In our November/December 2015 issue, we feature a knock-out shortbread recipe from Chicago pastry chef Mindy Segal's debut cookbook Cookie Love. At her restaurant, Mindy's Hot Chocolate, Mindy always serves cookie plates, deceptively casual assortments of crazy-creative cookies. She does things like roll homemade hot fudge into rugelach, or fold a bar snack like corn nuts into shortbread. There are no rules. Things get messy and funky and oozy and crumbly very fast, but in only the most delicious way. She's pretty much a cookie genius.
I share all this background, because you need to appreciate why, when Mindy Segal says she's going to tell you how to make "Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies," you know there's going to be a twist somewhere that makes them a thousand times better than any "classic" cookie ever dreamed it could be. And this, my friends, is it:
If you read a lot of food blogs, you might know what you're looking at. These are high-quality chocolate baking discs, sometimes called féves. And they are jaw-droppingly expensive. We're talking upwards of $20 per pound. (We bought ours at Whole Foods, but they are widely available online, too. Good brands are Tcho, Callebaut and Valrhona.) Two things are happening here. First, the quality of the chocolate is noticeably better than anything you'll get at the supermarket, but the shape is crucial, too. They are roughly the diameter of a quarter and not much thicker. As the cookie bakes, they soften and spread in the dough, creating thin layers of chocolate and cookie, like geological strata. In other words, you get a perfect blend of cookie and chocolate in every bite, rather than little hard nuggets as you do with chocolate chips. (Mindy is not the only chef to use discs in her cookies. The technique is most famously associated with pastry chef Jacques Torres, whose cookies became a cult phenomemon in large part due to this fascinating New York Times story.)
But back to Mindy. These are her cookies:
You can see that chocolate's not the only complicating factor here. Mindy also uses two kinds of salt—ordinary kosher and flaky sea salt, both in the batter and as a garnish at the end. Flaky sea salt has a wonderful crisp texture and clean flavor. The British brand Maldon is well-known, but Mindy favors Cypriot sea salt, which I've found affordable at Trader Joe's. Any specialty food store will have some kind of flaky salt. Even your grandma knew that salt enhances cookies, but Mindy takes that further. Her cookies are decidedly salty-sweet, which is important with so much rich chocolate in the mix.
And there's one more thing that you can't see in the photo. She chills the dough overnight. Do not skip this step. Seriously. It develops the cookies' texture and flavor. The truth is, even your typical Tollhouse cookie dough would probably benefit from an overnight chill.
So where does this leave us? Clearly, for that price and time commitment, these are not going to be the cookies you bake for a preschool playdate or church potluck or Friday night sugar craving. However, they are absolutely THE cookie you should be making for a friend's birthday or dinner guests or (fa la la!) holiday gifting. They are unbelievably rich and chocolatey, with a well-developed toffee flavor and bracing hit of salt, and there is no doubt when you are eating them that you are eating something very, very special.
I've shared the recipe here (Mindy Segal's Chocolate Chip Cookies) and you can also find it in Mindy's book, which I highly recommend as well. The recipes in it are not simple, but every one we tested was extraordinarily delicious.
And on that note, would you mind passing the milk? I'd like another cookie.
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