With a large helping of pomposity, I was about to begin:
“There are certain recipes one just doesn’t tinker with. One wouldn’t dare to reduce the sugar or butter, add a handful of nuts or a wayward splash of rum without honouring the original, at least for the first batch.”
David Leite’s chocolate chip cookies should have been one of those special cases. The gold standard – like Jim Lahey’s “No Knead Bread” – tried and loved by all. Unfortunately, I could not find standard bread flour in my local French supermarket. Brioche flour, whatever that means. Flour with added yeast for bread machine, no. Running late for Japanese class, I grabbed “rustic” bread flour and stuffed it in my bag amid textbooks and a chocolate-stained uniform.
In the end, the flour turned out to be much more grey and full of seeds than I had anticipated. Whole-wheat and grainy. In a recipe that promises over half a kilo of chocolate, there is really no point in healthifying. These, the consummate cookies, should be relished for their choco-laden quality, for the research that Leite put in to finding the perfect ratio.
(The mix of bread and cake flour is in order to up the gluten, which ought to make for more chewy cookies. The resting time – 24-72 hours – allows the flavours to meld and deepen. And the obscene amounts of chocolate? Well, they are full of huge chunks of it, that remain melty between the crisp edge and soft centre.)
But the butter and brown and white sugars were already a pale cream colour, the vanilla was waiting on the counter. So in went the “rustic” flour. Noble principles be damned.
There is a half batch waiting in the fridge. Just a taste of the sweet-salty dough around a stray square of chocolate (with a not unpleasant seedy texture) made me regret not going the whole cookie hog.
Update: test cookies have been baked with a sprinkle of fleur de sel (fancy sea salt) on top. They are pretty damn good. The rest of the dough is in my freezer, waiting patiently in golf-ball sized portions. (I cannot honestly deny eating several balls of frozen dough. )
Clearly extensive cookie research is necessary to determine the world’s best cookie. A certain New York version comes to mind, a chocolate and walnut monstrosity that I guarded jealously from even the cutest squirrel in Central Park. But for now, these rustic whole-wheat-but-definitely-not-healthy extravagantly chocolately cookies are my gold standard.
Rustic chocolate chip cookies
from David Leite
makes 24-30 enormous cookies, so feel free to halve the recipe – for the chocolate, buy a bar of plain dark chocolate that you would happily eat on its own, 70% cocoa solids is best
240g plain flour
240g whole wheat, grainy bread flour
1 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
285g light brown sugar
225g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
570g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
sea salt or fleur de sel for sprinkling
Sieve the flours, baking powder, soda and salt together. Cream the butter and sugars until pale, add the eggs one at a time and beat well until combined. Stir in vanilla, then flour mix. Chop the chocolate very roughly to leave large postage stamp size chunks and stir it in.
Wrap in clingfilm and leave dough to rest in fridge for 24-72 hours. Because it will become very hard, it might be easier to roll it into golfball-sized balls before refrigerating. Even store half in the freezer for a future instant cookie date.
When ready to bake, heat oven to 170C. Widely space a few cookie balls on a large baking tray and sprinkle a tiny dash of sea salt on each. Bake for 17-18 minutes. Stop when the edges are crisp but the middles look underdone. Let cool for 10 minutes then remove from tray onto a wire rack.
Consume when still warm for the pockets of melted chocolate.