I saw this article in the New York Times last week and it kind of rocked my boat. The author, David Leite, talked to several professional bakers to get their tricks for making the “perfect” cookie. There were 5 main tips:
1. Serve cookies fresh from the oven, or at least warmed.
2. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours before baking.
3. Make large cookies to create a variety of textures within each cookie.
4. Use good quality chocolate, and use a lot: “shoot for a ratio of chocolate to dough of no less than 40 to 60.”
5. Sprinkle coarse salt on top of the cookies before baking.
Though I like to consider myself an expert cookie baker, some of these tips were a surprise to me. I frequently ignore directions to chill the dough before baking. I also tend to make my cookies on the small side (so I won’t eat them all in one day).
My sister was visiting over the weekend. She’s also something of a cookie aficionado, so I thought it would be a good time to try out the “perfect” recipe. We made the dough on Friday evening almost exactly as specified (we couldn’t find the disk-like chocolate chips at the last minute). Then we baked a batch on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
The results were… inconclusive. We had trouble distinguishing the effects of the different ingredients from the effects of resting the dough. We also couldn’t detect any differences between the cookies after 24, 48, and 72 hours of resting time. I wish we’d baked a batch right away to get a no-rest comparison. Some other observations (I like lists today):
1. The cookies were certainly very browned and attractive, and they tasted like bakery cookies, for better or worse.
2. The salt on top was a tasty improvement, a nice contrast with the sweet cookie.
3. The cookies were puffy and chewy. The tall chewiness could be a result of the cold dough or the bread flour in the recipe, or both. I’m not sure I liked it; I prefer my cookies somewhat flatter and more tender.
4. The higher-than-usual quality chocolate (Dagoba, 68%) was good, but the huge amount of it overwhelmed the flavor of the cookie. I shock even myself in saying this, but: there is such a thing as too much chocolate.
I have an urgent new plan: try out the new techniques with an old recipe. I’ll keep you posted.