LS baking academy: cookies & bars

It’s been more than I expected it would be–for instance, I actually learned how to bake!–but the le sauce baking academy is wrapping up soon. At least it is in its current form, however, given my almost-comfortable comfort level when it comes to all things involving flour, you will definitely see baked goods from now on here at le sauce. I’ve learned how to make bread, the best pizza dough, light cakes, oil cakes, every kind of pastry (with success! to my surprise) and more. I’ll have a round-up of the highlights for sure, and you can bet we’ll be ending with a bang. For now, all I can tell you is that we’re rounding out the lessons with how to make cookies, but you’ll have to keep an eye out for the grand finale!

For the first cookie recipe on this site, and the first one I’ve ever baked, I choose one of the most the most famous. Jacques Torres’ 36-hour chocolate chip cookies are renown across the internet for two reasons: the recipe’s appearance in the New York Times three years ago and because testers everywhere widely regard them as the “best”. You can read the article for yourself but here’s why this cookie and method are deemed superior:

  • the 36-hour rest in the fridge allows the liquid (eggs in this case, which are thicker and therefore slower than water) to fully absorb into the dough, making it drier, and firmer and yielding in a better consistency than freshly-made and baked dough…
  • …but this is really about flavour. That rest results in a cookie with deeper flavour and a darker, more caramel-y sweetness and…
  • size matters, it turns out. The 6-inch cookie allows for a soft centre, a chewy but crisp edge with caramel flavour and the “ring” between where the flavours and textures combine. But as you can see above, a baking sheet can hardly contain 6 of these generously-sized cookies (I weighed mine for accuracy). They bled into each other while baking so mine were a glorious mess by the end.

Oh, and one more thing…

…add salt.

I’m no cookie-making expert but I’ve consumed a few in my day. All I can say is that these are definitely the cookies I’d put out for Santa…and there’s a little hint in there about the finale! Make sure to check back for the wrap-up, and please do share your cookie-baking tips and links to your related posts in the comments here. Thanks to all for sharing your learning and contributing to the le sauce baking academy!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Adapted from Jacques Torres via the New York Times)

NYT note: Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling. Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

YS note: I couldn’t get my hands on chocolate discs so I went with the best chips I could find. I found the first two weights confusing (why site identical weights but not identical measures?) so I went with careful measurements for the cake and bread flours. There are no notes about using room temperature butter but I did for ease when creaming them.

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread 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 disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

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.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

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.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.