Everybody seems to have a chocolate-chip cookie recipe they swear by as their long-standing, all-time best. And for this cookie-lover, trying each and every one of those recipes is a feat worth attempting. But recently, first at Orangette, then in clips at Tastespotting, then at the article itself in the New York Times, I heard about THE chocolate-chip cookies, the ones that the experts got together on (or most specifically, David Leite) and created, the one that is really, truly the absolute best of the best and the chocolate-chip cookie that will make you dance with joy. I was this weekend, after more than a month of hearing such high praises, convinced of one thing. I have to have them, and I have to have them now.
It’s a long weekend, and, most poetically, it’s a long weekend all about celebrating the labor forces of our country. A weekend about how hard we all work? A weekend to celebrate with an extra day off? No, really, could there be a more perfect time to try these perfect cookies?
Personally, I cannot think of a better way to commemorate than with these best, tastiest, highly acclaimed and much-blogged-about chocolate-chip delights. And it’s a really good thing it’s a long weekend, indeed, as these cookies take time. 36 hours, to be exact.
What I’ve learned, via the NY Times article, is that the best bakers swear by chilling the cookie dough for 24 to 36 hours before baking. This wait time, though agonizing for sugar fiends like myself, is all-important for letting the liquid ingredients seep into the dry ones. I’ll tell you now: that fact alone almost stopped me from making these. It was probably the only thing, in fact, because after one reads a post at Orangette, it’s hard to find reasons to do anything but leap to the kitchen and begin whistling a happy tune.
But now, having combined the ingredients with my new KitchenAid mixer and stored the dough in my refrigerator for 22 hours the first time, then 40 for the next batch, I’ll tell you this much: it’s worth it. It was worth it when I brought them to a dinner party Saturday night and saw people going for seconds, then thirds. It was worth it when the batches disappeared at home as fast as I could bake them. It was, mostly, worth it the moment I bit into a cookie’s crunchy outer rim and moved into the soft, chewy center. These aren’t just any chocolate-chip cookies. These are the ultimate chocolate-chip cookies, the only chocolate-chip cookies, the ones you have to, have to, have to try.
In terms of the recipe proper, I stuck pretty close to the original instructions, even using the cake flour and the bread flour, as the recipe says, since we had them on hand. (I’ve heard all-purpose is a reliable stand-in, if you must.) The only things I changed were:
1) The chocolate discs: Whole Foods didn’t even have the fancy discs, and there’s no way I was going to hunt for a specialty store just in the name of finding them. As Molly did in her adaptation, I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips, which are 60% cacao. On that note, I only bought one bag of chips, which is roughly 11.5 ounces, nowhere near the 20 ounces (1 1/4 pounds) the recipe requests. In my opinion, the result was plenty chocolatey, with huge chunks in every bite I tasted.
2) The brown sugar: As fate would have it, we were left with only an 1/8 cup of brown sugar in the house. Rather than reshopping, I Googled substitutes and made my own mix of white sugar and molasses.
3) The sea salt: We didn’t have sea salt on hand, and I wasn’t intrigued enough to buy a package. We did, however, have coarse kosher salt, and I figured that’d do the trick just as well. (However, I’ll admit I’ve now read enough online about sea salt to think it worth testing out in not just this, but many foods.)
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 ½ ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 ½ ounces) bread flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt, such as kosher
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups; 10 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar (alternate option: granulated sugar + molasses)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks, preferably about 60% cacao content
Coarse salt for sprinkling
Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
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.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat (I love my Silpat!). Set aside.
Scoop 6 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 coarse 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.