There are quite a few foods from the American cuisine repertoire that are now deeply entrenched in my vein and I just can’t live without them. Even when I am in Brazil, surrounded by passion fruits, pineapples, and other exotic fruits, images of the foods I eat at home in America often swim across my brain.
Chocolate chip cookies are on top of my list. My infatuation with this quintessential American treat started when I was a 14-year old teenager in a foreign exchange student program in San Diego, CA. I started my trip fairly skinny and came back with a generous 10 pounds extra, all on chocolate chip cookies. At that time, Miss Fields and David’s Cookies cluttered every corner of the sunshine state. So there I was, a declared Brazilian cookie monster, literally.
Fast forward 20 years, I have tried hundreds of recipes since then and became very particular about the subject. My children often eat chocolate chip cookies out of a bag, those small little quarter sized cookies, much too crispy and completely dried all around. They don’t even tickle me. Other times I see chocolate chip cookies the size of a salad plate. Not a chance– pass. In my opinion, the perfect chocolate chip cookie (a Brazilian talking about a chocolate chip cookie? I know I am being brave here) should be about 2 ½ to 3 inches in diameter (7 to 8 cm) so that the edges are crispy all around and the center slightly chewy. In every bite I want a combination of both and only a cookie with those dimensions will really provide you with such memorable mouthful bites.
On my last trip to Brazil, already aware of my usual spasms of Americana homesickness, I came a little better prepared. I brough along a recipe that changed my life. About two years ago, food writer extraordinaire David Leite (publisher of the amazing web site www.leitesculinaria.com) published an article at The New York Times about chocolate chip cookies that captures every thing I always wanted from a cookie.
We don’t even need to talk about the kind of chocolate to use, do we? Take all those chips you bought in your regular groceries store from your pantry and throw them away – they are designed to resist melting. You want chocolate that melts; disks or coarsely chopped, either one will be just fine.
Back to the amazing recipe, the breaking ground of the article is … drum roll, please…that dough improves while resting in the refrigerator. That’s right, no chocolate chip cookie is worth eating unless the batter rests for 2 days in the fridge.
“ A long hydration time is important because eggs, unlike, say, water, are gelatinous and slow-moving”, David wrote.
I tried the recipe many times, and made a slight modification by trimming the amount of sugar. Other than that, the recipe is a winner. Another point that is crucial to remember is that the best time to eat cookies is 20 to 25 minutes out of the oven.
If a cookie has been sitting there for hours, here is what I do: bring the cookie back to life. First, take it home. I know you want to eat it immediately, but hold your horses and be a little patience. It’s worth it. Pre-heat the oven at 350˚F and re-bake the cookie for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the cookie from the oven and transfer to a rack for another 20 minutes. Grab a glass of milk, and munch, munch,munch…
Like everything in life, a little bit of patience also gives chocolate chip cookies the best results.
Here is my adaptation of David Leite’s The New York Time’s Chocolate Chip Cookies from my Brazilian kitchen in Rio:
3 2/3 cups 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 cup light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks (60 % cacao content)
1. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars together until light and creamy, 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, pre-heat oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop six 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.