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Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate Chip Cookies’

You might remember my last baking experiment, where I recreated Ruby Tuesday’s Chocolate Tall Cake. All in all, it was a success, with only a few minor mishaps. (The chocolate mousse cake that I baked  looked like a disfigured burger patty smushed in between two slices of Rye bread, but let’s face it, I’m no pastry master!)

I’ve decided to take on something even closer to my heart: the chocolate chip cookie. After my recent quest to find the best chocolate chip cookie in D.C. for Serious Eats, it only makes sense.

To start, I look to a highly influential article from The New York Times called, “Perfection? Hint: It’s Warm and Has a Secret.”

I remember reading this article when it first ran in 2008. David Leite chronicles his search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie and gives his resulting recipe (adapted from Jacques Torres) at the end. Of course, I gave it a try. At first, the steps seemed tedious. Why couldn’t I just use chocolate chips? Chocolate feves, or disks, were more expensive and difficult to find in the grocery store. Even worse, I had to chill the cookies in the refrigerator for 36 hours before I baked them. How was I going to wait a day and a half until I could finally eat these labor-intensive, high maintenance cookies? Despite my reservations, I followed the recipe exactly. The result? Oh my God. They were, in a word, awesome.

In his article, Leite visits several well-known New York bakeries, including The City Bakery. I stopped here on a recent trip to the city and tried one of their famed chocolate chip cookies. I stand by this statement – it was, and still is, the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever had.

So. Good.

So. Good.

In the article, Leite asks The City Bakery’s owner, Maury Rubin, why his cookies are just so damned good. “We bake them in small batches every hour so they’re always fresh…It’s the Warm Rule…Even a bad cookie straight from the oven has its appeal,” said Rubin.

Rubin has another secret. He chills the dough for 36 hours before baking the cookies, a technique that results in a deep, golden brown cookie with a crispy, chewy texture.

There are other qualities for the ideal chocolate chip cookie that Leite discusses, such as using at least 60% cacao chocolate and the importance of salt. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt (known as Maldon) over your cookies before you bake them to add a new dimension of flavor to your recipe. Leite notes that many bakers consider this interaction of salty and sweet the real secret to the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

I think Leite’s article is an extraordinary piece. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to try his recipe. It will change your perspective on chocolate chip cookies. It certainly did for me.

So, the question remains: Can I make a better chocolate chip cookie than Leite? Maybe not, but it’s worth a try.

Here’s the plan. First, I’ll create my own recipe. Second, I will rest the dough for different amounts of time to see how it impacts the cookies, much like Leite did in his article. The resting times will be one hour (so I don’t have to wait too long to try them!), 12 hours, 24 hours and 36 hours.

Stay tuned for part two: The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment!

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Captain Cookie & the Milkman, a mobile bakery.

Captain Cookie & the Milkman, a mobile bakery.

If you read my blog, then you probably know one of my biggest weakness when it comes to sweets: chocolate chip cookies. It’s nearly impossible for me to resist a warm, chocolatey cookie, straight from the oven with a chewy center and crisp edges.

With that said, I’ve embarked on the sweetest mission ever: to find the best chocolate chip cookies in Washington, D.C. Over the past few weeks, I have been working on an article for Serious Eats, a food blog based out of New York City. I chose seven of the best chocolate chip cookies in the District and organized a slideshow with my own photographs as well. Expect the article to run in the next few weeks.

J. Chocolatier, a bakery in Georgetown.

J. Chocolatier, a bakery in Georgetown.

In the meantime, I’ve created a map of my favorite spots for chocolate chip cookies in the city. Use it as a quick guide to see what’s around the area you’re in. And hey, you never know – you might live next door to the best chocolate chip cookie in D.C.

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There is so much promise in buying a $5.00 cookie made with Jacques Torres chocolate in New York City. This kind of cookie has the potential to be great, specifically because it is backed by a name known for high quality chocolate.

I remember this cookie well. I bought it in New York City’s Chelsea Market. I was even asked if I wanted my cookie warm or room temperature. For $5.00, I felt that my purchase was going to be well-worth it.

Unfortunately, this cookie did not deliver. I asked for my cookie warm, but it felt more like a sad attempt to mask a cookie that was already stale. The “cookie” part was bland and hard as a rock, while the chocolate had a bitter, burned flavor, like it had been left in the microwave for too long.

I was disappointed, but I finished the cookie anyway. My hands and face were also covered in this ridiculously expensive chocolate. I’m pretty sure Jacques Torres was just having a bad day, so it’s hard for me to pass judgement based on this incident. Still, it was not worth my $5.00.

When I look for a good cookie, I look for several things – quality of chocolate, distribution of chocolate (does it use chocolate chips, chopped chocolate or both?), flavor of the dough, and crispness versus chewiness.

Potbelly, a popular sandwich chain with numerous locations across the country, has a store a few blocks away from my apartment. In addition to my usual sandwich, I always buy an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. (Thanks to dfw.com for the image.)

The cookie is crisp on the outside and soft in the center, just the way I like it. The melted chocolate chips are small enough not to make a mess. The cookie is somewhere in between thick and paper thin. This cookie is much better than the one I previously mentioned, and it’s $1.25.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn the hard way that you don’t always have to visit an expensive, fancy-schmancy bakery with an internationally renowned name to find an excellent chocolate chip cookie. I didn’t have to try to find Potbelly’s cookie, either. They are so abundant I might as well build a house out of them. Wait, a cookie house? Hmm…

Corner Bakery, another sandwich/coffee/desserts chain in D.C., is another winner on my list. The “Monster Cookie” (Pictured, left – thanks to runnersworld.com for the photo.) combines chocolate chips and M&Ms, making it much more chocolatey than Potbelly’s. The cookie is also crisper than Potbelly’s, but it is just as soft in the center. As a result, the contrast of the outside and the center of the cookie is more intense.

This cookie is incredible, and it’s $1.50. There’s a location in Union Station I frequent, but they are all over the city (as well as across the country!).

Grocery stores can also be a good bet for delicious cookies. I have been a fan of Whole Foods’ chocolate chip cookies for years. These cookies tend to be softer and less crisp than the last two I highlighted, but the chocolate chips are rich and flavorful. I also like BJ’s chocolate chip cookies, as well as Harris Teeter’s (My mom used to pack these in my lunches when I was in middle school).

Despite the winning cookies I mentioned above, there really is nothing better than a homemade, freshly baked cookie. If you have a good recipe, take the time to bake your own. I think it makes a difference.

Here is a great recipe I received at culinary school from one of my instructors, Chef Somchet. I like to use Ghirardelli chocolate, which packs the most flavor out of any other chip I’ve ever used.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients

• 4 ½ oz. Crisco
• 4 ½ oz. soft butter
• 8 oz. sugar
• 8 oz. brown sugar (dark)
• 2 eggs
• 1 egg yolk
• ½ tsp. vanilla
• 14 oz. AP flour
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1 tsp. salt
• Sea salt (optional)
• Chocolate chips
• Chopped chocolate bar

Instructions

1. Combine Crisco and softened butter in mixer (can use a hand mixer or a KitchenAid mixer).
2. Add brown sugar and sugar, and then cream with butter and Crisco.
3. Add the yolks and eggs slowly, one at a time.
4. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together, and then add to the other ingredients. Mix well.
5. Add vanilla and continue to mix.
6. Stir in chocolate chip and chopped chocolate with spatula.
7. Use ice cream scoop to place dough onto a sheet tray lined with Crisco.
8. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
9. Sprinkle the top of each cookie dough cluster with sea salt (optional).
10. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

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