Saturday, May 7, 2011

The best chocolate chip cookie recipe

 Sorry that we have not written for a while – I sort of went to Venice, by book. I listened on cd to The City of Falling Angles by John Berendt (author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil). Venice has always been a favorite city, and this book was almost like being there. There’s no other city like it, and each visit is different from the last. (To look at the book, here's an link: The City of Falling Angels.)

Chocolate chip Cookies As Good As They Get
I would say that these are the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, but I know that hyperbole often disappoints, yet that is how I title these luscious cookies in Papa’s and my personal cooking binder. I adapted this recipe from the New York Times, which in turn adapted it from the marvelous baker Jacques Torres (here's a link to his great cookbook: Jacques Torres' A Year in Chocolate: 80 Recipes for Holidays and Special Occasions). It is different in three ways from other chocolate chip cookies. First is the use of two different flours (both cake and bread flour). Second is chilling the dough for twenty-four to thirty-six hours; probably this is the crucial difference, according to the science explained by the recipe, for the dough and other ingredients need the chilling time to soak up the liquid among the ingredients (the eggs) – whatever, though, it does make a wonderful cookie. Third is sprinkling each cookie lightly with the sea salt (I use coarse sea salt, just a bit of it). Everybody loves the bit of salt, even those who don’t think they will, and not to worry, for the few grains of sea salt won’t make your blood pressure go crazy. Note: it’s best not to undertake this recipe unless you can chill the cookie dough for at least 24 hours.
Ingredients: 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour (8 ½ ounces) – don’t pack; 1 and 2/3 cup bread flour (8 ½ ounces); 1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda; 1 ½ teaspoon backing powder; 1 teaspoon salt; 2 ½ sticks unsalted butter (room temperature); 1 ¼ cup light brown sugar (10 ounces); 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar; 2 large eggs; 1 tablespoon vanilla extract; 16 to 20 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (optimally 60% or more cacao content) – this can be in the form of chips, or chunks, or even cut up bars (it’s easier when the bars are on the thinner side). It’s not always easy to find good quality chocolate at a fair price.
I often freeze half of the dough and use it another time. I chill all the dough first, so I can bake as soon as the second half thaws out. Steps: Sift flours, baking soda and powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Then fit mixer with paddle attachment, and cream the butter and sugars together for 5 or 6 minutes, until very light. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add the dry ingredients; mix for 5 to 10 seconds, until just combined. Add chocolate pieces, and mix without breaking them. Place dough in another bowl, put plastic wrap over the dough, and refrigerate from 24 to 36 hours. Dough can be refrigerated for 72 hours and used in batches.
When ready to form cookies and bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment (insulated sheets work best). The original recipe calls for 3 ½ ounce balls, which I found a bit too large. I make them into 1inch in diameter mounds. Sprinkle each cookie very lightly with coarse sea salt, and bake for about 16 minutes, turning cookie sheet at the halfway mark (8 minutes) to ensure even baking. Check sooner to establish your correct time, in case your thermostat is a bit high or low. Cookies will be done when they are golden brown, but still soft. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack for ten minutes, and then slip these wonderful cookies onto another rack to cool. I usually have two pieces of parchment ready, so I can put one in to bake while the other is cooling. Parchment paper is expansive, but it may be reused many times; when baking is completed, just wipe the parchment with a paper towel, fold, and store in the freezer in a plastic bag.