Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

If I can share this recipe for perfect chocolate chip cookies today, it’s because I’ve always enjoyed the food sections of American newspapers, these pull-out pages that appear in the regular edition on a given day of the week (usually Wednesday) to cover local food and drink news, with recipes. Not all of them have the same standards or budget, and I am told the good ones are an endangered species, but between the Seattle Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Oregonian, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times*, the hungry reader has more than enough to last him through the week.

The French newspaper scene has a completely different structure, but still, I wish major publications such as Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération, or Les Echos devoted more ink to a subject that is, after all, a source of national pride. Aside from restaurant reviews, a column here and there, and all too brief discussions on trendy foods, they seem to leave the topic for cooking or women’s magazines to cover. I sense a slight sexist slant (there’s an alliteration for you), but perhaps that’s just me.

I am all the more grateful for the online content made available by American newspapers, and for the commissioning of such articles as David Leite‘s story on the consummate chocolate chip cookie, published in the New York Times last summer: the creator of Leite’s Culinaria gathered advice from chocolate chip cookie experts in order to offer a recipe for perfect chocolate chip cookies.

I don’t really believe in the perfect anything — perfection is in the eye of the beholder — but I was very interested in David’s findings, especially the idea that the dough should rest for 36 hours before baking, and I promptly filed the recipe in my virtual “to try” folder.

But then, as perhaps you remember, I was kitchen-less last summer and oven-deprived for a good six months after that (hell, I tell you), so the chocolate chip cookie recipe went unbaked and near forgotten, until Pim rekindled the flame with her recent post.

My attempt at perfect chocolate chip cookies

The next morning found me mixing the ingredients for the dough, adapting the recipe to my needs and taste: I halved the recipe, simplified it by using just one type of sugar and one type of flour, and decreased the amount of sugar a bit. The dough was a snap to make; all in all, it took little more than fifteen minutes.

I baked the first batch the next day, after a 29-hour wait (but who’s counting) and made the cookies almost three times smaller than instructed: despite what the article states on the influence of size on texture, I could not bring myself to form balls of cookie dough that weighed in at 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) and would bake to be six inches (~15 cm) wide. It’s just not the scale of baked goods I grew up with, and I’m not programmed to enjoy such jumbo cookies.

As a consequence — or perhaps it was David Leite punishing me for my insubordination — my first batch was overbaked: I had thought to decrease the baking time, but I let the cookies rest for a further 10 minutes on the hot baking sheet, as the recipe suggests. This is likely necessary for large cookies to finish baking, but my cookies were too small to withstand that treatment, and they turned out crunchy. Tasty, but crunchy throughout; the worst possible outcome for a chocolate chip cookie.

The next batches on subsequent days were infinitely better, once I’d fine-tuned the baking time and procedure, and the resulting chocolate chip cookies were without a doubt the best I’ve ever baked: a great balance of flavors, and a lovely crispness at the edges that morphed gradually into the fudge-like chewiness of the center.

Like Molly, I like chocolate chip cookies best once they’ve cooled, and although it may sound impossibly trying to some, I will go so far as to say that these taste even better the day after they’re baked.

* Some of these online editions require a registration. Feel free to add a recommendation for your favorite food section if it’s not listed here!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Green Quiche with Walnuts

For the past couple of months, my weekly vegetable allotment has included big bags of salad greens, oftentimes the scratchy and flavorful kind such as frilly mustard leaves or peppery mizuna or a mix of both.

We love to eat those dressed in a classic vinaigrette or a cooked shallot vinaigrette. But there’s only so much salad even I can eat before green tendrils start growing out of my ears — and only so many days these greens can spend in the crisper before they lose their pert. So I devised this green quiche recipe with walnuts to use up a bunch of them, with some walnuts thrown in for extra crunch and flavor.

There’s only so much salad even I can eat before baby green tendrils start growing out of my ears, so I devised this green quiche recipe to use up my greens.

I make this green quiche with my trusty and beloved olive oil tart crust: I drape it over and into a deep tart ring to produce a petite but thick quiche, which I find attractive. Such tart rings are available from professional cooking and baking supplies stores — I believe I got mine from E. Dehillerin — but if you don’t have that on hand, a regular pie or quiche pan will work just fine.

So far I’ve kept this quiche vegetarian, but the addition of crumbled bacon, no-additives lardons sautéed until crisp, or torn strips of leftover roast chicken wouldn’t hurt one bit.

As a bonus, this green quiche recipe will leave you with scraps of olive oil tart pastry, which I recommend you upcycle into these seaweed and seed crackers.

