roughly 2 ounces, or slightly more). Push in any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft and puffy, about 18 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Eat warm or at room temperature.

Repeat with remaining dough, returning unused dough to refrigerator between batches.

Makes 30 3.5-inch cookies.

1 comment:

  1. Best chocolate chip cookie I have ever eaten!