Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sweet Tooth

I’m not much of a dessert maker since my kids have grown. Frankly, I just don’t need the calories. But, I have been known to stop by my favorite bakery and get a nice juicy (if that’s a good descriptor) chocolate chip cookie to satisfy a sweet moment. They’re just one of those cookies I just never seem to make to taste as good as some of the bakeries…until now (I hope). While in Ann Arbor I was given the local newspaper to read and whoo hoo there was this article in the food section called “Thanks, Mrs. Wakefield”.

Okay, so you never heard of Mrs. Wakefield? Ah, let me pass on my new knowledge. Ruth Graves Wakefield, inventor of the Chocolate Chip Cookie. Invented in 1930’s, in a serendipitous moment, when some Nestles semi-sweet chocolate ended up in her recipe for Butter Drop Do cookies. She was the owner of the Toll House Inn….and there we go, your “Ah ha” moment of today. But, as Paul Harvey would say, “And now, for the REST of the story!”

It’s a great recipe that you get on those tiny semi-sweet kisses from Nestles but it’s not like the occasional bakery that makes you drool for one like a hound with a biscuit on his nose. To quote the Herve Poussot, a baker and owner of Almondine, in Brooklyn, “If it was just a matter of a recipe we’d all be out of business. It’s what goes into the making of the cookie that makes all of the difference.” Okay, I can buy that. I’ve had a great steak and a so-so one with the same cut of meat depending on the cook/ and or restaurant. And so have you. The only difference was who prepared the meal. Makes sense to me....

So here I am, thinking if I’m missing some great secret on the chip front please fill me in because I want to be a hit at holidays with my family. I keep reading and finally someone spills the beans. Maury Rubin, of City Bakery, says “you have to let the dough sit for 36 hours before you bake it.” Shirley Corriher, author of Cooking Wise, pipes in with “Oh, that Maurys’ a sly one. He’s allowing the dough and other ingredients to fully soak up the liquid – in this case, the eggs – in order to get drier and firmer dough, which bakes to a better consistency. She goes on to say a long hydration time is important because eggs, unlike, say water are gelatinous and slow-moving. In addition, making matters worse, the butter coats the flour acting kind of like "border patrol guards" and prevent the liquid from getting through to the dry ingredients. The extra time in refrigeration takes care of that problem. Niceeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Now I have to know science to bake my cookies. Oh help me. I'm a science flunky.

The second insight Rubin offered up was about cookie size. His cookies are 6 inches because he believes that the larger size allows for three distinct textures. “First, there’s the crunchy outside inch or so. Then there’s the center which is soft. But the real magic,” he added, “is the one-and-a-half inch ring between them where the two textures and all of the flavors mix.”


But, I’m going to have to wait 36 hours….ugh! Included below is the recipe they mentioned. Sounds yummy except I think I’ll replace the chocolate disks or “feves” (oh come on now!) with the old stand-by kisses. I mean where am I going to get “feves” in Northern Michigan. The local Wal-Mart doesn’t carry them. Included is the recipe they printed. I also think you could “rest” your own recipe for 36 hours to make a cookie improvement.

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 ½ cups (b ½ ounces) bread flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or feves, at least 60 percent cacao content
Sea Salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with a 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 the 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 up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.
4. Scoop six (3 ½ ounce) mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, slip cookies to another rack to finish cooling.
5. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes 1 ½ dozen 5-inch cookies.


rosebud101 said...

Sharon, that sounds so good. Make me a batch, please!

Deb said...

OK - now I'm hungry (& it's 1.35am down here in NZ -lol). I love chocolate chip cookies while they are still warm from the oven.....
They sound delicious Sharon - & doesn't all that darn science make so much sense when you stop to think about it? Guess I'll be trying to bake this weekend....scary thought because all I have beein cooking lately is glass ;o)

Right Turn ArtWerks said...

Hi Guys, I'm with you. The only thing cooking is beads, beads, and more beads. I am so craving these cookies though that I'm picking up ingredients tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes. Did you get a chance to try them out Deb? I had a PB&J for lunch - living it up! He he...I need (deserve) those cookies.