June 6, 2012

Jacques Torres' chocolate chip cookies

I've tried a number of chocolate chip cookie recipes and their oatmeal and whole wheat variations in search of that magic recipe.  It's a fun process because even if the outcome isn't completely the stuff of your dreams, a warm, melty chocolate chip cookie out of your own oven is a real treat. 
Today, I'm adding Jacques Torres' chocolate chip cookies to my archives.  We visited one of his chocolate shops in Manhattan a couple of months ago and tried one his gigantic chocolate chip cookie creations.  My husband and I had a hard time prying any away from our 6-year old son but what we did taste was terrific - a warm cookie with great texture, filled with serious chunks of bittersweet chocolate.  I wanted to try his recipe at home to see if I could replicate it.  This recipe makes a very yummy cookie but admittedly, my effort doesn't quite compare to what I ate that day.  In my memory, the giant cookie I ate was just a bit firmer/harder, with a more pronounced crunch around the sides against a chewy center.
I think some of the changes I made at home explains why my cookies were different.  First, I made big cookies - about 2 ounce scoops - but his are meant to be BIG, as in large golf ball size, 3 1/2 ounce, scoops that turn into fairly huge cookies once baked.  A larger cookie allows for a more distinct textural contrast of crunch around the border and softness in the center.  Yes, my cookies were a little crisp along the edges and soft in the middle but the contrast wasn't quite as pronounced.  Knowing this though, I just couldn't talk myself into making the giant cookies.  Restraint won out because frankly, who can really share a single cookie, and I had a hard time accepting the consequences of gobbling one (or two) of them up all by myself. 

Also, I didn't use chocolate disks or fèves (rather large flat chocolate disks) that Jacques Torres sells and recommends for these cookies.  Instead, I chopped up chunks of bittersweet chocolate, which is a good alternative but doesn't leave me with those distinct, wide craters of chocolate pieces in my dough like his does.  Again, his is a gigantic cookie with gigantic, individual puddles of chocolate throughout.
Front and back of these chocolate chip cookies
Nevertheless, this interesting recipe (using cake and bread flour) makes a very tasty chocolate chip cookie.  A sprinkling of sea salt before baking adds a delicious sweet & salty contrast that makes things a bit more interesting.  Interestingly enough, I actually thought the cookies tasted better a day or two after they've been baked.  They stayed soft and seemed more flavorful somehow.

If you'd like to give these a try, I recommend big cookies, getting your hands on some chocolate disks if you can (or at least chop your bittersweet chocolate into large - even larger than I made - chunks), and lots of napkins to go with them when eating.

This is not exactly your typical chocolate chip cookie recipe.  The glaring difference between this and other recipes is the use of cake and bread flour as opposed to all-purpose or even whole wheat flour.
The recipe makes a lot of cookie dough but is intended to make just 16 very large cookies.  So if you're willing to share, go for it, but in my own case, I decided to downsize a little.  I divided the recipe in half and scooped them using a large (number 16) ice cream scoop, which I believe holds about 2 ounces or 4 tablespoons of cookie dough.  I got about 15 cookies that way.
As I mentioned, the recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves that Jacques Torres sells in his shop.  If you don't have it, do what I did and chop up a block of bittersweet chocolate (with at least 60% cacao) into large chunks.  I used Callebaut bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2 to 1-inch chunks.  I'd recommend making them on the larger side as much as possible to mimic those chocolate disks.  But when you're chopping chocolate yourself, there will unavoidably be many little pieces of chocolate shards or chocolate shavings in the cookie dough (unless you're willing to sieve it out) and that's one difference in appearance between these cookies and the ones at the shop that have distinct blocks of chocolate in them.

The method of making these cookies are pretty straightforward.  There's plenty of whipping involved to get air into the cookie dough and it requires at least a 24-hour rest in the refrigerator.  It starts with creaming butter, brown, and granulated sugars together for a few minutes before adding eggs and vanilla extract.
Once the dry ingredients (a combination of cake and bread flours, along with the leaveners and salt) are added, mix just enough for the flour to be absorbed.  Then quickly mix in the chocolate pieces. 

For a more flavorful cookie, cover the cookie dough and let it rest for 24 to 36 hours in the refrigerator before baking.  I scoop the dough with a number 16 ice cream scoop and sprinkle a bit of sea salt over the top of each before baking in a 350 degree oven.  It takes about 14-15 minute in my size and 18-20 minutes if you make large golf ball, 3 1/2 ounce, dough balls. The cookies are done when they are golden brown but still soft. 
Now you know the rest...let cool slightly and eat while still warm.


Jacques Torres' Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted via The New York Times

- Intended for 16 very large cookies -

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60% cacao
Sea salt for sprinkling

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

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light and pale in color, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla extract.

Reducing speed to low, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, about 5 to 10 seconds.  Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate without breaking them.  Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate for 24-36 hours before baking.  Dough can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours and baked in batches.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Set a rack in the center of the oven.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. 

Scoop six 3 1/2 ounce mounds of dough (large golf ball size) onto baking sheet, turning any chocolate pieces horizontally that may be poking up (so they bake up looking nicer).  Lightly sprinkle a bit of sea salt over the top and bake until golden brown but still soft, about 18-20 minutes, rotating baking sheet midway.  (If making smaller cookies, adjust baking time accordingly.)  Let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool further.  Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve the dough in the refrigerator to bake another time.  You could also freeze pre-scooped dough balls.

Eat cookies warm, with plenty of napkins.

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