Saturday, August 22, 2009

size matters

Call it a Napoleon complex or maybe just an excuse to eat a really large cookie, but super-size cookies seem to be a 21st century rage, and I am all for it! Setting aside the "wow" factor on these six-inch behemoths, there is plenty of justification for sitting down with a large glass of milk and savoring one.

Made from nothing more than flour, eggs, sugar, leavening agents, salt and chocolate, the cookie seems idiot-proof. After all, it's simple enough that an eighth-grader can make it, right?

Not necessarily.

If it was just a matter of a recipe than there would be many a baker who would be out of business. It's what goes into the making of the cookie that makes the difference. Like the omelet, which many believe to be the true test of a chef, the humble chocolate chip cookie is the baker's crucible.

Besides the ingredients that go into the cookie, one common thread among the top baker's is that they let the dough rest in the refrigerator. What they are doing is ingenious. They are allowing the dough and other ingredients to fully soak up the liquid-in this case the eggs-in order to get a drier and firmer dough, which bakes to a better consistency. A long hydration time is important because the eggs, unlike say, water are gelatinous and slow moving. The result is that the cookies brown more evenly and the flavor deepens with more bass notes of caramel and hints of toffee.

The second insight has to do with the size. The larger size allows for three distinct textures; the crunchy outside, the soft gooey center and the magical space in between where the two textures and all the flavors mix.

Of course what would a chocolate chip cookie be without the wallop of good chocolate? My chocolate of choice is Valrhona Equatorial 55%. These "Les Fèves" or discs are flat and melt superbly. By using this chocolate you achieve something that melts beautifully. Break apart one of these cookies and a curious thing happens, inside aren't chunks of chocolate, but rather a thin dark stratum, the result of which is layers of chocolate and cookie in every bite.

Although it doesn't seem possible to take this Cookie to the next level, leave it to Dorie Greenspan the author of "Paris Sweets" to do so. She suggests that salt, specifically Fleur de sel (sea salt) in the dough and also sprinkled on top adds a dimension that can lift even a common cookie to glory.

I agree.

The recipe below is an adaptation of a Jacques Torres recipe. I think it is a hands down winner.

Do you doubt it? Well, there's only one way to find out.



Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. Fleur de sel or kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 ounces Valrhona fèves, oval shaped chocolate pieces (found at Whole Foods)
Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with the 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.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
Scoop 6- 3 1/2 ounces 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 the Fleur de sel and bake until golden brown but still soft, 10 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.

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