May 18, 2009

Foodie Guest Blog #1: Chewy and delicious chocolate chip cookies

Yay! The first official guest blog from my foodie friend, Linds. I have to point out one other shared trait and why I love her so much.... She's the only other person I know who religiously reads and re-reads restaurant menus before going so we know exactly what to expect and then drool a little bit over how good the upcoming meal will be. It's no surpise that our conversations during dinner revolve around three things: Food, semiconductors (odd and yes, we know it's odd), men and then back to food. I must say, I've been looking forward to this post and after hearing how great these cookies turned out, I might just make them myself this week!

Chew & delicious chocolate chip cookies (by Lindsey James)

I have been making chocolate chip cookies my whole life – probably because I have the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I know – but I’ve never had that one recipe that made me forsake all others. I was always trying new recipes, changing the ones I had (even fooling around with my mom’s trademark chocolate chip cookie recipe…shhh). But, I think those days may be done. Last week, I turned out the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever made. Bold statement, but it’s true.

I was initially intrigued by Smitten Kitchen’s description of Leite’s consummate chocolate chip cookie, in which she describes how David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria, set out to find the consummate chocolate chip cookie. The resulting recipe was published in the New York Times over the summer of 2008.

According to Smitten, a couple of the things that Leite learned from his extensive research include:
  • Ruth Graves Wakefield, who owned the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusettes in the 1930s, where she invented the chocolate chip cookie, wrote that she would let the dough rest overnight before using it.
  • Shirley Corriher, author of CookWise, a book about science in the kitchen, who agreed that an overnight rest was the best way to get a drier and richer dough that has fully soaked up the egg.
  • Maury Rubin, owner of City Bakery said that then cookies must be served warm for optimal yumminess (my word, not his), that the dough must rest for 36 hours minimum, and that the cookies themselves should be enough to allow for three different textures: crisp edges, a soft center and a ring between them which is chewy, with hints of toffee.

Leite picked up a few additional tips (i.e. don’t underestimate the value of salt in baked goods … I can’t argue with that as salty-sweet combos are my favorite) and, thus, turned out the recipe below. As I read Smitten’s blog about making the cookies, and then looked at pictures of gooey doughy broken apart cookies, well, I was hooked.
I wasn’t misled. Oh. My. God. These cookies are AMAZING. I don’t know if it’s the different types of flour used, letting the dough rest so long, the salt on top….but, they are magic. The only problem is keeping yourself from snacking on that oh-so-delicious dough as it “rests” in the fridge for 36 hours.

A quick note on the chocolate discs: Looking at Smitten’s pictures, the chocolate feves make for some pretty cookies, but I had trouble finding them (apparently Whole Foods is a good place to try). I used Gihardelli’s 60% cacao large chocolate chips and the cookies were fabulous. I think the high % cacao is important to keep the cookies from being too sicky sweet.

As an alternative, I think these would be fabulous if you did them with white chocolate and macadamia nuts – one of my favorites. The salt plus the white chocolate – how could you go wrong? This dough is truly amazing though – next I’m going to try tossing in nuts and dried cranberries instead of chocolate chips to see how that turns out. Stay tuned.

Leite’s Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from
David Leite via The New York Times and Smitten Kitchen

Takes: 45 minutes (not counting dough rest time)
Makes: about 1 ½ dozen 5-inch cookies (unless you eat too much of the raw dough ;)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate discs, feves or large chocolate chips
Sea salt
** optional – roughly chopped walnuts. I added these to ½ of the dough for the nut lovers and I found the added crunch to be totally delicious. I like a nutty cookie, so I added about 1 C chopped walnuts. I also added ¼ cup coconut flakes to half of the batch for comparison sake. This is one of my mom’s old tricks as you can’t really taste the coconut once the cookies are cooked, but it adds some extra depth to the flavor.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. If you don’t have a sifter, you can stir with a fork – just make sure all the dry ingredients get mixed up evenly.
2. Using either a mixer with a paddle attachment – or, if you’re not that fancy, a wooden spoon works just great – mix the butter and the sugars together for about 5 minutes, until you get a light, creamy and consistent mixture. Add your eggs in, one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla.

3. At a lower speed (if you’re using a mixer), then add in your dry ingredients a bit at a time, until the mixture is just combined. Be careful not to overmix. Then you can add in your chocolate discs/chips or whatever carefully – if you use discs, mix them in slowly by hand so you don’t break them. If you’re adding in nuts or any other goodies, now is the time to toss them in too.

4. Measure out a large sheet of plastic wrap and dump all of your dough into the center, wrapping it tightly so the plastic is pressed right up against the dough with as little air as possible getting in. Pop the wrapped dough in the fridge for 24-36 hours and try to resist snicking off hard little slices of dough to go with your morning coffee the next day.

5. Take your chilled dough out of the fridge and make 3 and ½ oz (Smitten describes them as the size of large golf balls, which helped me eyeball) balls of dough on a baking sheet. About 6 was the max I could fit. Make sure to put the cookies on either parchment paper or tinfoil to avoid sticking. I used a fork to mash the tops of the dough ever so slightly, so when I sprinkle the sea salt onto the top, it does not just roll off the round balls.
The recipe calls for baking the cookies 18-20 minutes. For me, 15-16 minutes worked better, but I like a very soft cookie. Even when I served these the next day, the cookies were chewy and delicious in the middle, with a lovely crunchier texture on the outside. Heaven. Note, if you go for the shorter baking time, do NOT transfer the cookie to a cooling rack too soon after you take it out of the oven or it will melt into a gooey mess between the rack bars – delicious, but kind of a mess. Let the cookies cool at least 30 min before transferring them to a wire rack.

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