25 October 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am normally not a fan of chocolate chip cookies since they tend to be overly sweet for my taste.  I suppose if I had to pick a cookie, I would be a total philistine and choose Mother's chocolate chip cookies (if you grew up in California, you know the cookies whereof I speak).  They had that slight chemical taste that screamed "I'm from an assembly line" and texture that had them trash-talking Twinkies about beating them in the longevity sweepstakes, but they were in my lunch everyday - thanks, Mom! - and therefore, inevitably I suppose, what I compared any homemade chocolate chip cookie against.  Although I'm pretty sure purists would weep, the Mother's brand always came out on top.

I tried various chocolate chip cookie recipes over the years but could never find one that didn't make my teeth ache or the roof of my mouth tingle like some dental Bat-signal my teeth were going to begin rotting in 3...2...1.  My cookie baking experiences over the last couple decades were therefore spent making oatmeal raisin, shortbread, and various other kinds of cookies.  I'd occasionally dip a toe back into the chocolate chip side of the pool but never found a recipe that I liked.

Then I saw a post on another blog about a chocolate cookie recipe from the New York Times.  Instead of regular flour, it uses a combination of bread flour and cake flour, and then adds in chocolate that is at least 60% bittersweet and sea salt.  The combination of bread and cake flour makes a much better base, IMO, to house the chocolate pieces.  Somehow it manages to neutralize the overly sugary taste I find in other chocolate chip cookie doughs and allows the bittersweet chocolate to take center stage.  The sea salt sprinkled on top of the cookies before baking creates a lovely contrast between the slight sugar sweetness still evident in the dough and the chocolate pieces themselves.  The cookie itself is crispy on the outside and softer/chewier towards the center with almost a carmel-like taste in the background.

The recipe is as follows:

Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Jacques Torres)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
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 (see note**)
Sea salt.

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

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, 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.

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.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

The one instruction that you need to make sure you follow is to let the dough rest.  This allows the flavors to blend together better and the flour to absorb some of the moist aspect of the dough. I usually take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit for one to two hours so it starts coming back up to room temp.  It makes it a little easier to scoop out when I start baking.

**I've only made one recipe change and that is I tend to use a mix of bagged, store-bought semi/bittersweet pieces with the "better" bittersweet chocolate.  While I love the flavor of really good chocolate, it's unfortunately a lot more expensive than semisweet or bittersweet pieces.  So, when I make this recipe, I split the difference.  And I know the sea salt may sound strange but give it a try!  

I also don't make the cookies as big as the recipe calls for.  If I'm spending that much time on cookies, I do want a bit of bang for my buck, y'know?  I tend to make them around the size of a very large tablespoon or two.  That way, I get around four dozen cookies versus the one-and-one-half dozen in the original recipe.

Moral of the story?  For me, I think I have a winner in the chocolate chip cookie sweepstakes.  It isn't overly sweet, has great texture and is very satisfying.  The next time I want to make chocolate chip cookies, this will probably be the recipe I reach for.


  1. yum! I do love the taste of sea salt on a cookie and on chocolate!

  2. Can you go wrong with Jacques Torres? Don't think so! These look interesting and I enjoyed the story of how you came to try this recipe.

  3. I've never baked with seasalt, I guess there's a first time for everything... I'm going to give this recipe a try (I've got to make tons of cookies before Dec.24 so I need to get busy!!)