Though it’s been three and half years since I’ve made France my home, I’m still very attached to my American roots. France has introduced me to a whole new world of pâtisseries and has brought out the sweet tooth in me, yet I still have a fondness for making American baked goods, such as cookies, muffins, cupcakes, etc. Cookies are probably one of the easiest things to make, but the Frenchies haven’t quite mastered this goodie of ours. I find that their interpretation of our cookies is a bit too dry and crunchy for my liking. I myself prefer soft and chewy cookies. Ahhh, nothing like the nostalgia of my days back in the states brought on by biting into a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie!
As much as I love to bake though, I must admit that I know very little about how ingredients interact and what techniques yield a successfully balanced and tasty dessert. When something comes out of the oven looking very little like what I had expected, I’m usually very puzzled and I find myself scratching my head trying to figure out what went wrong. This happens quite often when I try to follow an American recipe for baked goods, such as cookies, muffins, cupcakes, etc. The quantities listed in these recipes are usually cup-based, rather than the more precise measurements based on the metric system. Unfortunately, this generally leads to inconsistent results, especially since the only measuring cup I have left is the 1/3 cup.
I’ve tried converting recipes, but even that is an imprecise art, as a quick search on the net will show that there isn’t any consensus on how much a cup of flour actually weighs. I’ve seen weights ranging from 100 to 150 grams. With such a high degree of variance, errors are bound to happen. I’m sure that any baker out there can attest to the fact that baking requires a high level of precision, because even the slightest error often cannot be corrected as when cooking savory dishes.
So, to better understand how baking actually works, I decided to forgo relying on such recipes and I started to play around with developing my own recipes. I’ve been poring over several recipe books, in particular, Professional Baking, which I lugged over from the US. This pedagogic book offers a wealth of information on all things baking. One of the chapters focuses entirely on cookies, giving insight on how mixing methods and certain factors affect a cookie’s crispness, softness, chewiness, and spread.
Feeling a bit more informed, I made my first attempt at writing a my own cookie recipe. I wanted something simple, but a bit more interesting than a plain old chocolate chip cookie. Being a chocolate addict, I figured a chocolate chocolate cookie topped with fleur de sel would be an appropriate first cookie. After two rounds of testing, I think I’ve come up with something that I’m pretty satisfied with. The cookie has just the right degree of chewiness to it and a very pronounced chocolate flavor that is nicely balanced by the fleur de sel. Having recently started my new job (which I absolutely love, by the way!), I figured that my new coworkers would be the perfect guinea pigs to test out my new recipe. Judging by how quickly the cookies disappeared, I think we have a winner! I also brought a batch to an American Expats in Paris meet-up pinic this weekend and they gave their thumbs up as well. What do y’all think?
Fleur de Sel Chocolate Chocolate Cookies
makes about 2 dozen cookies
140 g butter
100 g granulated sugar
75 g brown sugar
1 tspn kahlua
1 tspn vanilla extract
150 g flour
50 g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tspn baking powder
a pinch of salt
100 g chopped dark chocolate
Fleur de sel
*All ingredients should be room temperature.
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
3. Cream the butter with the sugar just until it becomes a smooth paste. Creaming the mix until it is light and fluffy will reduce the density of the cookie, so don’t over mix at this point.
4. Beat the egg, kahlua and vanilla extract into the creamed butter.
5. Add the flour mixture in thirds and thoroughly mix until well combined after each addition.
6. Fold in the chopped chocolate.
7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop 3-4 cm diameter balls of dough and place them about 6-8 cm apart. Top each ball with a sprinkle of fleur de sel. Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, as they are still pretty soft at this point. Then, transfer them to a cooling rack with a spatula to allow them to continue to cool. Best enjoyed with a glass of milk while still warm!