cookie quest

I'm not a huge sweets person. But when I am, you can be sure that I'll reach for a cookie before I go after a slice of cake. Growing up my dad was the king of the chocolate chip cookie. His recipe? The one from the back of the bag of Nestle Toll House (remember that Friends episode?) but substituting shortening for the butter. Dad's cookies were the best I ever had for the first twenty-ish years of my life.

But then (sorry Dad), I moved to New York and discovered a new kind of chocolate chip cookie. One that was flatter than my dad's, with a crunchy outside and chewy inside with ribbons of chocolate flowing through it. I sampled cookies from all the "best" NYC spots - City Bakery, Jacques Torres, Levain - and was hooked. The biggest problem was that each of those cookies had new york pricing and none of the bakeries were anywhere close to where I lived or worked. So I kept my cookie cravings at bay, choosing to indulge only occasionally, whenever I happened to be near one of the cookie crafters. 

But then, a few weeks ago, I found myself with a big chocolate chip cookie hankering. I decided to Google "best chocolate chip cookie in NYC" to decide where to venture for my fix. The the articles I found (and more so the comments on the articles) were numerous and conflicting. One consistency though, was that many of the articles mentioned the "New York Times" cookie recipe. Another quick search and I was presented with a journalist's similar cookie quest followed by a recipe. THE recipe.

It seemed easy enough. And if the recipe could guarantee the chocolate chip cookie I'd grown to love right from my own kitchen, well then I had more reason than ever to give it a go. So I added the "special" ingredients to my Fresh Direct cart (i.e. cake flour and some really good chocolate nibs) and set to work.
The recipe was easy enough. No fancy technique or equipment  Outside of the cake flour and special chocolate, the main difference was in the rest time. The dough must rest for 24 hours. This seemed to the be the magic trick and also the hardest lesson in self control. Try keeping yourself (and your husband) from eating fresh cookie dough from the fridge. It's not easy. But we did it. And the following night I baked up a batch of cookies. 

*drool* warm cookies
Oh man! These were good. They weren't exactly like my bakery shop cookies, but very, very close. I'm sure another few tries and I'll get even closer. I mostly think that my oven tends to run hot - I cut a few minutes off the bake time on my second batch. Perhaps I'll do another test again this weekend. All this cookie conversation has peaked my cravings all over again.

And now, the important part. The recipe.  Copied exactly as it appears in The New York Times (click here for the corresponding article).

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Published: July 9, 2008, The New York Times
Adapted from Jacques Torres

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

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 or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt.

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

2. Using a mixer fitted with 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.

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

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce 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 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. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

Has anyone else tried this recipe? Any other "best" chocolate chip cookie recipes I need to try? Anyone feel strongly about where to procure the best chocolate chip cookie in New York City? What bout Kansas City folks -where do you go? Grab a cookie. Let's discus.


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