Join the conversation!

Do you ever find yourself with a glut of greens, and if so, how do you deal with it when you tire of salads?

Greens and Walnut Quiche

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Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

Not long after my second son was born, I received a message from Audrey, a reader I’d been conversing with via emails and comments, who wanted to recommend a recipe drawn from the French blog La Belle au blé dormant*. It was a recipe for a sesame chocolate bar garnished with squash seeds, sunflower seeds, and caramelized sesame, which both she and the blog’s author Nolwenn had found instrumental in surviving the first few weeks with a newborn.

I read through the recipe and at first the idea of my finding the time and brain bandwidth to make something like this seemed laughable, but it turns out my appetite for chocolate is strong enough to move mountains: I could not get that recipe out of my head, and within a few days I was indeed preparing a modified version for myself — one with just the sesame — accomplishing one small step at a time in between maternal duties.

The smooth bitterness of the dark chocolate combined with the crunchy, nutty, caramelized sweetness of the sesame clusters made for a sublime combination, and already I knew that chocolate bar would not live to see the end of the week.

The sesame chocolate bar project

On one morning, I toasted the sesame seeds. Later, I made the caramel, mixed in the sesame, and broke up that (tasty, tasty) sesame bark into small clusters. The next day, I dug out my digital probe thermometer and tempered the chocolate (yes, tempered the chocolate, that’s how ambitious I was), stirred in the caramelized sesame nuggets, and poured the mixture into a narrow loaf pan.

A couple of hours later, when the dust had settled and the chocolate had set, I unmolded the thick sesame chocolate bar, had a taste, and my eyes rolled back into their sockets: this was insanely! good! The smooth bitterness of the dark chocolate** combined with the crunchy, nutty, caramelized sweetness of the sesame clusters made for a sublime combination, and already I knew that chocolate bar would not live to see the end of the week.

I have since made several more batches of that caramelizes sesame chocolate bar, and even invested in two silicone molds such as these to make actual bars with breakable squares (the faint swirls in that picture indicate I failed to temper the chocolate properly that day; I’m still not a pro at it, and the baby was crying). Some of these bars went straight into my belly, others were given away as gifts — one of them to a new mother — and I am happy to say they made a gratifying impression on the recipients.

I’ll note that if you don’t have the time or inclination to make the actual bars, you should consider making just the caramelized sesame: it’s extremely easy and a wonderful treat in its own right.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever made your own chocolate bars? What recipe did you use and how did you like the results?

PS: Make this wonderful Cinnamon Granola Chocolate Slab or these easy Ginger and Almond Chocolate Clusters, and make sure you know How To Taste Chocolate!

* Allow me to explain the pun: La Belle au bois dormant (literally, “the beauty sleeping in the woods”) is French for Sleeping Beauty, and the author of this allergy-conscious blog has replaced bois (woods) by blé (wheat).

** [sc:chocolate]

Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

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Otium Salad with Roasted Radishes and Shaved Asparagus

Otium Salad

Photography by Céline de Cérou.

Do you know what Otium means? Otium is the Latin word for virtuous leisure, a time free of obligation that is spent in contemplation, and the cultivation of one’s spirit.

This is a concept that resonates with me deeply, as I have become more and more interested in personal development and mind management these past few years, a passion that has led me to create a podcast and a life coaching practice, for which I am about to get certified.

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French Easter Pie with Spinach and Goat Cheese

French Easter Pie with Spinach and Goat Cheese

Among the French dishes traditional served at Easter, you’ll find tourte pascale* and pâté de Pâques, French Easter pies enclosed in a flaky crust, with eggs nested inside the filling. The purpose of this is to use up the surplus of eggs that hens have laid during Lent, the six-week period leading up to Easter when Christians abstain from certain foods, including anything derived from animals.

I love French Easter pies; they are fun to make and present beautifully on the table. These tourtes are often filled with minced meat such as you’ll find in French terrines, usually a seasoned mix of veal and pork. Unsurprisingly, I like them even better when they’re filled with vegetables, especially springtime greens. I’ve made it here with spinach, but if you have beet tops, Swiss chard greens, kale, perhaps a little fresh sorrel, those will work just as beautifully.

Some French Easter pie recipes have you put hard-boiled eggs inside, but then the eggs end up quite overcooked, so I prefer to form little nests in the filling and break the uncooked fresh eggs inside them. With fresh goat cheese — also a springtime treat — mixed in with the spinach, the result is a wonderfully moist and aromatic pie, simple and elegant in both its looks and flavor.

French Easter Pie with Spinach and Goat Cheese

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