In the early 1980’s, I was hired to open a small tea salon in the sixth arrondissement of Paris. My mandate, aside from equipping the kitchen, was to make American food. Then, the idea was maverick, and so was I. I went on to produce everything from chile con carne to zucchini bread, but my real specialty became saucer-sized chocolate chip cookies. I made huge batches of dough at least twice a week, no small feat because it was the stone-age in France when it comes to American ingredients, and I had to hand-chip the chocolate.
Today, the chocolate chip cookie – called cookeess whether there is one or one hundred – has become part of the French baking repertoire. They are perched on boulangerie and patisserie shelves as thought they’re natives, uniformly blonde, flat, and filled with teensy little “pepites” of chocolate. To my palate, they are bland and whenever I can, I make my own version to serve to my French friends and acquaintances, in my continuing effort to spread the good word about American culinary specialties.
I may have been the pioneer in chocolate chip cookies in Paris. I’ve never researched this, but I do know that when I was baking and serving them, they were a novelty. Had I had a business head, I’d have institutionalized these sweet wonders. Instead, I just kept perfecting the recipe. And as I perfected, I experimented with sugars and naturally landed on a favorite, muscovado.
Muscovado is basically sugar cane juice boiled until it solidifies, then dried and packaged. It ranges in color from light to very dark brown, and has a distinct molasses flavor. Its texture is quite moist, and it must be kept in an air-tight container to prevent it from hardening. It is sinfully delicious, right out of the package, and added to just about any recipe that calls for sweetener. That it is filled with minerals makes it just that much more attractive.
After years of making chocolate chip cookies “au pif,” or, without a recipe, I finally caved and codified mine. I still chop my own chocolate “chips,” which means most of them are larger than those you buy. This is what makes the cookies so delicious. Whether warm from the oven (which is how I like to serve them after dinner), or cooled, the chunks of chocolate remain somewhat soft. The contrast with the vanilla and slightly caramel flavor of the dough, with its hint of salt, is addictive.
Because I’ve noticed that chocolate chip cookie styles are very personal, I’d love to hear from you about your recipe, and feel free to make these and comment. No, there are no walnuts in them, which will certainly displease many, but try these before complaining. I think you’ll love them!
COOKEEZ AMERICAN STYLE!
3 cups (about 460g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
18 tablespoons (9 oz;270g) unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup (140g) dark muscovado sugar
¾ cup (125) light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces (360g) semi-sweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona, Lindt,
or Scharffenberger, coarsely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift together all the dry ingredients onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter until it is light and pale yellow. Add the sugars and mix until thoroughly combined and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, just until thoroughly combined. With the mixer running slowly, add the vanilla, then the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Finally, with the mixer running slowly, add the chocolate. You may need to finish mixing in the chocolate by hand so that it is thoroughly mixed throughout the dough.
4. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough, and place the mounds 1-1/2 inches (2.75cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the center of the oven 12 to 15 minutes, depending on whether you like your cookeess soft, or fully baked!
48 cookies (if you make them heaping tablespoon size)