Now that it’s February and those who had plans for eating better in 2015 have given up, it is an appropriate time to talk about cookies, specifically chocolate chip cookies, a standard in kitchens across the US. My love of cookies runs deep, going to back to my youth when they were really the only type of sweet that held my interest. What I made regularly for many years was the Toll House recipe until I happened upon the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
I had only recently moved to Tacoma, where the summers are not as hot as we have here in Boston, and certainly not as humid. (Actually, for a place that is so wet throughout the year, the summers there are surprisingly dry!) Shortly before the cross-country move I was introduced to the idea of a food blog by way of a Bon Appétit article where the columnist, Molly Wizenberg, wrote about foraging for blackberries in Seattle to make jam. It noted she was the voice behind the blog Orangette, so not really knowing what this meant, I promptly looked up her site and began following the posts that eventually brought me to the cookie recipe, originally in the New York Times.
What makes the Times recipe stand out, other than the use of fantastic chocolate, is the idea of letting the dough hydrate by resting in the fridge for a few days and then sprinkling the dough with sea salt before baking. Hydrate, you say, what are we baking bread? I won’t get into that there scientific mumbo-jumbo, but the point is the dough soaks up all of the liquid which provides better texture and a more nuanced flavor, almost like caramel. I know, were not talking wine, just cookies, but really, you can taste the difference from a cookie that has not rested versus one that has. Now, I hate to claim something is the best, but friends ask for this recipe and use it to win office baking contests. Martha says they “taste like more”. Isn’t that enough?
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies
Like any recipe that becomes your own, I’ve made some changes to the original recipe, most notably using all-purpose flour in place of the cake and bread flours. If you are feeling fancy, splurge on chocolate fèves, which are oval shaped chocolate pieces found at Whole Foods, but are also available on Amazon, like most other things in the world. (I believe fève refers to some type of bean in French. Je ne sais pas.) Many of the nicer grocers carry chocolate discs or wafers, but I generally use my old supermarket standby of Ghirardelli 60% chips. The nice part is after you let the dough rest for at least 24 hours, you can bake them off in batches or scoop them and freeze them for later. They generally take about 2-4 minutes longer to bake if frozen. In a moment of weakness you can certainly bake them straight away as you would a normal cookie, but you would be missing out the changes in flavor that are caused by the rest. I use a disher for scooping out the cookie dough. Bigger ones can be used for portioning muffin and cupcake batter.
4 cups/17 ounces all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks/10 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups/9 ounces light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups/9 ounces granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
11 ounces chocolate fèves, discs or chips at least 60% cacao
Sel gris, Maldon or another sea salt
Whisk together the flour, powder, soda and salt in a medium bowl until well combined
Place the butter in the bowl of stand mixer and beat for a minute on medium high speed to soften
Reduce the speed to low and add both sugars
Return the speed to medium high and beat until pale colored and slightly fluffy, 3-5 minutes
Turn the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each is incorporated
Add the vanilla and turn the speed to low
Slowly add the dry ingredients (to avoid a plume of flour) and mix until just incorporated
Drop in the chocolate and mix for about 5-10 seconds
Place plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate it for 24-72 hours
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
Line two half-sheet pans with parchment or silicone mats
Scoop the dough into balls with a two tablespoon disher onto the cookie sheet
(You can fit 8 to a pan taking care to keep ample space in between each)
Sprinkle each lightly with sea salt and place in the oven
Bake for about 14 minutes until golden brown at the edges but lighter and softer in the middle
Place the sheet pan on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes then transfer the cookies to a cooling rack