It's been raining non-stop for seven days here in Los Angeles. Record-breaking rain means long days indoors. Around these parts, long days indoors can only mean...
It's time to bake!
First, I made three batches of chocolate-chip cookie dough, using a recipe from the New York Times. These cookies have been getting a lot of attention because of an unusual step: The batter must be chilled at least 24 hours before baking (up to 36 hours is fine).
The original recipe calls for a combination of cake flour and bread flour: I had those. It also calls for bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content.
Oooh! Fresh outta feves! (Seriously, I had to look up what feves were; I never heard of them before.) Lovely Daughter #1, who first alerted me to this fantastic recipe, assured me that regular chocolate chips were fine. (She also told me she used regular, unbleached flour, and the results were fine.)
But letting the dough chill for at least 24 hours is non-negotiable. It has something to do with the process of distributing the liquids fully into the dry ingredients at a molecular level. (You can read all about it here, starting with the bottom of page 1 and going on to page 2.)
I experimented with three different types of chocolate--regular Hershey's Chocolate Chips, Ghirardelli buttons (most like fèves in appearance), and Hershey's Chocolate Chunks.
The good news is they all made fantastic cookies.
Another distinctive feature of the NY Times recipe is that it calls for a sprinkling of sea salt on each cookie right before baking.
If you have every sampled a sea-salt-encrusted caramel or chocolate candy, you know what I'm talkin' about. It's divine:
I had two types of sea salt available: a fancy-schmany one that The Boy gave me as a gift, and a more humble one straight from the supermarket:
I went with the oak-smoked Chardonnay salt, on the left. It smelled fantastic and tasted just like it was made to be paired with chocolate.
Another distinctive feature of these cookies is their size. They are huge!:
They bake up to be 5 or 6 inches across, so you can only fit a half-dozen or so comfortably on a cookie sheet. I did five at a time because I didn't want to run the risk of the cookies touching:
The sea salt was still visible on the top of each cookie after baking:
Ummm nummmm nummmy nummmmy!
The huge size allows each cookie to sport three separate "zones"--an outer edge of crispiness, an inner "bull's-eye" of melting softness, and a ring of about an inch and a half between these two zones that is the Holy Grail of chocolate-chip cookies--chewy, yielding, yet not mushy.
Something else I love about these cookies: You can freeze the balls, then take them directly from the freezer to the oven. They bake up perfectly.
So, if you have the craving for a big, warm, crunchy-and-chewy cookie with melting pockets of chocolate softness, you can have it.
Twenty minutes after the craving first hits you over the head, you can be holding this in your hands:
This is a perfect gift for bakers and non-bakers alike. Non-bakers don't have to do anything more than sprinkle them with salt and pop them in the oven. Bakers will love having a pre-made goodie ready to go when they're too tired to make anything from scratch themselves.
So I packaged up a half-dozen frozen balls of dough at a time in some handy cellophane bags and tucked them in the freezer:
Cellophane bags like these are so nice for gift-giving; they're a lot prettier than zip-style plastic bags. You can find cello bags at a cooking or candy-making specialty store, or you can order them online.
The frozen cookie balls stick together, or onto whatever you put them on to freeze them. When you pull them apart or off the tray or bowl, they leave little bits of rough spots. Don't worry; it doesn't detract from their deliciousness.
To give the frozen cookie balls as gifts, I added small bags of sea salt, tied in pretty ribbon:
And added instructions on how to bake the cookies:
I dropped a cello bag of frozen balls into a brown-paper bag, then stapled the salt and instructions to the brown bag for a cheery presentation. And then I ran through the raindrops to deliver them to friends and neighbors:
Back at home, I whomped up a batch of my favorite-ever sugar cookies and cut them out in scalloped circles. Then Lovely Daughter #2, home from college on winter break (yay!), helped decorate them:
We did lots of green-and-red decorations, because some of our recipients celebrate Christmas.
And we did some snowflakes and gingerbread themes for others, who do not:
Today, the forecast is for yet more rain. So, next up, I'm baking two more kinds of cookies and several batches of banana-bread mini muffins!