Thursday, May 25, 2017

Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies à la David Lebovitz

This is the picture that got me. As a sucker for oozing chocolate chip cookies, I lighted up when I  made my occasional scan of David Lebovitz's blog and saw this outrageous photo. Then I noticed the tahini and I headed straight for the kitchen.

The dough came together quickly, but I adjusted the recipe to my personal taste and used half the chocolate chunks (Scharffen Berger bittersweet and semisweet pieces) and I added a cup of walnuts to the mixture. Next time I'll add even more. Also, because I'm not a fan of the salty-sweet trend, I omitted the salt sprinkles at the end. I like a classic sweet cookie, even though David's first word is "salted."

My cookies just out of the oven cooling on the tray
Boy, my cookies did not resemble the plump, oozing specimens in David's photo, but one bite told me that I had a winner. Like he says, these are some of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had. They were crisp when they were warm and they remained crisp to the end, three days later. Chocolate lovers like my husband will want more chocolate, but these are perfect for me.

Here is the recipe copied from the David Lebovitz blog:

Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies
18 to 25 cookies 
Adapted from Modern Israeli Cooking: 100 New Recipes for Traditional Classics by Danielle Oron. I used chopped chocolate, rather than chocolate chips, for these cookies since I wanted large chunks of oozing chocolate rather than little bits of chocolate here and there. (But feel free to use chips if you’d like.) Normally when I chop chocolate for cookies, I add any small bits and pieces on the cutting board along with the bigger chunks. But for these, I wanted distinct, more assertive pieces of chocolate, so I sorted through and just used large chunks, saving the smaller bits for another baking project. I baked these cookies in a larger size, then tried them in smaller portions, and give baking times for each. Whichever size you bake them in, since everyone’s oven is different, it’s important to use visual clues rather than rely on precise minutes and numbers to tell when they’re done. Keep an eye on them during the final minutes of baking; the cookies are done when quite pale in the center and browned around the edges.
8 tablespoons (115g, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120ml) tahini, well stirred
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (90g) packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cup plus 2 tablespoons (150g) flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 cups (280g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chunks, or chocolate chips
flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, tahini, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy. (The dough can also be made in a large mixing bowl, stirred with a spatula.)
2. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Add the egg, the yolk, and vanilla, and continue to mix for another minute, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl during mixing, to make sure the eggs are getting incorporated.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and kosher or sea salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just combined, then add the chocolate chips. Do not overmix. Cover the dough and refrigerate overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (180ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
5. Form the cookies into rounds using an ice cream scoop, or your hands. For small cookies make each 1 1/2-inch (3,5cm), for larger cookies, make them 2-inches (5cm) round. Place them evenly spaced on the baking sheets, 3-inches (8cm) apart). Bake one sheet at a time, so you can keep an eye on them, in the middle rack of the oven.
6. Bake the cookies, turning the baking sheet in the oven midway during baking, until the cookies are golden brown around the edges but still pale in the center. For small cookies, about 12 minutes, for larger cookies, about 14 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle cookies with a bit of flaky sea salt, and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. Bake the remaining cookies the same way.Storage: These cookies will keep for two or three days at room temperature, but are definitely better the same day they’re baked. The unbaked dough can be refrigerated for up to one week, and frozen for up to two months.

My second try

My first cookies evaporated so fast that I had to make another batch. I adjusted this recipe to look more like David's. I made the cookies larger and thicker, I used more chocolate chunks and I salted the tops with sea salt to finish. Even better this time! At least some oozing is evident.
I met David in 1998 while he was teaching a cooking class at Sur La Table in Berkeley, where I worked. He was living in San Francisco then, just before moving to Paris. He arrived early and made a batch of extraordinary brownies for the staff and cooking class volunteers. I was bowled over by the rich, intense fudginess of his creation and the next day I asked Sandy Sachs, the cooking class coordinator, for David's recipe. To my surprise, the copy she handed to me was a Scharffen Berger hand out. The treat he had made were the chocolate brownies developed by Robert Steinberg for Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker. The staff knew Robert because he poked around Sur La Table while he was developing the recipes for his fledgling chocolate company. David also became friendly with Robert and John Scharffenbeger when they were launching the company. In Robert's 2008 obituary, David wrote: "I was really fortunate to know Robert and  had the pleasure of watching him make chocolate, swooning over a luscious spoonful of the sticky, half-crushed cocoa beans...learning how to be a more perceptive and thoughtful taster..."

So what started out as "classic chocolate brownies" on a faded mail order leaflet, became "Robert's Fudgy Brownies." The recipe below was printed in a small booklet enclosed in Scharffen Berger's
bittersweet baking bar boxes. The company no longer includes these recipes, so I'm glad I kept the leaflets from the bittersweet and semisweet baking bar packages.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! The cookies, the history, the people and their connections with you— a lovely bit of culinary delight.