July 13, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The New York Times ran a story a few days ago about the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. They interviewed a few fancy-pants bakers and pastry chefs and developed a recipe incorporating all of their suggested tips and tricks.

I whipped up a batch of these today to try them. I followed the recipe exactly, except for the following modifications: I did not go to New York to get Jacques Torres chocolate, and I couldn't find the Valrhona fèves at my local Whole Foods. This turned out to be a good thing, because I later found out that the Valrhona stuff would have been easily over $15/pound, and I really worry about how much the Jacques Torres stuff would cost. Instead, I splurged on some 60% cacao Ghiradelli chips down to the Safeway for closer to $5/pound. I also discovered after I started that I only had about half the unsalted butter that I thought I had, so I made the cookies with half unsalted and half regular butter. I also only refrigerated the dough for about an hour before cooking the first few cookies, because I'm impatient like that. I've kept the rest of the batch plus one whole other batch in the fridge, though, so I can adequately test the effects of the 24-36 hour refrigeration they recommend.

So, except for the above, I followed the recipe exactly. I even went out and bought parchment paper (which I love but can't normally justify) and cake flour (for which I would normally just substitute regular flour plus corn starch). I'm happy they provided weights for the dry ingredients, as I would much rather measure by weight for dry ingredients than by imprecise measurements of volume. I even weighed out the cookie dough to the recommend 3.5 ounces per cookie. I went through all this trouble because if the cookies did not turn out to be delightful, I didn't want to have to blame myself.

I'm pleased to say they did indeed turn out wonderfully. They really look like a fancy cookie that you'd pay >$3 for in some bakery. They taste great, although the large size and richness of the chocolate limits me to only about one before feeling like I'm overdoing it. Becki doesn't like chocolate chip cookies, and she didn't like these chocolate chips when I gave her some last night. That said, she thought this cookie tasted terrific, and was easily the best chocolate chip cookie she had ever had.

I would definitely make these again. The recipe is no more difficult than any other cookie recipe as long as you have the ingredients. If you don't have the right ingredients on hand though, it's not necessarily worth going to France to get the right chocolate for it or anything like that.

I think the techniques learned here are more important than the actual recipe. For example, I'll probably try the sprinkling of sea salt (which I do always have on hand) on other cookies and baked goods in the future. If the refrigeration trick pays off as well as they say, I'll try that with my cookies as well, no matter what the recipe. And I think the overall shape and appearance of the cookie owes a lot to the parchment paper, which will allow the cookie to spread the right amount on the pan without regard to pan composition. Normally when I bake a batch of cookies, I'll be using a variety of cookie sheets: some non-stick, some not, some light, some dark, some kind of new, some 40 years old. My cookies really come out a variety of different shades and consistencies as a result. I could get all new cookie sheets, but that's expensive, and sometimes I might actually need one kind of cookie sheet instead of another. Instead, I think I'm just going to make sure I always use parchment paper from now on.

So, bottom line: These cookies are good. Try them.


Captain Emus said...

Best phrase of this post: "down to the Safeway".

Jennifer Burke said...

HEY! I found your blog.

I recently learned I have Epstein Barr virus (sp?) and I'm super tired and cranky. Turns out blogging is a perfect pastime for lazy cranky people.

Glad to hear your doing well. Can't wait to try the cookies.