Are these the best chocolate chip cookies ever?
The word on the street (well, if by “street” you mean “the food blogosphere”) is that Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies, the kind I’ve made all my life by following the recipe on the back of the Nestle semi-sweet chip bag, are out.
What’s in? The New York Times’ scientifically refined 2008 chocolate chip concoction from Jacques Torres. Averie Cooks calls it “full of nuances and uniquities” (is “uniquities” even a word?), My Baking Addiction describes it as a recipe that “immediately changed my perception of chocolate chip cookie perfection,” and Recipe Girl conducted a taste test between cookies chilled for 5, 24, and 48 hours.
So what makes the Times’ cookie recipe so special? Three things stand out to me: it utilizes not only bread flour but cake flour as well, two ingredients you don’t usually see in run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookies, and it recommends chilling the dough for an entire 24 hours. The recipe also produces just nine Gargantuan 5-inch cookies, which reminds me of the saran-wrapped Monster Cookies of my youth. They’re so big that they call for special extra-large chocolate disks – “feves,” which are conveniently sold by Jacques Torres’ own chocolate company – with at least 60 percent cacao content. These are cookies for which only the richest, darkest chocolate will do; none of that semi-sweet or milk business here.
Leaving aside the question of whether humans really should be forced to wait 24 hours for a mouthful of chewy, chocolatey goodness, let’s look at Torres’ ingredients. Bread flour contains more protein than all-purpose, which creates more gluten – and that means more of the dense, elastic chewiness you want in a bread. Cake flour is exactly the opposite; it has less protein, which helps create the light, fluffy texture needed for cakes. (At least in theory. I’m not sure if I’m buying it, as both my cake flour and bread flour list 3 grams of flour per 1/4 cup. Huh?) Theoretically, it makes sense that the combination of the two would somehow balance each other out, creating perfect cookie harmony.
The chilling of the dough is more routine – and the part that I’m most likely to skip. I’m so hungry – no pun intended – for results that I typically microwave my butter waaaay past the “softened” state called for in most recipes. When I come across an online recipe that requires even an hour of chilling, my first move is to close my browser tab. However, determined to follow the Times recipe to the letter, I let the dough refrigerate for an entire day before dolloping it onto cookie sheets.
So were the NYT cookies worth it? Anyone who knows me knows I am a loyal Times fan – the news section is incomparable, and if you’re looking for a staunchly liberal editorial page, the Gray Lady is where it’s at – but were the cookies really everything that food bloggers had gushed about? My verdict: Torres’ recipe is good, perhaps great. My official taste-tester (a.k.a. my mother) pointed out that they tasted oven-fresh even after a day in a Ziploc bag. I can’t claim, however, to have had a cookie epiphany or a baking revelation. The NYT cookies were not a point of no return. They weren’t the Pulitzer Prize of cookies. The next time I make chocolate chip cookies for friends, I’ll probably fall back to the old Tollhouse recipe, just because it’s easier, cheaper, and doesn’t require 24 hours advance notice.
But am I glad for the experience of making the cookies recommended by the nation’s paper of record? Heck yes. Even if the Jacques Torres’ chocolate chip cookies aren’t the absolute last word in pastry perfection, I had fun sifting my different flours and creaming truly cold butter into the sugars. Try it. You, too, might just feel like a chef.