We often settle for a sliced pear, toast with Nutella or ice cream topped with strawberry jam. But some nights we eat warm chocolate chip cookies, and those are the nights when just about everything in the world seems right, even if for just a moment.
Seth asked for cookies on a recent evening when I had none to offer. But the next rainy afternoon seemed like just the day for baking cookies. It was then that I realized I didn't really have a go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies. It's one of those recipes that you can find anywhere, like say the back of a bag of chocolate chips, so why would you need to write one down? Well, it turns out there is a good reason.
Most of those standard recipes will suffice. They'll produce a nice golden cookie studded with chocolate. But every once in a while we eat a chocolate chip cookie that reminds us that even the ordinary can be extraordinary.
I remembered a recipe I'd read nearly two years ago from the New York Times about the best chocolate chip cookie. A quick online search and I'd found it precisely. Although I didn't bake them when I first discovered this recipe, I remembered what set them apart -- a sprinkle of sea salt atop each mound of cookie dough. The recipe also calls for cake flour. Cake flour has a lower protein content than, say, all purpose flour. The lower protein content means the flour will produce less gluten and, in turn, be lighter and fluffier than higher-protein flours. I used cake flour, and I was rewarded with a soft cookie that spread nicely in the warm oven.
Any cookie, no matter the recipe, just tastes better warm, so bake only what you need, freeze the remaining dough, already mounded into cookies. That way, you just pull them out and bake one, two or twelve cookies at a time.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Jacques Torres Originally published in the New York Times, 2008
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. 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.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce 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 sea 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. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.* When I made them, I halved the entire recipe and made smaller cookies (about 3 inches) and wound up with about 18 cookies.