Monday, December 1, 2008

The NY Times Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

The recipe taunted me for months. I had printed it out the moment I read the NY Times article entitled, "Perfection? Hint: It's Warm and Has a Secret," and had immediately passed it along to my mom and baking savvy roommate. "I want to make these!!!" I wrote in the message, and then sent the e-mails off with drool dribbling down my chin. If there was a proven perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe (or at least according to the NY Times), I had to try it. I had to make the cookies.

I don't just love chocolate chip cookies, I love love them. In HS I often ate them for breakfast before big cross-country and track meets, convinced that they had magical properties that would make me run super fast, and would regularly go on afternoon cookie dates with my mom as a form of parent-teenager bonding time. I blame chocolate chip cookies on my inability to ever be as trim as my running teammates during those years. All my restraint went out the window when my mom would bake a batch of her famous chocolate chip, oatmeal, cornflake, coconut cookies, and I would often sneak a half-dozen of them back into my bedroom to devour in private. Today, I am able to stop at just one cookie (or half a big one), but my eyes still become star-glazed with lust when my nostrils are tickled by the intoxicating scent of a freshly baked batch.

Given my enthusiasm for the famous bad-day antidote, it is absurd that four months went by before I finally tested out the recipe this past week. Yet, there was a good reason for my procrastination -- the batter needs to be chilled at least 24 hours before baking, 36 hours for optimal results. I needed significant time to devote to the preparation and production of these precious cookies, and up until this past week, when I used up some vacation days, I didn't have the opportunity to focus my attention so explicitly on a baked good.

Upon my release from the office on the Friday before Thanksgiving, I immediately began plotting out my cookie plan. I would go grocery shopping on Monday morning, make the batter on Monday afternoon, bake the cookies on Wednesday afternoon, and then push them on my family members on Thanksgiving. It was brilliant, inspired and, well, perfect -- just like the cookies. Except, of course, for the tiny problem that I didn't finish baking them until Wednesday at 7 pm, and had to wait an excruciating amount of time (approximately 90 minutes) before eating one so as not to spoil my appetite for my mom's homemade lasagna. Cruel and unusual punishment, thy name is cookie deprivation!

Once my parents and I were able to have our cookies and eat them too, an eerie silence descended upon the house. While I was silently cursing myself for forgetting the pivotal sprinkle of sea salt on the top of the cookies, I couldn't get over how different they tasted from other recipes I've made in the past. The edges were perfectly crisp -- forming the proper textural contrast to the decadently chewy interior that was studded with Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips/disks. I marvelled at the complexity of flavor -- it lacked that often floury aftertaste I encounter with other less-refined chocolate chip cookie recipes. My mom echoed my sentiments, which appears to be the general consensus reached by the NY Times taste-testers as well. Re-reading the article after I devoured two of the still slightly warm cookies, I felt like I really had achieved the caramel, brown sugar, butter-undertoned "perfection" touted by the writer.

Well, aside from leaving out the salt topping. That probably would have made them even more perfect, but I still stand by my cookies. The key really is letting the batter "rest" for at least 24 hours before baking, and I also do think that the larger, 60% chocolate chip disks make a difference in the final product. Because really, what's a chocolate chip cookie without the proper amounts of high-quality chocolate? Even if the batter has all the time in the world to refrigerate, there's no helping that sad sack of press-and-sealed dough...

Here is the highly-tauted recipe once again, along with my notes/substitutions in italics.

NY Times "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" recipe
Adapted from Jacque Torres

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling. (I chilled mine 48 hours)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour (I used all-purpose flour instead of the cake/bread flour combination -- came out to approximately 3 2/3 cups minus 2 tablespoons)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (I used Ghiradelli 60% cacoa chips/disks)
Sea salt. (Whoops! I forgot!)

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment (I used a hand beater), cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours. (Press and seal wrap works great for this step!)

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally 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, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin. (I made my cookies smaller -- though oddly, still golf ball-sized, and baked them for 14-16 minutes. I also ate mine off a plate, like a lady.)

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies. (My batch yielded 3 dozen cookies)


Heather said...

mmmm, i have been meaning to try these, too. i make a dark choc/white choc/peppermint cookie every year for christmas s'mores. maybe i'll use this one and just add the extra goodies in. sounds yummy :)

Esi said...

I want to try these too since every single person I have seen try them has loved them. Sorry you forgot the sea salt, but glad they were still great.

Futile Sniffer said...

I want! I want! I want! :)

ruth said...

Hmmmm... I've been loyal to the Toll House recipe my whole life, but perhaps it wouldn't kill me to branch out...

Diana said...

Heather - I bet if Richard had made your s'mores he would have won last week's Top Chef elimination challenge! Those sound amazing! I hope you post about them so I can get the recipe!

Esi - You should definitely try them! Just be sure you have lots of people around to eat them when you do! :)

Ruth - Branch out! Branch out! Or at least let the Tollhouse batter refrigerate for 36 hours before baking them - I think they actually do that in the shops too!

Hari said...

Hmm.. The pics make my mouth water. I can't wait to try this recipe once my oven is fixed next week.