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!