Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Triple-Chocolate Chip Cookies and a Snow Fortress Extraordinaire . . .

Last Monday didn't turn out as I'd expected. But that was okay, because a couple of things--one of them quite remarkable--were created here instead. It all commenced when I came down the stairs at about 6 a.m. that morning and found my husband, who was preparing to leave for the airport on a business trip, reading a message on his Blackberry. Glancing toward me, he announced with undisguised disdain, "They've cancelled school. We've got barely two inches of snow on the ground, and they've called a snow day. Ridiculous!" And with that he finished his preparations, kissed me goodbye, and drove off.

No sooner had he left than the sky was awash in a whirlwind of plump white flakes. As the morning advanced, it became a deluge--picture an explosion in a flour mill. My own plans had been to spend a good chunk of the day studying for the midterm exam scheduled to take place in my retail baking class the next day. I'd figured it would be nice and quiet here, and I'd be uninterrupted while both my boys were in school. No dice on that front. I couldn't complain, though, and didn't envy my husband having to drive to the airport in a blizzard and then wait around for an ice-covered plane to take off.

What to do? Well, as you and I both know, there is something about a snowy day that strongly impels bakers to bake, so I determined I'd just go with the urge, make the most of it, and cram for my midterm--about which I was not too worried--that evening. That decision led to these dusky hued, espresso laden, chocolate saturated cookies. More about them in a moment.

What were my kids doing while I was baking? Building the mother of all snow-forts, in our front yard, with a bunch of my oldest son's closest friends. Readers, if the fate of America rests on the stamina, smarts, creativity, and joyous optimism that teenagers like these seem to possess in spades, then I think we're probably going to be okay. Yes, I suspect that us anxious Baby Boomers may actually be able to rest easy.

Over a period of perhaps four hours, ten or eleven kids erected a structure that easily exceeds the size of my dining room, out of enormous snow-bricks--each brick a foot thick and a couple of feet long. With four stalwart walls standing at least five feet tall all around, the fort was impenetrable to even the fiercest snowballs. Passing cars slowed to a crawl as their drivers first gaped in astonishment, and then grinned openly, at the spectacle. It was something alright, a snow castle extraordinaire. As I aimed my camera and snapped away at the laboring kids, I kept thinking, "This is the one snow-fort they're going to remember and talk about for the rest of their lives, hands down."

Luckily for me, besides playing in the snow, these kids also like mega-chocolatey cookies.

About the cookies . . .

This recipe hails from the 2009 Holiday Baking issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine, and it's no ordinary cookie formula. This cookie is a delivery device for profound chocolate intensity. I've never seen anything quite like it. It relies on an almost grotesque quantity of chocolate--both unsweetened and bittersweet melted in the batter, and semisweet in the chips--for its very existence. The flavor is so derivative of the very essence of the cacao bean that it's almost painful. People who don't like chocolate will hate this cookie. Seriously.

It contains, comparatively speaking, a puny amount of flour at just half a cup, but a sufficient number of eggs to help hold everything together. The texture of the cookies is mostly soft, a little chewy, and not at all crunchy even after a couple of days. The recipe calls for a couple teaspoons of instant coffee powder, but I used the opportunity to try out the little jar of King Arthur Espresso Powder that I recently ordered. I used just one judicious teaspoon of that, since it's pretty concentrated stuff.

Rather than give away all of its secrets, I'll let the recipe speak for itself. Before I completely clam up, though, two things to keep in mind: Be sure, as the recipe indicates, to let the dough sit for 20 minutes or so (and this does not mean in the fridge) before you portion it onto cookie sheets, and be absolutely sure to let the cookies cool almost completely on the cookie sheets, not on cooling racks. Those are critical points for success.

Triple-Chocolate Chip Cookies

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

1 and 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces (it doesn't have to be softened)
2 tsp. instant coffee powder (I used barely 1 tsp. of instant espresso powder)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 and 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Melt the bittersweet chips, unsweetened chocolate, and butter in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir it frequently, until the chocolate is completely melted, smooth, and glossy. Remove the bowl from the pan and set it aside to cool slightly.

Stir the coffee/espresso powder and vanilla extract together in a little bowl until dissolved.

Beat the eggs and sugar in a large mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment., at medium-high speed until the mixture is very thick and pale, about 4 minutes.

Add in the vanilla and coffee mixture and beat until that's fully incorporated, about 20 to 30 seconds.

Reduce the speed to low, add the chocolate mixture, and mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and table salt. Take your large mixing bowl off of the mixer. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture, and the chocolate chips, into the batter.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit out on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes until the batter firms up. Don't chill it. It's going to look very thick and shiny, kind of like brownie batter.

Using a portion scoop (I used a #40 scoop, which holds 2 Tbsp.; you can always make the cookies larger or smaller, though, as you please), place the cookies 2" apart on your baking sheets.

