Heavenly Chips

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Everyone has their favorite hangover food. Most of my friends go the heavy carb and grease route, some people are believers in a variety of shakes and concoctions involving raw eggs and vinegars (shudder). Myself, I am of the carb and grease group, home fries being my hangover weapon of choice.

     But this post isn't about that third glass of wine you may regret (yes, I am an incredible lightweight!). It is about a lesser known variety of morning after distress, which is the post call day. In the medical world being post call means you go home around lunch time the day after arriving to work. On a typical call day, I mosey to the hospital at 6am, trying to yawn off the residual pillow creases covering my cheeks, doing my best to gear up for what is to come. Now that it's December, the trek from car to hospital entrance involves me shivering in my thin, blue scrubs, wondering why the balmy southeastern air has forsaken me.

     Around dinner time after the work day, my counterparts on whatever service I'm on will leave and I will take over as the sole overnight doc for the 20 to 30 patients resting in their hospital beds. Through the night, as the on call resident (doctor in training) I am responsible for admitting new patients either from outside hospitals or the ER, answering pages asking me to fix pain, vomiting, fevers, rashes, seizures and a number of other maladies that pop up in the wee hours.

     The following morning the other residents arrive to join the work force and, after rounding with the attendings, post call me goes home around lunch time, roughly 30 hours after arriving for work. It is once scary drive home, let me tell you. Ask any doctor and they will have at least a few horror stories of dozing off at the wheel or mysteriously finding themselves sitting in their driveway, unable to recall the drive home. Because I motor around like an elderly person, I've luckily never had this happen to me, but I fear it every post call drive.

     Oh, there is nothing like a post call hangover! For me, my post call food cravings vary from a lack of appetite to a four course restaurant meal. Today, it was the humble, the chewy, the silky and seductive chocolate chip cookie.

     I must admit, I am a little intimidated here. I've been baking chocolate chip cookies since my mother decided I was old enough to operate the oven, and I have a very particular idea of what makes a superior cookie. But, there are some big guns out there talking about the mighty chocolate chip. This modest circle of dough is regularly featured in magazines like Bon Appetit and some of my favorite food blogs discuss the cookie at length. Every great baking cookbook I own contains an excellent and long researched version. The chocolate chip cookie is as much debated, loved and ubiquitous as the brownie. It's sort of like writing an article about why you have something new to say about Angelina Jolie's famous curves (quite arrogant, no?).

      This year I have come across several articles that insist the key to the perfect chocolate chip cookie crumb is allowing the dough the rest in the refrigerator overnight. This idea of allowing the dough to get some beauty sleep in the crisper has been tickling the back of my mind and finally, before work yesterday, I whipped up a batch and stuck it in the fridge. In the middle of the night, wandering the artificially lit hallways of the sterile and lonely hospital wards, that dough was my security blanket.

     After passing out for a few hours, I awoke, pre heated the oven, and gently, reverently, removed those logs of dough studded with aromatic nuts and luscious hunks of dark chocolate. Unwrapping them was like Christmas morning, three weeks early!




     The verdict is this: if you are a fan of the crisp edged, infinitely chewy centered cookie variety, as I am, this recipe is for you. The over night rest did magical things to the flour, somehow softening the wheat, goading it into offering up all of its pliable, tender parts. There was also an underlying complexity to the cookie itself, a complexity that reminded me of the difference between making bread over three hours versus over 24 hours. Until today I had only one surefire way of making sure a cookie recipe would yield my preferred chewy disk, which was looking for more brown sugar than white sugar. Now I can add resting the dough overnight to my chewy cookie toolbox.

     Of course, none of that did anything to take away from the star: the chocolate. Shaping the dough into logs and slicing them for baking allowed the chocolate to shine like geometric art on the surface of each cookie. They looked like a sultry food shoot, cookies so beautiful I was almost abashed to have them in my kitchen.




   

     Thanks to those cookies, the night is a distant memory. My heart is salved, my nerves are calmed, my love of the chocolate chip cookie ever stronger. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies
     Courtesy David Lebovitz

     David Lebovitz is one of my favorite food writers and cookbook authors. His food blog is incredibly smart and always entertaining. I highly recommend any one of his cookbooks- in particular, "Ready for Dessert," which contains this recipe.
     I used Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate and walnuts. The recipe made four logs of dough total, two of which are still in the fridge- a treat for next week!

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups coarsely chopped nuts, such as walnuts or pecans
14 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/2 inch chunks

     In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
     In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand), beat together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract until it just comes together smoothly. Beat in eggs one at a time to thoroughly incorporate. By hand, stir in flour mixture then nuts and chocolate.
     Form the dough into a total of four logs, wrapped in parchment paper if you have it, or plastic wrap. They should be around 2 inches in diameter and 9 inches long each. Refrigerate 24 hours or overnight. (I sealed my logs in gallon sized freezer bags to make double sure no fridge smells sneaked into the dough).
     Position oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees.
     Slice the logs into 3/4 inch slices and place 2 inches apart on your baking sheet (I found a serrated bread knife worked best). If any chocolate or nuts fall out, just press them back into the dough surface. Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the edges are browned, around 10 minutes. Cool a few minutes then spatula to a flat surface to firm up and cool while you bake however many more batches you like. Or, like I did, just leave some logs in the fridge for later on.



   

2 comments:

  1. I, too, am a fan of David Lebovitz. I spent the summer making several of his ice cream recipes from The Perfect Scoop. I haven't yet tried his chocolate chip cookie recipe but plan to. I absolutely believe that chilling the dough is the way go to--yes, the magic of chemistry works to make the texture and flavor of the cookie so much more complex. If you haven't tried the clone recipe for Levain Bakery's cc cookie, you owe yourself a favor to do so! http://www.fransfavs.com/2012/07/levain-bakery-chocolate-chip-walnut-cookie-clone/

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    1. Thank you for the cookie recommendation! I am currently making a list of delicious cold treats for the summer and some of David's ice creams will be prominently featured. If you haven't had a chance, definitely check out his new cookbook- My Paris Kitchen. My newest post is on his baba ghanoush- delicious!

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