10 February 2010

chipper up

I've been feeling blue lately. Not sure why. Could be the weather (though our glorious sunny days don't help that argument), the cold, creeping boredom and anomie that will hopefully dissipate with Spring and more time outside.

What I do know is that I'm restless and have writer's block. Nothing seems interesting, nothing seems worth sharing. So the silence. I've retreated to my own private cocoon, and tucked Jules and Kasper (and sometimes Jo) in here with me. I can't wait for a warm, fresh breeze to bring its glow inside, and force me to pop my head out and live out loud again.

But until then, I have cookies to cheer me. And I hope they might cheer you, too. I swiped this recipe, like many others, from Orangette, who swiped it from some guy at the New York Times. There is nothing like a chocolate chip cookie and a cold glass of milk to put a temporary stop to my whining, and I've been on the hunt for a good, simple recipe for a few years now. Something every parent should have in their arsenal. Orangette and the Times guys' recipes both call for "marinating" the cookie dough in the fridge for 36 hours before baking, something which I have absolutely no patience for, but which, they both swear, imparts a complexity of flavors unlike any other chocolate chip cookie you've ever tasted.

The Times guy uses a combination of cake flour and bread flour in his recipe, which he claims aids the texture of the cookie. He also uses fancy chocolate, while Orangette more sanely opts for Ghiradelli 60% dark chocolate chips. And for a finishing touch, these cookies are sprinkled with sea salt, the height of dessert fashion these days.

I followed Orangette's recipe exactly the first time around and the result was a really good, very thick but chewy cookie. But then months and months passed and, while I wanted to make the cookie again, I steered clear of it because I lacked the will power to let that dough sit for days in cookie purgatory. Yesterday, though, I NEEDED that cookie. So I cheated. I used all-purpose flour, and less of it than the recipe called for because I only had two sticks of butter and not the requisite 2.5 that the recipe called for, which forced me also to cut back on the sugar. I'd almost say it was a "healthier" version of the recipe, had I not settled on the bag of Nestle's chocolate chips shoved in the back of my cupboards instead of the antioxidant rich dark chocolate. The one thing I didn't mess around with was the sea salt. This step was NOT optional for me. There is something about adding just a little extra salt to sweet baked goods that kicks up the flavor, in a very good way, that I am now addicted to. I did let the dough marinate in the fridge for an hour while I went to pick Jules up from preschool. Then I slapped those cookies on a sheet and popped them in the oven.

The result? These cookies were just as good as my first batch (I write this with eyes rolling emphatically back in my head as I shake my head and my fists at the foodie cookie bakers who, ultimately, I have to thank for arriving at this recipe). And I was cheered for an afternoon while I shared my chewy gooeyness with my favorite boys. Now I'll share it with you.

Best fast chocolate chip cookies (seriously)
16 ounces all purpose flour (about 4 cups)
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz chocolate chips (whatever you find in your cupboard, but I prefer semi-sweet)
Sea salt

Whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Using a handheld mixer, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until each egg "disappears" into the dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Chill dough for at least 60 minutes, and up to 72 hours.

When the dough is chilled and you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of batter for each cookie, spacing cookies 2 inches apart. Flatten mounds into 3-inch rounds using the wet bottom of a measuring cup, then sprinkle with a little sea salt on each cookie.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool and keep on baking the rest of your dough on cooled baking sheets, stash the rest back in the fridge, or freeze the dough after forming it into cookie-sized balls. Keeps in the fridge for up to 72 hours or in the freezer for about a month.

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