These oversized, coffee-table books reside in a prominent place on my bookshelf. I have leafed through them all, savoring the recipes, and lusting after each and every magnificent dish photographed so dreamily.
But I’ve yet to cook from any of them. Maybe I’ve felt unworthy. Maybe I’ve lacked the equipment necessary. And maybe I’ve lacked the time for some of the rather involved dishes that my husband joked he’d have to take days off from work to help me pull off.
That is, until now.
Until a promo brochure for the upcoming “Ad Hoc At Home” (Artisan) book arrived in my mail, and I fairly ran to the kitchen to start pulling measuring spoons and bowls out of my cabinets.
I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Ad Hoc in Yountville a couple of times. I’ve always been won over by the impeccable quality of the seasonal, family-style food served at this casual eatery. It’s comfort food done with utmost fun and finesse.
Salmon tartare cornets I’ll leave to the French Laundry staff to construct. A Bouchon recipe for French onion soup that requires a half day to caramelize onions ever so slowly (I’m exaggerating, but not by much) makes my eyes glaze over. Sous vide anything makes me start to tremble.
But chocolate chip cookies? OK, this I can do.
Keller acknowledges his other books might be intimidating to most of us. He goes so far as to refer to the new Ad Hoc book as “the long-awaited cookbook for the home chef.” It’s described as uncomplicated, the way Keller cooks at home — without intricate garnishes or an immersion circulator. Though, knowing him, I’m sure he cooks in the world’s most organized, uncluttered home kitchen around, with everything labeled and alphabetized, and every electrical cord neatly wound just so. He can’t help himself.
The book won’t be available until November. But the promo materials give a hint at the very doable, very delectable dishes in store: leek bread pudding, blow-torch prime rib roast, caramelized sea scallops, and pineapple upside-down cake.
Being the cookie fiend that I am, though, it was the recipe included in full for chocolate chip cookies that got me pumped up.
With so many chocolate chip cookie recipes already out there, how could this one be any different?
You start with butter that’s cold, not softened at room temperature.
You beat in said butter half at a time.
Two specific types of chocolate are used: 55 percent, and 70 to 72 percent.
You chop the chocolate, then sift it to remove tiny fragments so that the cookies bake up with a neater appearance.
Sweetness is provided mostly by dark brown sugar, not light.
There is no vanilla extract added.
And if you prefer softer-textured cookies, you don’t underbake them. Instead, you mist them with water before baking.
I opted to use the new Newman’s Own Organics 70 percent and 54 percent (the closest I had to 55 percent) dark chocolates because I had just received samples in the mail. They worked mighty fine, too.
The dough comes together easily in a mixer bowl. Then, you form it into balls that go onto baking pans. I baked half of the cookies as is, and half misted with water.
They emerged plump and golden brown from the oven. Maybe it’s because there is no vanilla extract to temper or mask anything, but this cookie really lets the chocolate shine. Take a bite, and what you notice most is the purity of the bittersweet, dark chocolate flavor that comes through. Even with 1 3/4 cups total of sugar, it’s not a sweet-tasting cookie by any means, especially if you’re used to the kid-friendly Toll House version.
The edges and tops are crispy, and the interior chewy. And if you use the misting technique, you do end up with cookies that are less crisp on top, and more cakey soft instead.
The cookbook may be five months away from being available in stores. But you can enjoy a most sweet preview by baking these cookies now. Yes, it’s a recipe by one of the world’s greatest chefs of all time. But happily, it’s one that’s infinitely doable by any and all.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes about thirty 3-inch cookies)
Thomas Keller writes in the book: This is our version of what is arguably the best cookie ever. I like to use different chocolates, one sweeter, one with a more complex bittersweet balance. After you chop the chocolate, sift it to remove any tiny fragments to give the cookies a cleaner look. If you like softer cookies, don’t underbake them, just mist them with water before baking.
2 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces 55 percent chocolate, cut into chip-sized pieces
5 ounces 70 to 72 percent chocolate, cut into chip-sized pieces
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup packed dark brown sugar, preferably molasses sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
Position racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
Sift flour and baking soda into a medium bowl. Stir in the salt.
Put chips in a fine-mesh basket strainer and shake to remove any chocolate “dust” (small fragments).
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat half the butter on medium speed until fairly smooth. Add both sugars and the remaining butter, and beat until well combined, then beat for a few minutes, until mixture is light and creamy. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating until the first one is incorporated before adding the next and scraping the bowl as necessary. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine. Mix in chocolate.
Remove bowl from mixer and fold dough with a spatula to be sure the chocolate is evenly incorporated. The dough or shaped cookies can be refrigerated, well wrapped, for up to 5 days or frozen for 2 weeks. Freeze shaped cookies on the baking sheets until firm, then transfer to freezer containers. (Defrost frozen cookies overnight in the refrigerator before baking.)
Using about 2 level tablespoons per cookie, shape dough into balls. Arrange 8 cookies on each pan, leaving about 2 inches between them, because the dough will spread. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the tops are no longer shiny, switching the position and rotating pans halfway through baking.
Cool cookies on the pans on cooling racks for about 2 minutes to firm up a bit, then transfer to the racks to cool completely. Repeat with second batch of cookies. (The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.)
Note: If your brown sugar has hardened, soften it in the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds.
From the upcoming “Ad Hoc At Home”
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