Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Test Driving NYT's Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Have you ever read the "Estimated Time" part of a recipe and laughed? The only reason Rachel Ray can bust out a dinner for four in 30 minutes while smiling is because she has a team of sous chefs to help her measure, cut, dice, mince and buy her Starbuck's coffee so she doesn't look frazzled on national television. Or you can listen to her advice and buy pre-diced celery that is drying out on the edges. Mmm, tasty.

But I will be different. I will tell it how it is. This delectable chocolate chip cookie recipe took me only 4 weeks, two days and 40 minutes to make.

Yeah, FOUR weeks AND two days AND forty minutes. But I'll save you some of the time by explaining why it took me that long.

You see, it took me about four weeks to find the proper chocolate chips. These aren't toll house cookies--the "chips" had to be 70% Cacao Valrhona discs, or the ones from Jacques Torres chocolate shop in New York City. I repeatedly read that using any other would not do the recipe justice.

However, since I don't live anywhere near NYC, it meant Jacques Torres was only available to me via online and overnight shipping (any longer, and the chocolate will melt in the summer heat).

I refused to pay upwards of $40 for a pound of chocolate, and so for the last month I scoured all the gourmet grocery stores (Whole Food's, Draeger's, Andronico's) within a 21 mile radius from my home looking for the darn chips . From Los Altos to San Francisco, I drove and went, frustrated with every visit. I scanned the candy aisle, the cheese aisle, the baking aisle--nothing. My husband eventually pointed out the obvious--at this rate, I had probably wasted so much gas that it would have been prudent to order the darn things online in the first place.

Thanks honey, I feel better now. But hey, at least we have a Prius.

I finally settled on alternatives--72% Cacao Guittard discs (available at Draeger's and a very reputable brand in my opinion) and a Whole Food's organic brand. I planned on taste testing both to see which I liked better (Guittard won by a landslide, in my opinion). For now, I figured this plan would do.

Finally, I was ready to make the batter. I was confident it would take me twenty minutes tops, but I ended up fighting, wrestling, and pounding the crap out of my brown sugar that had recently hardened into a cemented block. Indeed, my arms are now more defined from that episode.


Forty minutes later, the batter was ready to go. The recipe called for it to sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours (up to 72 hours) but I was impatient to be compensated for all my hard work. So I baked off six. The recipe says to scoop 3 1/2 ounce "large golf balls" of batter but as my avid golfer husband pointed out, golf balls are nowhere near that size. I stuck to the weight measurement and not the descriptive nonsense. Exactly six fit on a half sheet pan if you don't want it to meld together.

Twenty minutes later, they were done. The center was still soft when I took them out, but the edges were definitely a beautiful golden. I allowed them to cool as I left to run some errands. When I came home twenty minutes later, AN ENTIRE COOKIE WAS GONE.

I death-stared at my husband, who gave me a guilty cookie-monster smile. "You ate an ENTIRE COOKIE by yourself?!" I cried incredulously.

Another cookie-monster smile.

You must understand. I wasn't freaking out because a little cookie was gone. These cookies were HUGE. And my husband does not like sweets. When he does eat them, he takes a bite and declares completion. So the fact he ate a cookie that was over four inches in diameter in less than ten minutes was quite a milestone achievement for me.

"I like the sea salt," he offered helpfully.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted by Jacques Torres, New York Times)


8 1/2 oz cake flour
8 1/2 oz bread flour
1 1/4 t baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t coarse salt
2 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temp
10 oz light brown sugar
8 oz granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 t vanilla
1 1/4 lb chocolate discs (Valrhona, Jacques Torres or Guittard)

Sea salt

1) Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
2) In a separate bowl, place the butter and sugars together. Cream with a mixer on medium speed using a paddle attachment until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, about 5-10 seconds.
3) Gently combine chocolate pieces into the batter with a spatula. You do not want to break them.
4) Press plastic wrap flush against the dough and refrigerate for 24-36 hours. Ok to refrigerate for 72 hours.
5) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a half baking sheet with parchment paper on a silpat.
6) Scoop six 3 1/2 ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown on the edges but still slightly soft in the middle, about 20 minutes. Cool on sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool further.

Repeat with remaining dough, or scoop out the dough to desired sizes and freeze for more delicious days to come. Serve warm.

Note: I baked another batch two days later, and the biggest difference was that the cookie was puffier the second time. This made for a chewier texture in the center. Otherwise the flavor was the same.