The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, pt. I

     My culinary quest for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe started long ago, when my chocolate chip cookies started coming out differently. So I sought after the reasons that different things were happening. I started softening butter instead of microwaving it, intentionally melting butter, substituting baking soda for baking powder, and many other things. Since eating my way around San Francisco, the quest has got real: More to experiment with, more frequent testing, more tweaking. Thanks to Goody Goodie and Megan, I am now experimenting with cocoa nibs! What an excellent idea. Cocoa nibs and two other general concepts, all relating the the chocolate of the cookie, will be presented hither. Prepare for casual serious food talk.

     So cocoa nibs are chocolate before the chocolate gets processed with cocoa butter, milk and sugar into a bar. At nib form, the chocolate process has reached fermentation and drying. You can get them in their husks, which are technically edible but not tasty, or you can get them already shelled. To be honest, I wouldn’t say the nib itself is all that tasty itself either, but it sure does a great thing for cookies. The nibs are nutty, fruity, and quite bitter. You may not decide to pop a whole nib in your mouth like a cashew or raisin. BUT, the floral taste that sticks around in your mouth (not as well after further processing), does a big thing to a cookie. Too big, however, if you decide to omit any other chocolate-ness. Even so, both the flavor and texture are improved with the cocoa nibs. The crunch definitely confuses people when they can’t see or taste a walnut, and it makes things a little more exciting for your mouth.

      I’ve also sworn off and abandoned chocolate chips. Strange, seeing as I’m trying to make cookies of the chocolate chip variety. So when I say chocolate chips, think more chips in the sense of fragments, bits, chipped. I’ve found chocolate chunks to be so much more appealing. I think it’s a combination of size and psychology. Chocolate chunks are usually big, so you’re sure to get a mouthful of melty chocolate always. You may be wondering if the chunks above are indeed bigger than chocolate chips, and the answer is generally yes – but variety is also good: Some small, some big.
     I also suddenly think chocolate chips are child’s play: How many single chocolate chips have you purchased with chocolate chips and not chunks? Not many, in San Francisco at least. They remind me of 5th grade life skills class in the kitchen at ELMS. But we’re in the big leagues, which calls for big chocolate. Plus, I feel way more credentialed when I’m crushing bars of chocolate. “There are chocolate bars in the cookies”. Don’t tell me that doesn’t sound special.

     Did anyone ask himself/herself why we’re always using semi-sweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate in their cookies? Probably not, since the answer sounds something like “too sweet/mild”. Well, to that I say, everything in moderation. Why not throw all different percentages of chocolate in a batter? This idea I also took from Goody Goodie. If you have milk and dark chocolate in a cookie, you’re pretty much pleasing all chocolate lovers! More for your mouth to do. So now you’ve got cocoa nibs, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate in your cookie. Isn’t that a ton of chocolate?

      YES!! Yes it is a ton of chocolate, and that’s definitely the (last) idea here. This picture is actually a representation of what cookie batter would usually look like, so if your batter looks like this, add more chocolate! You should be questioning the integrity of the final cookie with the amount of batter that seems to be missing. But trust me – there’s enough of everything. If you do nothing else from this post, add twice as much chocolate into your cookie batter and watch the magic unfold…melt.

So to summarize, improve your chocolate “chip” cookies with
1. Cocoa nibs (found at your local co-op, or, uh, on the interwebs? Still investigating Wegs)
2. Chocolate chunks
3. Milk chocolate
4. MUCH chocolate. Wow-worthy.

     Thank you Megan for the cocoa beans (nibs inside) from Dandelion Chocolate, also in fact featured on Unique Sweets.

(Click on photos for a better look)

     Nibs, shelled and broken up. They kind of look like brains from the fold-like cracks that make the nibs come apart easily. I would, however, recommend chopping a little after that to make the bits even smaller. Some of my bites were a little too nibby.

     These make up for less than half the total chocolate going into the cookies. But they pack a big punch.

…not to mention the pretty colors! That batter though.
Cutting up chocolate also makes for cool-looking brown flakes in the cookies.
Next experiments are including but not limited to the shape of dough before hitting the oven, oven temperatures, butter beating techniques, chilling variations, and finding out what parchment paper actually does.
Chocolate Chunk Cookies (by me!)
Makes 45 small cookies
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 natural/evaporated cane sugar
~Cream these ingredients together until smooth.
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
~Cream with butter and sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

~Sift these together in a separate bowl, then gradually add by hand to butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

16 oz semi-sweet chocolate chunks
3 oz milk chocolate chunks
1/2 cup chopped cocoa nibs
~Fold this into dough. Don’t panic.

