Saturday, September 19, 2009
The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie
Last summer the New York Times made quite a stir in the baking world when it published an article about Chocolate Chip Cookies with an accompanying recipe. The claim was that these cookies, based on those of Jacques Torres, were no less than the best chocolate chip cookies ever.
Like most bakers I have a "go to" chocolate chip cookie recipe (find it on this post) but I thought I should embark on a quest to see what really IS the best chocolate chip cookie. I made a start (with Dorie Greenspan's cookiesand the Copycat Levain Bakery cookies) but quickly got derailed; I haven't baked any chocolate chip cookies at all in more than a year!
Earlier this week there was a lively discussion amongst my fellow baking Twitterati about the New York Times cookies, and a bunch of us decided to do a virtual NYT CCC bake-along. I wanted something chocolate-y to serve to my book group (to go along with apple turnovers) so these cookies sounded perfect - and would knock a recipe off the "to bake" list.
- One of the biggest keys to success with the NYT recipe is to mix the dough at least 24 hours, but preferably 36 hours, before baking time. I mixed the dough on Wednesday morning, and baked the cookies Thursday evening - about 30 hours later.
- The NYT recipe can easily be found by Googling.
- This is an all-butter recipe, as opposed to my standard recipe which is 2/3 shortening, 1/3 butter.
- Although a full batch makes a big bowl of dough, the yield is only 18 cookies. 5 inch cookies, that is! Although the huge cookies sounded intriguing, I made 1/2 batch, and portioned my dough a bit smaller than the recipe specifies. I needed to have enough for 7 book group members and more to pack up in a box for my mom's bridge group.
- The NYT recommends using flat discs of chocolate. I wasn't going to make a special chocolate run, so I foraged around in the chocolate drawer. I was happy to find Ghiradelli baking pieces, which are actually small flat disks, and an assortment of bar chocolate. I used some of the baking pieces and some chopped Newman's Own dark chocolate. Both of the chocolates were around 72% cocoa. One thing I liked about chopping chocolate is that the dough ended up with all sizes of chocolate - from tiny bits to biggish nuggets.
- The recipe calls for coarse salt in the cookie dough. I have some very coarse sea salt, which is what I used. Additionally, salt is to be sprinkled on top of the cookies just before baking (this was included by the NYT based on a tip by Dorie Greenspan.) I scattered fleur de sel pretty sparingly over the cookies.
- 1/2 batch of dough yielded ten 2 oz balls (which were big cookies) and ten 1.5 oz balls (which were not small). My cookies all spread while baking, so I ended up with thin and chewy cookies, which are my very favorite type. The funny thing is that both amounts of dough produced cookies that were around 4" wide.
- These cookies are definitely better the sooner they are eaten. I think that's because they are butter based - they get a bit dry the following days.
The comments of my tasters mirrored the nearly-universal acclaim these cookies have recieved since the recipe was published:
HY - "this is the best cookie I've ever eaten. It's better than your regular choc chip cookie and it's better than mine"
AT: "I"m not getting into 'good, better, or best,' but this is a really delicious cookie"
The biggest issue of discussion was the salt. Our book group likes salty food, but we waffled about the salt in these cookies. AT liked the salt at first, then wondered if it was a bit much. Her husband, JT, said "I like the salt piece." I think the coarse salt in the dough was a bit aggressive. Every couple of bites there'd be a little salt pocket, and I decided it was distracting from the wonderful texture and chocolate flavor.
I brought the leftover cookies to my mom and put them directly in her freezer to wait for bridge day. She thought they looked delicious, and I wouldn't blame her if she sampled one or two before the card game - I know I would!
And here's where I need to make a pronouncement about these famous cookies. I'll admit that the NYT cookies are worthy CCCs. Spectacular, even. At the same time, maybe I'm a creature of habit, but I did miss the subtle complex flavor of my usual cookie. Oh, and there are just a few more chocolate chip cookie recipes that are begging for me to try them. So the quest will continue, but in the meantime I have two great recipes that I'd proudly serve.