Chew on This

Chew on This: My favorite chocolate chip cookies

aweigl@newsobserver.comFebruary 5, 2013 

  • David Fowle’s Chocolate Chip Cookies David Fowle recommends Ghirardelli chocolate chips for everyday cookies and the more expensive E. Guittard, which can be bought at Fresh Market and specialty stores, for special occasions. Although Fowle calls for more chocolate, I found that a 10-ounce bag of Ghirardelli chips produces great cookies. While Fowle bakes his cookies for 16-17 minutes, I baked mine between 18 and 20 minutes. You will have to figure out what works best in your oven. 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup sugar 1 1/4 cups brown sugar 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature 2 eggs, at room temperature 2 teaspoons vanilla 14-16 ounces chocolate chips, at least 60 percent cacao, such as E. Guittard or Ghirardelli Sea salt SIFT flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside. CREAM sugar, brown sugar and butter in a standing mixer or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer. (You want this very well combined. Fowle lets his standing mixer go for five minutes.) ADD eggs one a time and beat thoroughly. Then add vanilla and continue beating. Slowly add the flour. When all the flour disappears into the dough, add chocolate. Cover dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours. HEAT oven to 300 degrees. USE an ice cream scoop to make golf ball-sized mounds of dough. (If you have a kitchen scale, the dough balls should weigh between 2-1/4 and 2-1/2 ounces.) Place each one several inches apart on a cookie sheet. Lightly sprinkle each cookie with sea salt. BAKE for 16-20 minutes depending upon how soft you like your cookies. Yield: about 24 cookies

I have been on a perpetual quest to find the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

I’ve tried everything. Milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate and bittersweet chocolate. Chips and chunks. Chilled dough and room temperature dough. Sifted dry ingredients and not sifted. Recipes on the back of bags of chocolate chips and fancy pastry chefs’ recipes.

Each attempt turned out fine but not great cookies. Until now.

I have the recipe for the most wonderful chocolate chip cookies I have ever encountered, thanks to David Fowle, owner of the Wilmoore Cafe, a coffeehouse and sandwich shop that closed last month in downtown Raleigh.

The very personable Fowle sold these cookies at his coffee shop, where I was a frequent customer. I love these cookies. They are soft in the middle and crisp on the outside and have this inexplicable interior layer of chocolate.

When Fowle announced last month that his cafe was being sold to chef Ashley Christensen, I realized my opportunity to learn his cookie-making technique would soon vanish. So I spent a half-hour in Fowle’s kitchen, learning his technique and hearing the story of his recipe.

In the spring of 2008, Fowle, his wife and two daughters took a vacation to New York City. While his older daughter and wife attended a class at a famous dance studio, Fowle and his youngest daughter went to the nearby Levain Bakery in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“I spent $20 for four or five cookies, but it was worth it,” Fowle said.

A few months later, The New York Times published a story about how to make better chocolate chip cookies based on the tricks of bakers throughout the city, including Jacques Torres, aka Mr. Chocolate, and the Levain Bakery. The key, food writer David Leite discovered, is letting the dough sit in the refrigerator between one to three days before baking. The longer the dough sits, the more complex and flavorful the cookie becomes once baked.

Fowle, who estimates he has made 8,000 of these cookies at home and at the coffee shop, agrees: “It just gets better on the next day.”

Fowl adapted the recipe that appeared in The Times, replacing the mix of cake and bread flour with all-purpose flour, tweaking the amount of the sugars and butter and reducing the amount of chocolate chips from 1 1/4 pounds to a pound.

About the latter change, Fowle said, “I can’t use that much. It’s too much and I’m a chocolate head.”

For special occasions, Fowle suggest buying E. Guittard chocolate, which costs $10 a pound at Fresh Market. The E. Guittard chocolate discs melt to create that mysterious core layer of chocolate inside the cookie. “When this stuff cooks up, it’s like a layer of earth,” Fowle said.

I agree that it’s amazing and worth the splurge for at least one batch.

While I’ll miss my conversations with Fowle across the coffee counter and hope he one day returns to the coffee business downtown, I will never have to miss his cookies.

To see a printable version of this recipe, click on the name below:

David Fowle’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Weigl: aweigl@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4848

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