Unless you live in an underground bunker in preparation of the polar ice cap melting apocalypse, you probably are aware that the Oscars were last night. Now, while this event is normally not associated with chocolate (or eating in general–did you see how skinny some of those actresses looked?) it did get me thinking about another prominent award-winner in his field–Mr. Jacques Torres. Known affectionately as “Mr. Chocolate,” in addition to owning several famous chocolate shops in New York, he also is the recipient of the James Beard Foundation Pastry Chef of the Year award, the Chefs of America Pastry Chef of the Year, and Chartreuse Pastry Chef of the Year. Not too shabby, right? Throughout the course of his career, the man has pioneered chocolate dessert techniques, creating wondrous confectionary delights for the sweet-toothed among us, earning himself a tremendous reputation in the chocolate world along the way. Of all these desserts, I don’t think I have ever heard as much buzz as his chocolate chip cookie recipe has garnered.
I was first introduced to this recipe about a year and a half ago, when I was alerted to a special chocolate episode of ABC’s “The Chew,” during which he made the cookies in question. This recipe is not simple. It requires two different types of flour, and a lot of time, but I can guarantee you it’s worth it.
The recipe does call for bittersweet chocolate chips–preferably a 60% cacao content or greater. I actually used a mix of 60% Ghirardelli chips and Valrhona Manjari Dark Couverture 64% from Whole Foods. The discs are significantly larger than chips, and ideally used for pastry fillings and cake icings, as they are processed to melt easily (hence the chocolate strata in the picture of my cookie). Couverture means “covering” in French. It was, however, important to me to include the Valrhona chocolate in the recipe as I felt that the rich vanilla flavor of the Madagascar origin chocolate would complement the other flavors nicely.
Now, there are some important things to keep in mind while making these. As I have said, I am not a trained pastry chef by any means, but I do get a lot of great advice from some tremendously talented folks that work in the industry on a regular basis. Some of their tips for making the best chocolate chip cookies (no matter what recipe you use) are included below:
- Use multiple kinds of chocolate. The richer and more complex the chocolate taste, the more satisfying the cookies will be.
- Use room temperature cookie sheets. If you are making many batches, make sure to wait for the cookie sheets to cool after taking a completed batch out of the oven before loading them up with more dough.
- Pay attention to the bake times and your oven settings. Setting the timer for a little less than the specified bake time should leave your cookies slightly soft and doughy in the center.
- Use good butter! The butter flavor in your dough will only help enhance the textures and the chocolate flavor. I recommend Kate’s Homemade Butter.
- After the cookies have flattened out in the oven, but before they are done baking, add a sprinkling of sea salt on top for an added crunchy texture and enhanced chocolate flavor. Go one step further and add a sprinkling of chocolate nibs for added vitamins (yes, really!) and more crunch. Remember, cacao nibs are not sweet–their flavor will be closer to nutty/smokey, so by added them you are adding more depth and complexity of flavor.
Most of all though, have fun making your cookies! And try not to eat them all in one day!