Sunday, July 27, 2008

The best chocolate chip cookies that have ever come from my kitchen

I take pride in disseminating information that I think the recipient will find interesting or useful. I think sometimes people mistake it as favoritism – special treatment with a wink – and maybe it is, to an extent (I mean, I don’t bother with people I don’t like), but the truth of the matter is I just want to be helpful. I have a very reliable circle of friends and family who do the same for me, so when I was linked to David Leite’s article in the New York Times for the best-ever chocolate chip cookies a couple Wednesdays ago, I immediately perked up and mentally shelved this recipe for near-future use. (I would have found this article on my own later that day, but there’s a certain satisfaction when someone knows you well enough to recognize information that you will find fascinating.) I’ve enjoyed the City Bakery chocolate chip cookie on both coasts, witnessed the glory of a Levain Bakery cookie on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and became enlightened about the powers of a little extra salt in or on a cookie from Dorie Greenspan with those addictive little Korovas, so a recipe taking bits and pieces from all those solid creations was completely enticing. What occasion can I make these for??? Lucky for him (and me), the friend that sent me the link also had the birthday coming up soonest so what better way to salute such a generous friend than with such amazing-sounding treats?
I decided I would try to follow the recipe to a T, if just once, to accurately evaluate the recipe. I bought the bread flour and knew where to get the feves, but unfortunately, I didn’t have time to get them. Time was counting down as I had to send the cookies by a certain day in order for the cookies not to arrive ridiculously late so I ended up making the dough early enough for it to rest for 36 hours. After a looooong internal dilemma about whether or not to just chop up good bittersweet chocolate, I said “NO! I am going to do this right!” and proceeded to call the stores in West Hollywood that could potentially carry couverture quality chocolate. Bristol Farms only had White and Milk Chocolate discs, Cost Plus World Market had no idea what I was talking about (although I saw that they do, indeed, carry Guittard 61% couverture a few days later), and I didn’t even think of Sur La Table at the time (you can get it there as well).
On baking morning on my way to work, I was able to stop by Surfas where I knew they had what I was looking for, and was even overwhelmed with their selection. Valrhona 62%? 74%? 87%? Cacao-Barry 66%? 72? Mahogany flavors or vanilla notes? Madagascar or the Dominican Republic?? In the end I settled on Cacao-Barry from Africa for $17 for 2 lbs. Eeek. My main concern though, was that the chocolate flavors hadn’t also been flavoring the dough for the last 36 hours. I wasn’t able to mix the couverture in until right before baking, so I hope that didn’t affect the overall taste of the product. I really don’t think it did, because it was absolutely the best chocolate chip cookie I have ever made. This variety isn’t really my favorite kind, but certain self-proclaimed chocolate chip cookie connoisseurs have declared this the best they’ve had as well. The recipe yielded a gorgeous caramel brown specimen with crispy edges that had the most delicious buttery quality to them and I found myself craving those edge pieces, though I usually prefer soft chocolate chip cookies. The 36 hour respite in the fridge definitely produced a more flavorful dough and this practice is soooooo worth it.
Could it be that any dough's awesomeness would increase exponentially when refrigerated? I'll have to try it with other recipes, but for now, this is IT.

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