Can three weeks really have passed? My goodness. I have been busy building a twenty by eight foot hen house and coop in the backyard, walking several hours a day in preparation for the Susan G. Komen 3-day 60 mile walk, and, well, I’ll spare you the rest of the dizzying list. After I finish painting, hanging window boxes, planting perennials, building and mounting a roof structure, and hauling in another 600 pounds of pea gravel, the hen house will be finished and I will have a lot more time for cooking (and posting). It has been a labor of love and, aside from moments when I’m aching and an unusually stubborn douglas fir board won’t take a nail for all my strength, it has been a pleasure to plan and build. In truth, as it’s come together and I’ve moved my growing hens into it, it’s like the biggest outdoor fishbowl I could have imagined: endlessly entertaining and relaxing. There is now a row of chairs along its front, and in groups of two or three we have taken to wandering out to watch the chickens with morning coffee, afternoon tea, or, recently, one of Jacques Torres’ beautiful big cookies in hand. Beatrice, Clementine, Edna, Edith, and Florence seem to be very happy in their new home. They are grazing and scratching and, with a little coaxing and demonstration, learning to use the ladder up to the coop, and to roost on the bars inside. Edna and Clementine march down first in the morning, surefooted and confident. Edith follows next, a little timid but steady. Then comes Beatrice, careful with each step and rather wobbly. And last is Florence, who inevitably falls off the ladder as she trembles her way down. Sweetest of all is that they know me, something I didn’t expect. They all run over when I enter the house and peep and cluck at my feet, gathering and vying for some time to be petted. “Hello, chickens,” I call as I approach. And they perk up and walk over, some scuttering, others dawdling, all heads bobbing. It’s quite endearing. Eggs or not, I’m hooked.
Amongst all of the hen house work, I have been making quick suppers with our farm share and the herbs from the new garden box my Dear Husband bought for me this spring. They are thriving in the cool, damp weather we’ve had, and I am thrilled. The cornmeal pizzas I made tonight with a quick red sauce, some sausage, and pearls of fresh mozzarella were so much more delicious with handfuls of fresh oregano and basil. I haven’t had much time to bake, but on Fathers’ Day I baked these cookies. I resolved some months ago now to only post original recipes on the blog, but this recipe merits an exception. Leave it to charming and ever cheerful Frenchman and master pastry chef and chocolatier Jacques Torres to create the most heavenly version of the all-American chocolate chip cookie. (I adore Jacques and, to be perfectly cheeky, think that if Fred Rogers and Willy Wonka had a love child, he would be Jacques Torres.) I knew my Dear Husband had printed his recipe for chocolate chip cookies a few years ago and I had stashed it somewhere. A little digging produced the 2008 printout from the New York Times. My body-as-temple mate has one true weakness: a great chocolate chip cookie. So I thought I would try Jacques’ version, if a few years behind schedule. Oh my. Just make them. We’ve made our way through three batches in under a week. And don’t skip the resting step. We rushed into baking a tray of five cookies immediately, and have returned to quiet restraint. This is deferred gratification worth every hour of waiting. I think descriptions will fall short here, so I’ll just say that a kind of magic happens during the resting period. All of that creamy butter absorbs the flours to create a fantastic texture. Jacques’ recipe calls for discs of bittersweet chocolate. We’ve done that: Amen! And also made a version with discs and chips. And a version with both bittersweet and milk chocolate discs of single origin chocolate. All were stellar. But we’ve settled on Jacques’ original suggestion as our favorite. The discs are spendy, but worth a splurge here; if that’s not possible, they are wonderful with plain old chips, too. Bake some and send a love note to Jacques. He’s some kind of genius. I’m off to settle into a chair to watch the hens for a few minutes with one of his homey cookies, a perfect way to enjoy the last minutes of this perfect summer day. I’ll tuck into the cookie, and then tuck the hens snugly into their coop.
Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Chip Cookies
By Jacques Torres, adapted from the New York Times
Yield: 20 5-inch cookies
1 ¼ c. unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c. plus 2 T. sugar
1 ¼ c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 ¼ t. baking soda
1 ½ t. baking powder
1 ½ t. coarse salt (or half the amount if you only have conventional salt)
2 c. less 2 T. cake flour
1 2/3 c. bread flour
1 pound bittersweet chocolate discs or feves or 1 12 ounce bag of bittersweet chocolate morsels*
*Here is a link to Jacques’ site, mrchocolate.com.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugars until they are light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions.
- Add the vanilla and mix well.
- Sprinkle the baking soda, baking powder, and salt across the mixture, distributing them as evenly as possible. Mix them into the dough.
- Add the flours and mix slowly until just combined.
- Gently stir in the chocolate so as not to break the pieces.
- Scrape down the dough neatly down into the mixing bowl and press cellophane directly onto it. Refrigerate the dough for 24 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Scoop the dough into balls just between the size of golf and tennis balls, righting any protruding chocolate discs so that they are horizontal in orientation.
- Bake them until they are pale golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- Pour a tall glass of milk and enjoy.