October 13, 2009
After years of experimentation, I've finally arrived at what at least I think is the perfect chocolate cookie - the kind that are large, rather soft, and usually fudgy.
Most of the ones I've had from bakeries or elsewhere tend to be too sugary, and lacking in chocolate impact. I wanted one which really had full chocolate power and wasn't tooth-achingly sweet.
The technical challenge here is that adding lots of chocolate to cookies tends to make them dry and crumbly. I suspect a lot of bakers give up on trying to get really high chocolate/sugar ratios because of this - quickly concluding that you need a high ratio of sugar to chocolate to avoid dry, fragile results. Here's how you avoid that compromise.
340g/12 oz dark chocolate, approximately 70%
100g(170 ml)/3/4 cup strong bread flour
170g/6 oz unsalted butter
115g/4 oz dark muscovado sugar
55 g/~1/4 cup water
1 large egg
1 vanilla bean
1 g/1/4 tsp salt
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Mix flour and salt, then add water and knead until you get a smooth, elastic ball. Split the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the sugar, stir to mix, then knead into the dough using a wooden spoon (not your hands) until fully incorporated. Now knead in the butter, using the same wooden spoon. Add the chocolate and stir to mix. Finally, add the egg, mixing completely.
Form the dough into a log and wrap in parchment. Place in the refrigerator until fully solid (at least 30 minutes). Preheat the oven to 160C/325F. Slice the log into 12 equal-size round slices, then place on a cookie sheet (ideally, lined with parchment). Bake at 160c about 20 minutes, until the aroma becomes intensely chocolatey and the centre is just set. Remove and cool.
It's best to let the cookies mature for at least 2 days - the flavour improves over that time.
You can probably instantly spot the technique that yields the moistness and proper texture, namely the "bread-dough" method. You might think this would make the cookies tough, but with that much chocolate and butter there's little risk of that. It's just enough to trap moisture and provide structure.
The sequence order of steps is also critical. Be sure to follow the steps exactly as listed - I experimented with other sequences and found there were various problems ranging from poor incorporation to premature setting of the mixture.
Weighing all your ingredients is the best way to get consistent results, although I've also listed volumetric (and Imperial) units for convenience. As a reference the chocolate I used for the experiments was consistently the Sainsbury's Organic Dominican Republic 70%. It's a 70/30/40 formulation (i.e. 70% cocoa, 30% sugar, 40% cocoa butter). Any chocolate at about that percentage and ratio, though, should be adequate, although of course with finer chocolate the result will be better than with cheap chocolate.