Friday, September 11, 2009

catch up cookies

Oh, it has been quiet here for the past week, but behind the curtains, the stage hands have been manic. Life crises have been had, big important questions asked (if not answered) and yes, cookies baked. I actually cooked a lot over long weekend, but the work week came on with the vengeance of a needy child, needing specifically about 15 hours a day. I am exhausted.

It seems like forever ago that I made these - last Wednesday for a friend's going away dinner. I wanted to make something simple that I could easily carry. Sometimes I find myself riding the bus carrying a baking pan full of cupcakes carefully covered in foil so as not to muss the frosting...and fending off stares like 'What, you don't do this?' Cookies fit the easy carry/conceal bill much better.

Cookies also fall into another theme of this blog. My half of this blog could be called 'Linda faces her fears, one culinary challenge at a time.' Chocolate chip cookies are so simple, but I've never been successful making them, and somewhere along the way, I stopped trying. Valiant, I know. I've done the Tollhouse recipe, an Ina Garten recipe, a Betty Crocker recipe...and none have turned out the right taste or texture (the Ina was especially a let down). I started to think a perfect, home-made cookie was a myth. But, since July of 2008, a much heralded New York Times recipe has been making its way around foodies and food blogs, and hype has been raised. There are now so many iterations of these cookies, and the results seem to be generally good (if not allegedly phenomenal.) So more than a full year after the fact, I flagged down the band wagon, and humbly climbed on.

The 'big idea' : David Leite, the author, researched the origins, variations and secrets of this institutional cookie and the people who made/make it. He finds the perfect cookie should be crunchy around the outer edge, chewy in the center, and have a noticeable ring of transition between the two. To achieve this, the cookies must be large (5 inches!). He also recommends fancy dark chocolate, because it stands to reason that good chocolate will make a good chocolate chip cookie. There is also the juxtaposition of salty and sweet, and David's recipe calls for a sprinkle of salt over the cookies before baking. And lastly, and most interestingly, he recommends that the cookie dough should be allowed to rest for 36 hours before baking. I should know more about this since I majored in chemistry, but apparently it has something to do with letting all the flavors come together, something about the egg....

Here's my take on these guys. I didn't think I could bring myself to bake a five inch cookie. I chickened out. I didn't have fancy chocolate, but I did have many bags of organic semi-sweet chips, so I used those. I used plenty of salt in the dough, but I straight up forgot to sprinkle sea salt before baking. Whoops. BUT, I did manage to leave the dough alone for first 24 hours, then 36. And, for the first time, I produced a cookie worth writing home about.

I shaped each cookie as a 1/4 cup. They came out about 3 inches across, and I could discern the three textures mentioned in the article. They were best the day they were baked, as the centers were incredibly chewy. I also underbaked them a lot more than I thought necessary, and they came out perfect. I randomly had some caramel left over in my fridge, so for one batch, I filled the centers of the cookies with a chunk of caramel, which melted into a thin layer while baking (you can see a little leaking out in the one above). That was pretty yummy.
I'm really not sure how integral the resting period was as opposed to this simply being a great recipe, but I'm sold. It might seem fussy, but actually, it makes the process a little easier. I made the dough one night, and that didn't take very long. Then the next night, I baked them, ten minutes a batch. I feel pretty good about myself, one more thing under my belt. Will surely be making these again.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour (I used all purpose)
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour (I randomly had bread flour, so I did use it here)
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 (I used 1 1/2 cups brown, slightly less than one cup white)
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 regular chips. Shrug.)
Sea salt. (Whoops.)
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.
My notes on step 4: I make 1/4 cup mounds, made three inch cookies, baked for about 11 minutes per batch, and cooled minimally on the pan before transferring to the rack. I found that the bottoms continued to brown on the pan after being removed from the oven, so transferring earlier will just make for a chewier cookie. All a matter of opinion.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Linda,

    I don't know you but I'm a friend of Erin's. I hear you on the challenges of transporting cupcakes. My cousin raves about this cupcake carrier.

    It is kind of bulky and comes across more as a mom-transporting-cupcakes-in-her-SUV-for-her-kids-class sort of thing than a 20-something-on-the-bus thing, but looks handy nonetheless.


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