Friday, October 9, 2009

Deconstructing a Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Tasting Table announced today that famous New York chocolatiere Jacques Torres was opening up a store at the Chelsea Market, which prompted me to go check out his site
It's very commercial in it's design, but then when you see he has stores in Atlantic City (at Harrahs casino) and Traverse City (it's in Michigan, who knew?) you understand that Mr. Torres' genius is not just with chocolate.

I remember when he opened his first store what a huge deal it was and how everyone was going to Brooklyn to buy expensive fine chocolate, this was way before Brooklyn became the foodie destination it now is. What peaked my interest in the Tasting Table article today was this line:

He gave the process [i.e. bean to bar chocolate] a shot a few years ago, but was disappointed by the results, so he sold his equipment before deciding to revisit the scheme.

Mr. Torres doesn't sound so patient, but he does sound open minded and I'm glad he has revisited the idea with more success on the second go round. One of the things about bean to bar chocolate is that it gives the maker of the chocolate the possibility to have more control over how the farming of the beans is done, i.e. shade grown, sustainable, fair trade, etc. You also have more control over terroir and taste. Although in my meanderings I saw nothing about any of this on his website I hope that he and his business partners will elaborate more once his well priced ($5.50) bean to bar bar is launched.

My favorite bean to bar makers are the Mast Brothers who have a great aesthetic and a wonderful product, but because they are a small, Williamsburg based operation their bars sell for $7 and after a year still don't have the shop online section of their website up and running.

If larger businesses, like Mr. Torres', do bean to bar it promotes a great idea and makes it accessible to more people, while at the same time creates a better environment for the people who grow and pick the beans. It also benefits all of us because forests aren't being ripped down to grow cocoa beans (same goes with coffee).

This is a bit of a digression from Chocolate chip cookies. As part of my trip into Torres Land I came across an article (the another one) about the search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

1. Salt. is not a secret ingredient to any one who bakes. It enhances flavor. It's why packaged food is full of it. Salty caramels anyone?

2. Letting your cookie dough sit over night. Actually the article suggests 24 hours. This was something I learned several years back in an article about, yes you guessed it, chocolate chip cookies, from my friend Maury Rubin of City Bakery fame (they make amazing cookies). This is a lovely idea although it kind f throws out the idea of instant gratification for the kids. Unless you are one of those organized type people who just happens to make these things in advance and have them sitting in the fridge. Or maybe you can make a double batch and make some less perfect ones today and have brilliant ones tomorrow?

3. Cake Flour. What causes a problem for me in this recipe is the use of Cake Flour, it's up there with Icing Sugar as the-most-processed-and-furthest-thing-away-from-what-it-started-as ingredients. Who ever came up with the idea of bleaching wheat anyway? What is it about unnaturally white food that is so pleasing? Or is it simply that the more processed it is the longer shelf life it has (mostly because even bacteria and fungi don't want to eat it)? Anyway Cake Flour is something I try to avoid like Icing Sugar, but yes they have organic versions which is what I would use if I decided to make it. But I think it would be interesting to do a taste test! If people could taste the difference between the cookie made with Bread Flour and Cake Flour and let sit 24 hours and one made with unbleached organic All Purpose? Not sure I am up for the challenge, but I'm sure Neil and my friends would be more then happy to help me out.

4. 60% chocolate. Only 60%? But, in any case, this is sold in disks and conveniently available at Jacques Torres. It's also suggested that you can get Valrhona disks, but my personal feeling is that unless they specifically list the ingredients and say that don't use genetically modified soy lecithin in their chocolate I would only buy an organic chocolate or as mentioned here not so long ago: Sharffen Berger.

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