Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is There a Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie?

It seems like everyone has tried to perfect the tried and true Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe. I wrote about the Cook's Illustrated version here and have now attempted the Jacques Torres version reported on by The New York Times here and now also right here. Just as Cook's relied on a technique of stirring in melted butter to develop a deeper flavor, Jacques relies on the refrigerator, chilling his dough for a minimum of 24 hours. You can read his responses to reader questions here.

I decided to have a test to see if I could really detect a difference in the flavor of the doughs. My friend Kate kindly took on the Cook's recipe, which I know that she had made before, and I attempted the Jacques recipe. I have to admit that I ended up feeling slightly jinxed by it because: 1. I had to go to two different stores to find the flours, 2. In the middle of mixing the dough, I realized that I didn't have enough brown sugar so had to go out again for that, THEN 3. I realized that I didn't buy enough chocolate AFTER I had already mixed everything together. Duh. It's not like it was my first time baking and I did read the entire recipe before shopping. I guess that I just didn't comprehend what I was reading (I must have been watching Real Housewives reruns at the same time). Annoying!

Anyway, I forced a good dozen or so people to sample these cookies (not that I had to twist their arms!) and I ended up getting less feedback on the flavor of the cookie than on the texture. (People are very particular about how soft or crunchy or crisp they like their cookies to be!) Honestly I think that both recipes had a very similar flavor (by the way both Kate and I used the same chocolate so that particular ingredient was a constant). Some comments about the Jacques cookie (on the right in the above photo): "firmer and sweeter," "buttery, more flavorful, nice texture," "tastes richer, more like a traditional chocolate chip cookie." And about the Cook's cookie (on the left in the above photo), more people simply responded to the softer texture. Personally, I think they both taste great, but at the end of the day if I am going to bake cookies, I prefer the immediacy of the Cook's recipe vs. the 24-48 hour wait time for the Jacques recipe. And since I've had his actual cookies, I think I just prefer going to his shop to buy the real thing.

The Jacques Torres Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

(by way of The New York Times)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons, (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
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
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks, at least 60 percent cacao content (such as Ghirardelli 60% chips)
Sea salt

1. Sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low, add the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined, about 10 seconds. Drop the chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. The dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop six 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto the 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 the sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with the remaining dough, or reserve the dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Serve warm with a cold glass of milk. Makes: 18 (5-inch) cookies.

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