Bake until the cookies are shiny and cracked on the top, about 11 or more minutes.

When the cookies appear done, let them cool completely on the cookie sheets, which are placed on top of cooling racks. Don't try to transfer the cookies directly to the racks while they're warm or they'll just crumble apart; wait until those babies are cool!

Recipe full disclosure! This recipe appears on pages 4 and 5 of the "Holiday 2009" issue of Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking issue. The article, "Triple-Chocolate Cookies," in which it appears, was written by Stephanie Alleyne.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Rambling Tart said...

These cookies are so blissfully fantastic. :-) And I love your snow pictures! Reminds of my childhood in Canada where my brothers and me joined forces with cousins and neighbor kids to make such amazing fortresses. :-) Love it!

faithy, the baker said...

Wow..Triple-chocolate Chip cookies! I so want to try them now.!! Look soo very yummy!! :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those cookies are to die for! What a gorgeous treat! I'm keeping that recipe...



Memória said...

Goodness!! look at how that chocolate and snow? What a great combo haha. What different types of chocolate did you use?

Jane said...

Hi R. Tart,
Glad you liked the snow pics! It was a lot fun watching them build the fort. That really was our snowiest day all winter, so I think they had all sorts of energy stored up for just such an occasion. Thank heaven they ate lots of those ultra chocolate cookies. Better them than me!

;) Jane

Hi Faithy --
Yes, go make some immediately! Good idea! Thanks very much,
:) Jane

Hello there Rosa,
It is a fine recipe if you are in the mood to wallow in chocolate!
Thanks for stopping by,
Jane :)

Hi Memoria,
Chocolate and snow do seem a nice pair, don't they? When I made the cookies, I doubled the recipe, so I really had to scrounge around the house for a ton of chocolate. For the unsweetened chocolate I just used all Baker's brand (those are the rectangular pieces I photographed). For the semisweet chips, I used a combo of Ghirardelli and Nestle's. For the bittersweet chips, I used mostly Ghirardelli brand (they're my very favorite bittersweet chip variety--really velvety, with great flavor), but I didn't have quite enough of those so I also added into that the remainder of a very dark chocolate bar that had come from Trader Joe's. Like I said, I really had to scrounge and hunt in all my baking cupboards for enough chocolate. It was far too snowy to contemplate driving to the store!
Thanks very much,

My Casa Bella said...

They looked like they were having a blast! To be a kid again and just dive into the snow, sigh!
Those cookies look divine and it must of smelled WONDERFUL while baking. Hope Hubby made it safely to his destination despite the storm.

Hanaâ said...

Jane, I've made these tons of times and they're a winner every time, *literally*! I've gotten a couple blue ribbons with these at the local county fair as well as the state fair!! To fancy them up a bit, I make a caramel frosting that I pipe on top.

Kate at Serendipity said...

Oh, my, chocolate. I don't think I've ever seen so much chocolate in one cookie. You get the prize!

And those kids get another prize for the most wonderful snow fort EVER!

Chele said...

I'm not sure what impresses me more - the cookies, the fort or your wonderful photos. I'm in awe!!! There isn't quite as much snow here so I guess I'll have to settle for recreating this yummy looking cookies instead ;0)

symphonious sweets said...

what a beautiful blog! I am adding you to my dailey reader. Your photos are mouthwatering= of the cookies not the kids :)

SnacksGiving said...

I NEED to make these!! I can never really get enough of chocolate! They look heavenly!

Anonymous said...

Oh. My. Word. The chocolate addict in me in smiling so big right now. I loved looking through all your photos of all the chopped chocolate-yum! I will definitely be whipping up a batch of these this weekend!

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

Oh my, those pictures of melted chocolate are doing no good to me! The cookies look absolutely amazing!

Bianca said...

hi there!
have just made this recipe. my batter did not turn out right probably due to an error in my conversion. do you possibly have this recipe in grams or ounces?
i would love to try this again! i must admit these cookies are the yummiest mistake i've ever baked!

Anonymous said...

Hi, and thanks so much for posting this recipe! The missus and I had so much fun baking them last night, and the coworkers that I shared with all want the link.

We did alter things slightly--in place of the bittersweet chocolate, we used 1/3 unsweetened and 2/3 semisweet chips. This seemed to work alright for us, as we really needed to bake some cookies after a stressful day and had all the other ingredients at hand. No matter, the cookies turned out to be amazing!

Oh, and you aren't kidding about the KAH espresso powder--I'm so glad we only used a single slightly heaped teaspoon. Maybe more wouldn't have hurt too much, but these really had the perfect coffee undertone.

ray meds said...

This is amazing, the cookies and the house both look so great, but the cookies took the first price, they look so delicious.