Though much has changed since I attended lower school – babies adept at navigating iPads, kids playing video games instead of board games, and an increasing concern with eating healthy – one thing remains the same. School cafeterias still serve terrible food.
I have choked down my share of cardboard-crusted pizza, tortilla soup made using yesterday’s leftover tacos, and slimy and grey cold cut sandwiches. However, there was one thing my school got right: the chocolate chip cookies.
From a young age, I learned to love cookies, if only because they were the only food option at school that didn’t activate my gag reflex. Every day, I would take one or two bites of my meal, then relish my two chocolate chip cookies. I switched schools after middle school into a totally different environment – an all-girls high school – but the food quality remained the same, if not worse, and the only thing worth eating was, you guessed it, the chocolate chip cookies.
People often embark on somewhat quixotic pursuits of the “best” vanilla cupcake or the “best” yellow cake or the “best” chocolate chip cookies. I’m of the opinion that it’s all rather subjective, and for me, the best chocolate chip cookies will always be those soft, under-baked cookies served at my lower school cafeteria. They did not have sea salt sprinkled on top or fancy chocolate disks, but they were moist (hopefully with butter and not shortening or lard or some weird chemicals), sweet…and they were the only game in town.
But some childhood memories are better left unsullied by attempts to recreate them. And so, I turned to the New York Times best chocolate chip cookie recipe to see if I couldn’t achieve something a little more sophisticated. With two types of flour, neither of which are all-purpose, chocolate disks instead of chocolate chips, and refrigeration time of 24-36 hours, these are quite the project.
Whether they represent something more “adult” or is simply an overly involved variation on something that should really be quite simple, I’ll leave for others to decide. They came out quite good, with a chewy, slightly cakey texture at the center, and a crunchier edge. They don’t quite measure up to the chocolate chip cookies enshrined in the memories of my youth, but then again, I suspect that no recipe, even the original recipe used by my school, ever will.
New York Times’ Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from NYTimes) – makes 1 1/2 dozen 5-in cookies
2 cups minus 2 tbsp (8 1/2 oz) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 oz) bread flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 oz) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbs (8 oz) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 lb bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves (I used chocolate chunks and chips)
Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
Using a mixture with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light in color (~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, 5-10 seconds. Drop in chocolate pieces and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate 24-36 hours. Dough my be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Scoop 6 3 1/2 oz mounds of dough onto baking sheet. (To scoop out dough, use an ice cream scooper, or let it stand at room temperature for ~2 hours or until soft enough to work with.) Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft 18-20 minutes. (If dough is at room temperature, bake 10-12 minutes.) Transfer cookies onto wire rack to cool.