Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Episode II

The New York Times recently ran an article about chocolate chip cookies, touting that they had come upon the Holy Grail of chocolate chip cookie recipes. The food blog Serious Eats had a similar article about this. The internet is filled with the legends about the $250 cookie recipe, or debates about whether a chocolate chip cookie should be chewy or crispy or perhaps even a little bit of both. People have really torn each other to pieces over this topic. Did Ruth Graves Wakefield accidentally drop a bunch of chocolate pieces into her batter, or was it the purposeful act of a genius who would change our lives forever?

As far as I'm concerned, the swirling rumors and historical inaccuracies tend to add complexity to perhaps the greatest aspect of the chocolate chip cookie -- its simplicity. I doubt the world will ever agree upon which recipe is "best," considering that I am hard-pressed to think of another topic upon which we all agree. So you can take your panel of "chocolate chip cookie experts" and food historians and cookie chemists and the whole lot. I am not an expert, but I am looking for a cookie that:

- Is chewy in texture (due to the ingredients and techniques rather than to simple underbaking)
- Has some caramel/toffee notes in it
- Does NOT skimp on the chocolate or insist that it be in enormo-chunks or perfectly factory-ized chips
- Puffs up just a bit instead of being flat and runny
- Does not have nuts, but would be perfectly wonderful with the addition of something like walnuts or pecans
- Is large enough to feel substantial in your hand but NOT large enough to feed a small nation

In my ongoing quest to hit upon the perfect recipe to yield the cookie detailed above, this recipe is the closest I’ve yet come. I posted one version of this recipe before, but the one thing the NYTimes article imparted upon me was that the "chill the dough first" strategy was one worth exploring. I made a double batch of these (because my recipe usually yields a measly 2 dozen cookies), and, so sayeth Dinah Washington, "What a difference a day made." I mean, really. I couldn't be bothered to chill the batter for 36 hours -- what an odd period of time -- but a bit less than 24 hours seemed to do just fine. Oh and don't begin to be impressed, I did not come up with this recipe out of my little brain. It is a modified version of the Neiman Marcus one posted online at their website.

Chocolate Chip Cookies, v 2.0
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 TBS granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 ½ cups (~9 oz) chopped bittersweet chocolate

1. Cream the butter with the sugars using a wooden spoon. Mix until homogenous.
2. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract with the wooden spoon. Add espresso powder and mix until evenly distributed.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder with a wire whisk.
4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three parts and use wooden spoon to combine until dry ingredients are just incorporated.
5. Use a rubber spatula to gently incorporate chopped chocolate bits into the dough.
6. Chill dough for 24-36 hours.
7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
8. Using a teaspoon and your hands, form large rounded lumps of dough (~2 TBS each – it should feel like a small handful when rolling, about the size of a ping pong ball) and place them on your cookie sheets ~3 inches apart. Make sure to give them the proper space.
9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cookies are starting to lightly brown at the edges. If you want your cookies soft and chewy, do not let the cookies themselves turn golden on top. Simply remove after ~23 minutes (checking periodically) and leave them on the sheet for a few minutes to let them continue cooking before removing them with a spatula and placing them on a wire rack to cool.

1 comment:

Molly said...

i'm glad you are baking, and blogging, again! i wish i had a baking office mate...