Does this ever happen to you? A food-porn image leaps off the pages of a magazine and imbeds itself into your cortex. Before you know it, you’re scrupulously following the recipe’s every word. Yet despite your best efforts, the finished product isn’t a twin of the one that appeared in the magazine. It’s more like a second cousin, from the ugly side of the family.
My latest disconnect between newsstand fantasy and kitchen reality originated with a recent issue of Saveur. To celebrate the magazine’s 150th issue, Team Saveur gathered 150 classic recipes, squeezing 101 into print, and diverting the balance to the magazine’s website and digital edition.
Leave it to my sweet tooth, which never met a chocolate chip cookie that it didn’t totally crush on, to stop dead in its tracks on page 76. Richard Avedon himself couldn’t have shot a more compelling photograph, and the more I read, the more I liked.
An inspired idea sets this cookie apart. Rather than utilizing the scoop-and-drop method that makes the Toll House cookie such a paragon of simplicity, this recipe, borrowing puff pastry principles, rolls out the dough and layers it, alternating with several handfuls of chopped bittersweet chocolate.
What really grabbed me is how the cookies appear to have a puffy outer layer that collapsed, post-oven, a look that mimics another favorite cookie of mine, the meringue.
Imagine my acute disappointment when my first batch looked nothing like the magazine’s version. A second go-round was a slight improvement, but still several leagues below the beauties that emerged from Saveur’s Manhattan test kitchen.
My own baking cluelessness aside, a possible explanation for the disparity is a finishing step that author Sarah Copeland included in a previously published blog post. It doesn’t appear in the magazine, but it’s simple: Just before baking, the cookies are brushed with a beaten egg, then sprinkled with a few grains of fleur de sel.
That discovery sent me back to the kitchen. Unfortunately, my eureka moment never arrived. While the egg wash gave the cookies a pleasant sheen, the final results still didn’t add up to the Saveur’s rendition.
But in the end, who cares what they look like? These things are amazing. The crackled tops — a golden, chocolate-pocked sibling to the molasses crinkle — create a thin and enticingly crisp outer shell that gives way to a thick-ish, chewy and exceedingly rich center. A teasingly salty kick plays nicely against all that bittersweet chocolate.
For those with rolling pin anxiety, fear not. No exacting technical prowess is required, and a 2-inch biscuit cutter does the rest of the work. It’s a soft dough, so it’s best to work quickly — with a well-floured rolling pin — while the dough remains chilled and relatively firm. I can’t imagine why I’d ever go back to the old scoop-and-drop method.
Yeah, they’re that good.