New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

September 17, 2012

in Chocolate,Cookies,Desserts

Most of us who grew up in Massachusetts are familiar with the story of how Ruth Graves Wakefield invented the chocolate chip cookie, also known as Toll House cookies.  For those of you who aren’t, she and her husband owned the Toll House Inn, a charming inn and restaurant located halfway between Boston and New Bedford.  The house was built in 1709 and was part inn, part restaurant, and part toll collection booth for the toll road—hence the name for the inn.  Ruth became known for the meals and desserts she made and attracted quite a following in New England.

One day in 1930 as she was making a butter cookie, she found she had run out of an important ingredient, a powdered chocolate.  So, she substituted cut-up pieces of a Nestlé’s semisweet chocolate bar—but, to her surprise, the chocolate did not melt but kept its shape after baking.  She served them to her guests, calling them “chocolate chip” cookies, and people went crazy over them.  The cookies became so popular that her recipe was published in a Boston newspaper.

After people began making them at home, Nestlé’s noticed that sales of their chocolate bars increased dramatically.  Once Nestlé’s discovered the reason for their increased sales, they approached Ruth and made a deal with her.  If she would let them print her recipe on the back of their chocolate bar package, they would supply her with semisweet chocolate for the rest of her life.  In 1939, Nestlé’s began marketing chocolate chip morsels so that no chopping was required, and the rest is history.  But…

As it turns out, when Nestlé’s printed Ruth’s recipe on their packaging, they left out an important step that Ruth always followed when making her cookies—chilling the dough overnight.  “At Toll House, we chill this dough overnight,” she wrote in her “Toll House Cook Book” (Little, Brown, 1953).  Who knew?

Recently, in my lifetime quest to find the world’s best chocolate chip cookie recipe, I have found that more and more recipes include chilling the dough for up to 36 hours before baking.  Doing so results in a more richly flavored cookie with strong caramel and toffee notes.  Remember that old saying, “Better living through chemistry?”  Well, that applies here—the chemistry of the cookie changes with a long chill time because it gives the dough time to fully soak up the liquid from the eggs causing it to become drier and firmer.  The cookies baked from this chilled dough have a firmer consistency and stronger flavor.

In 2008, David Leite, the well-known food writer, interviewed pastry chefs at some of New York City’s best bakeries to try to gain insight as to what made their chocolate chip cookie stand out from all the others.  Three tips stood out—chilling the dough, making  the cookie larger, and sprinkling the cookie with sea salt.  Armed with these tips, Leite adapted Jacques Torres’ recipe to create what is now known as “The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie.”  Leite wrote about his experience in a very interesting article published in The New York Times in July 2008.

Making these NYT chocolate chip cookies is a rite of passage for bloggers—“making one’s bones,” so to speak.  Last week, I finally got around to making these—and amazing cookies they are!  One of the things that delayed my making them was getting my hands on some fèves which are large oval-shaped discs of bittersweet chocolate.  They are expensive and not easy to find.  Neither my local Whole Foods nor Fresh Market carried them, so I finally had to order them online.  Unlike regular chocolate chips which are formulated to retain their shape, fèves are designed to melt easily and form pools of chocolate.

This recipe calls for both cake and bread flours rather than all-purpose flour.  The remaining ingredients are familiar.  Truly, the secret is in the chilling of the dough—and for the full 36 hoursBeing curious, I did make half the batch after 24 hours of chilling.  They were wonderful—but nowhere as wonderful as they turned out to be after 36 hours of chilling.  Roger and I both agreed that there was a very noticeable improvement in the flavor.  I’d say it went from “wonderful” to “sublime.”

The size of the cookie really does make a difference because as described in the NYT article it gives you three different textures within the same cookie, and that’s not counting the texture provided by the chocolate.

The fèves cause the cookie to be striated with layers of chocolate rather than dotted with small pools of chocolate.

The touch of sea salt adds another dimension of flavor.  The cookie is not at all salty but you get that little hit of salt interspersed with the cookie’s sweetness, and it is quite delectable.

Now, how does this cookie rank in the world of chocolate chip cookies?  That, fellow foodies, is in eyes of the beholder—or, rather, in their taste buds.  In my case, it lies in my perspective of what a traditional chocolate chip cookie should taste like after indulging in them for over 50 years.

This cookie is totally amazing and absolutely delicious.  I loved the different textures as I ate my way through the enormous cookie.  Given a choice between milk chocolate or dark chocolate, I always go for the dark—I absolutely love bittersweet chocolate.  Having said that, I happen to prefer semisweet chocolate chips in my cookie.  Now you could swap out the fèves for some semisweet chips, but then you might as well make the Levain Bakery recipe which is currently co-tied with CI’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies as my #1 favorite of all time with the Best, Big Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie a very close second.  The fact that I keep trying new recipes for chocolate chip cookies is nuts and just confirms how obsessive a recipe-aholic I am!

If you google this recipe, you will find a lot of bloggers who say this cookie is “THE ONE.”  What I think is that this cookie deserves its own category although I’m not sure exactly what to call the category.  I feel it is a sophisticated version of America’s beloved chocolate chip cookie, and it should stand on its own and not be compared to a “regular” chocolate chip cookie because it is anything but regular.  It is a cookie meant to impress, and impress it does!

One year ago:  Blondies, Dad’s Egg McMuffin

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups minus 2 tbl. (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. 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 tbl. (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. natural vanilla extract
  • 1  pound bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (original recipe calls for 1 1/4 lbs., but I thought 1 lb. was plenty.)
  • Sea salt

Directions

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  Set aside.

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.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (about 1/3 cup) 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.

Yield:  1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Fran’s Notes

I thought this would be the last new recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I would try–but, now that I have experienced the difference that chilling the dough makes, I am going to have to remake several recipes.  First up–the original Toll House cookie recipe!

Source:  The New York Times recipe via the Ezra Pound Cake blog

2 comments on “New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

  1. The NYT version of this recipe calls for “1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks” not 1 pound.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/091crex.html

    • Yes, it does–I chose to cut down on the chocolate disks from 1 1/4 lbs. to 1 lb. and thought there was plenty of chocolate. I should have noted that I used less and will update the recipe.

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