Friday, December 3, 2010

Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I lived in Shanghai, it took me more than an hour to get home. My school was located in the outskirts of the city and rush hour traffic was dreadful (plus the drivers were a nightmare). Needless to say, I was raging with hunger on my way home. I never brought snacks with me, but I do remember when my nanny would walk me through the subway to get home.

My growling tummy led me to eye the array of junk food in convenience stores. As my nanny dug into her purse for spare change, I pondered my choices. 15 years later, I'm still just as indecisive with food. I craved for chocolate, but should I get the wafer bars with chocolate filling? I forget what they were called, but they its shiny red wrapping was always a challenge to tear open.

And there were times when I yearned for something crunchy. Chips Ahoy! cookies were the top choice. An easier to open plastic wrapping, I usually found the top cookie of the package already smashed into bits, its chocolate chips exposed from its cookie coating.

There were adventurous flavors too: Orange and chocolate, coffee or peanuts with chocolate. My favorite is the original, no fuss cookie. I had to exercise extreme self control during my snacking, if I ate too much, I wouldn't have an appetite for dinner and would have to suffer a scolding from my mom for ruining my dinner. I had once demolished half a pack of crackers--about 20 saltine cookies--and could barely touch my rice.

I would find several ways to eat cookies. Dunked in milk (which honesty was the only reason I drank milk back then), with peanut butter smeared on them, nibbling around the edges until I was left with just the chocolate, or the royalty of all cookie-munching ways: concocting my very own ice cream cookie sandwich.

But sometimes cookies don’t need anything else, they are amazing all by itself. Introducing the Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie, researched extensively by David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria, this is definitely an academy winner.

It has a few badass traits: the batter is prepared 24 hours in advance for the ingredients to mix and mingle; the egg soaked up real good in the dough. Sea salt is added for the perfect balance of salty and sweet. Dark chocolate of at least 60% cocoa is used, to give an intense, full flavoured cookie. And finally, generous golf sized balls of dough are scooped to bake the best cookies: crunchy edges, a soft middle and a chewy texture.

Eating these cookies that come straight from the oven is a bit like going to heaven. Gooey chunks of chocolate, intertwined with a sophisticated depth of caramel and hints of toffee. I tried to eat only one as an ‘after school snack’. But then I reached for a second. I hid in my room…then I ate another.

Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from David Leite

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies

-2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
-1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all purpose 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 chunks (at least 60% cacao content)
-Sea salt.

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.
Recipe here!