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I would like to start this post by giving a shout out to the greatest football team ever to walk God’s Green Earth: the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In honor of the World’s Best Football Team, I bring you the World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie. Each – the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chocolate Chip Cookie – really are the consummate players in their respective fields – professional sports and cookies. As a connoisseur of both, I do not use the term “world’s best” lightly; so rest assured that these are some seriously good cookies.

Last summer the New York Times published a writer’s quest to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie. After interviewing a number of famous bakers, the requirements for the perfect chocolate cookie seemed to boil down to this list:

1. Use good chocolate
2. Use a lot of chocolate
3. Sprinkle the cookies with salt
4. Serve them warm
5. Make ‘em big
6. Rest your dough for 36 hours

I had you until #6, didn’t I?

Let’s break down the list.

#1 and #2 – Use good chocolate and lots of it.

The NYT article features a recommendation for the use of chocolate disks as opposed to the traditional chocolate chip because of how they melt – the disks will melt to create a more uniform strata of chocolate within the cookie rather than the isolated chunks of chocolate the chips create. Also, all contributors to the article strictly adhere to a cacao content of no less than 60%.

I’ve tried this recipe with both – disks and chips – and I will vouch for the use of disks over chips. You can find fancy chocolate disks online, but I found mine in the chocolate section at Whole Foods on a trip I made to the Mainland in November. I used the Noel Royale Buttons with 64% cacao content and was quite pleased with the results.

#3 – Sprinkle the cookies with salt.

Salt is used in baked goods to heighten the flavor of the other ingredients and to add a new dimension to the sweet. Salt is called for in this dough and then, just before you pop them into the oven, generously sprinkle the unbaked cookies with coarse sea salt – the grains will bake into the tops of the cookies and will adhere much better than if you try to sprinkle them post-baking.  MmmmmMMMmmmm ……

#4 – Serve them warm.

This really is a no-brainer. While some things do improve in flavor after a cool down period on a wire rack, chocolate chip cookies are so darn good warm because of the ooey-gooey factor of melted chocolate. Let the cookies cool just long enough so as to not scald your tongue – maybe 10-12 minutes – then break one of these in half and marvel at the perfect-looking ribbons of chocolate spanning between your fingers. Yum! These do, admittedly, taste amazing even at room temperature, but do be sure to enjoy some warm straight out of the oven!

#5 – Make ‘em big.

Again, this seems like a no-brainer, right – the bigger the better! That’s not always true, however, with mini- desserts being all the rage these days – some people will actually turn down a cookie for being too big. Incredible! But there really is a reason for super sizing chocolate chip cookies, and it’s not just so that we can make big pigs of ourselves. The bakers in the NYT article refer to it as the Rule of Thirds:

“First there’s the crunchy outside inch or so … A nibble revealed a crackle to the bite and a distinct flavor of butter and caramel. Then there’s the center, which is soft. A bull’s-eye the size of a half-dollar yielded easily. But the real magic … is the one-and-a-half-inch ring between them where the two textures and all the flavors mix.”

Making your cookies six-inch beasts will result in this symphony of textures and flavors.

#6 – Rest your dough for 36 hours.

The science behind letting the dough rest for 36 hours is that it allows the dry ingredients to fully absorb the wet ingredients. When you first mix the two together, your butter ingredient will act as a barrier between the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients. Let the dough rest for a full 36 hours, however, and that barrier is broken down and your wet ingredients get fully absorbed by the dry. This results in a cookie that has a greater depth of flavor; with caramel and toffee undertones from the brown sugar and a more fully developed appearance of brown when baked. The dough is also a bit more crumbly at this point and holds together much better when rolled into golf ball sized hunks and placed on your cookie sheet. They retain their shape better when baked and what you end up with is a perfect looking – and tasting – cookie.

I have made these several times, and a few times I cheated the 36-hour rule – once I rested the dough overnight for about 12 hours and another time I only rested the dough for about 3 hours. You will still end up with very, very good cookies that no one will scoff at – but the magic really is in that 36-hour rest period. 36 hours of rest = cookies that look too perfect to be true.

And that brings us to the recipe. What, in my opinion, makes this version even better than the original? The exclusion of animal products. Below is my cruelty-free version of the NYT original and I cannot recommend these enough. Make these for your Valentine and I promise you they’ll swoon. You can thank me later 😀

Chocolate Chip Cookies
The original NYT recipe can be found here

Adapted from Jacques Torres
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tbsp (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp coarse salt
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups) Earth Balance (or other butter alternative)
1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (8 ounces) granulated sugar
4 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp natural vanilla extract
½ lb bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
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 Earth Balance and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add canola oil, one tablespoon 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.

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