Let chill in the fridge for a few hours, or in the freezer for fewer. Drop tablespoonfulls of dough onto a baking sheet with parchment paper, if you don’t want to wash your sheet later. Place in the oven at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until the middle doesn’t look like a puddle of melted batter. Cool slightly before eating.

How’s that recipe layout? Seems a little more efficient…feel free to comment if you think otherwise. Look out for updated recipes soonish! Happy tweaking!

As Seen on "Unique Sweets": Craftsman and Wolves

See Dandelion Chocolates back there? Yeah, they were on the same episode.

     Unique Sweets is truthfully my favorite TV show, period. It’s on the Cooking Channel, the hipster and unconventional teenager of the Food Network, and it’s full of national gems. A spin-off of the original “Unique Eats”, this show exhibits different cafés, bakeries and restaurants in the country with crazy cool desserts and sweet treats. What’s better than offbeat confectioneries? The only thing I can think of is being in a city with so many! I’ve counted six locations in San Francisco that “Unique Sweets” has been to, talked about and aired on their show. Dynamo Donuts, which I wrote about before, happens to be one of these places. Another of these places is Craftsman and Wolves, in the Mission District. They’re known for “The Rebel Within”, which is a soft-boiled egg inside of an asiago sausage muffin. But once you walk up to their counter, you’ll see why else they’re famous and unique.

Caramelized hazelnut financier (French cake). $3.
Cashew curry and Valrhona (also French) chocolate chip cookies. $3
Chocolate croissant stack. $3.50

     Everything they make is beautiful. Look at that chocolate stack. Would I buy it for $3.50? Maybe not. I had a grand old time in there fangirling behind my camera, though.

The Rebel Within. $7

     Look at that muffin. This I might shell out 7 bucks for if just for the experience (if not for the sausage part).  Inside your asiago muffin, you get a soft-boiled egg. Whoa. What an adventure to bite into.

Savory tart: Charred eggplant purée, quinoa, smocked almonds and raisins (sic?). $5.50.
They omitted the “fromage blanc” on the little card there, but seen on their online menu.
Also, if you know that smocked is a real term, please fill me in.

     Moving left towards the cash register, we see potential lunch contenders. A garden of choices. A display of attention to detail.

Hard hitters corner. Proceed with caution.

Haute Dog: Beef frank, mustard seed croissant, salt & vinegar beet chips. $6.50.
Now they’re just getting ridiculous. Or no? Maybe it’s incredible.

“Sandwich”: Shitake, bok choy, kimchi savory cake, peanuts (sic). $8.
I’m not even sure what some of that means. Was the kimchi baked into that toast?

     There’s where the “crazy cool” comes in, sweet or not. These could just as well be life-like ceramic sculptures of very talented artists, but this is really what these lunch menu items look like. I don’t know that I would ever go for the toast set up, but I would consider the haute dog.

Coupe: Blueberry, Earl Grey. $4.50
Tart: Sweet corn, blonde chocolate, coconut, caramel. $6.50

     I would buy this spherical tart just out of curiosity on how to eat it. Seriously, how do you eat that? Is it soft and moussey? Hard and fudgy? But you have to applaud how they put these things together to make them look like bird nests. And that petal of whatever it may be.

(Mini) Black Frosting: Blackberry, vanilla, semolina, lavender. $8, $27.

(Mini) Cube Cake: Strawberry, honey, yogurt. $8, $30.

     Their cakes are also other-worldly. They change varieties every so often as well.

     I went for a morning bun, because it was “only” $4. It was nothing particularly special, but it had a nice flavor of vanilla like I was eating ice cream. Morning buns seem to be more of a west coast thing, and definitely a San Francisco thing. No crazy citrus flavors like most morning buns have, though. The center was soft and chewy and the outside was crunchy from the sugar and maybe salt coating. I don’t think you can really go wrong at Craftsman and Wolves: anything you get will be really good, or at least an experience.
     If you ever get the chance, do make it to Craftsman and Wolves. They made it to Unique Sweets for a reason. Apart from the occasional typo, they know what they’re doing. Check out their website, or better yet, their Instagram for more ridiculousness. Whether you get a Rebel Within or a bird’s nest, CAW will have something to spark your curiosity.

Editor’s note: I have since consumed six dollars worth of the Valrhona chocolate chip cookies for free (serious perks of interning for one of the best food photographers in the city). Surprisingly, I found the Valrhona chocolate to be too dark…I guess my palate hasn’t grown up as much as I thought.  Which would explain the reactions of all the adults around who fell in love with the cookies. Don’t get me wrong – apart from the chocolate, I did really enjoy the cookie. It was chewy and thick. But seriously, I could have eaten one for breakfast – so dense, so big!