Chips ahoy, unabridged

I recently consolidated all I know about these delightful chocolate chip cookies for people I share them with, so here it is:

Serving suggestion the next day: Microwave one cookie for fourteen seconds. You won’t regret it.

The cookies, pictured above in my kitchen in 2010, are my variation of what are widely referred to on the web as the…

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original 2008 article in the Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/09chip.html

Accompanying recipe: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015819-chocolate-chip-cookies

Throughout and at the end are my notes on improving and simplifying the recipe and making it more affordable while still delicious.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 ½ ounces, 240g) cake flour [examples available in supermarkets are Swan’s Down, Softasilk, and King Arthur Cake Blend]
  • 1 ⅔ cups (8 ½ ounces, 240g) bread flour
  • [You can safely substitute 4 cups/17 ounces/480g of all-purpose flour for the cake and bread flours because the above combination results in a protein content right in the range of all-purpose flour; bread flour is generally 14-16% protein, cake flour is 7 or 8%, and all-purpose flour is 10-12%]
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt [kosher salt to you and me – or you can substitute 1 teaspoon table salt]
  • 2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups/10 ounces/280g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces/280g) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces/225g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • [My addition: 1 ½ cups pecans, toasted as described in my note 1 below]
  • 1 ¼ pounds/565g bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see tip)
  • Sea salt for sprinkling before baking [see my note 4 below]

Tip

  • Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods. [people with earthbound budgets, see my note 3 below]

Preparation

  1. [Toast pecans as described in my note 1 below and allow to cool]
  2. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside. [flours generally don’t need sifting these days, so I just measure them into a bowl – the flour by weight – and whisk thoroughly]
  3. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, 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 [pecans and] chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. [See my note 2 below about skipping this next step] 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.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
  5. [See my note 5 below about portion control – these are way too big] Scoop six 3 1/2-ounce/100g 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 sea salt [I bolded that because it’s really easy to forget] and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. [I simply slide the parchment off the baking sheet onto my kitchen island] Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

My notes on the recipe:

  1. Pecans: They’re essential in chocolate chip cookies for me. Before starting the recipe, I break a cup-and-a-half of pecan halves into quarters and toast them on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 300F for 10-12 minutes. When you start to smell them, they’re toasted. Don’t forget to boost the oven to 350F afterward for the cookies. Add the cooled pecans to the dough just before the chocolate chips go in. Pricing note: Costco sometimes has 2-pound bags of raw pecan halves for about US$12, which is what pecans used to cost down South about 20 years ago. That’s a lot of pecans, but you can freeze them and they won’t go rancid after six months.
  2. The so-called curing stage: Because I found it hard to believe anything can migrate anywhere in what is a very thick cookie dough, especially after chilling, and the fact that the flour will autolyze – soak up the liquid – in well under an hour, I did extensive blind taste-testing with friends when this recipe came out in 2008. We determined definitively that the 24- to 36-hour “curing” in the fridge is a sad example of wishful thinking of the “Sounds gourmet, right?” variety. Any difference in flavor was purely due to different baking times that people unconsciously or consciously used. It brings nothing to the party other than an unforgivable delay in access to your cookies, and who needs that stress?
  3. Inexpensive chocolate: Jacques Torres is a peach of a guy, but forget about his chocolate discs and those Valrhona fèves; they would make these cookies prohibitively expensive. Instead, use two 10-ounce/285g bags of Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate chips, which are delicious, in shape halfway between a standard chip and a disc (meaning the chocolate spreads well inside the cookies – see the photo), and priced between US$2.99 and $3.39 a bag at Market Basket depending on whether they’re on sale. They’re strangely up to $6.99 a bag at Stop & Shop and other supermarkets, way above Ghirardelli’s suggested list price of US$4.75.
  4. Sea salt: I use Maldon Sea Salt from the UK, available inexpensively on Amazon and in some US supermarkets. It’s also a nice finishing salt for salads, steaks, fish, &c.
  5. Portion control: I find their suggested 3½ ounce/100g scoop size ridiculous – that’s a #10 disher size, what you’d use for an ice cream cone, fercripesake. It’s no wonder so many pictures of these you see on the web depict wonky and/or partially raw cookies. I want more cookies that last longer, not cookies the size of Wales that I can’t finish, so I use a heaping tablespoon – a #30 disher or a not-quite-full #24 disher (the one I have), about an ounce/30g, will do that nicely.
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