Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies, with a twist

Awhile back-- a long while back now, it seems--the nice people at Abrams sent me this gorgeous book for review.

I was excited. For one thing, the photos are really sensational. I found myself salivating at the sight of deep fuchsia beet and quinoa pancakes--when in reality, beet and quinoa pancakes don't sound good to me. I was equally enamored of the beautiful Apricot Boysenberry Tarts in the cover shot.

But a cookbook can't be just enticing photographs. There are far too many of these out there, in my opinion--oversized, glossy tomes that should just be set on your coffee table while you serve dessert baked from a real cookbook.

Good to the Grain, however, is the real thing. The recipes are serious. Kim Boyce is a former pastry chef at Spago and Campanile in L.A. She's clearly earned her good reputation, which is underscored by a glowing foreward from Nancy Silverton. Boyce writes in a thoughtful way, and it's evident that she's invested years in perfecting these recipes. We're lucky she's shared them with us--and her techniques, too, honed through years of working in professional kitchens.

I'll admit that I was biased against the book from the beginning for the plain fact that I don't generally have a high opinion of cookies and cakes made with whole grains. They are often leaden and dull and what they hold in virtue they often lack in flavor. But Kim's recipes were not the familiar 25-grain bread and harvest hockeypuck selection. On the contrary, her recipes called to me. Corn and Gruyere Muffins? Iced Oatmeal Cookies? Sign me up. And I've been fantasizing about her Muscovado Sugar Cake for months now.

I decided it was a good idea to start basic: isn't that a reasonable measure of a cookbook?  I chose Boyce's recipe for chocolate chip cookies made with whole wheat flour. I liked the look of the recipe for two reasons besides the mouth-watering photo: 1) The butter is added--chilled! No pre-softening necessary. And 2) It calls for chopping up good dark chocolate instead of plain old chocolate chips.

I have to tell you, these were some of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made. They turned out ever so slightly crispy on top, but chewy in the center, with a nutty background from the whole wheat, and big chunks of chocolate running through. Now, most of us are loyalists when it comes to chocolate chip cookie recipes, and if I could only make one the rest of my life, it would still be the one from Baking Illustrated that I wrote about a year ago. But this would be a very close second place.

The one thing about this cookbook is that I don't see myself buying all these different kinds of flours. I mean, whole wheat I can get behind. But amaranth, barley, spelt, and kamut?  It seems to require a change in life perspective--and a larger pantry. But truthfully, that barrier is my own making and not the fault of the book. And it is one I am inspired to break through, thanks to Kim Boyce.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours

About 20 large cookies

Parchment for baking sheets

Dry Mix:
3 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t.  baking soda
1 1/2 t. kosher salt

Wet Mix:
8 oz (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 c. dark brown sugar (I used light)
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla extract

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4-1/2" pieces (I used Scharffen Berger semisweet)

1. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

3. Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

4. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then scrape the batter out onto a work surface and use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients.

5. Scoop mounds of dough about 3 T. in size onto the baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between them, or about 6 to a sheet.

6. Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown. Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to the counter to cool, and repeat with remaining dough. These are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day. They'll keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


  1. these look yummy! what's your take on sifting?? crucial? oh - and how many do these make?

  2. Sophie: Thanks--and I'm just learning about spelt flour, it's all new to me.

    DS: Thanks for pointing that out, I put a note in the recipe that it makes about 20 big cookies. I made a half recipe and got about 12. As for sifting, I don't like doing it but it does serve a purpose--to eliminate clumps of baking powder or what have you. But if you don't have a sifter just run a whisk through it. Same idea :)

  3. These look seriously good. And I love that you don't feel so guilty eating them since they've got good stuff in there. I've been buying and baking with King Arthur white whole wheat flour. I use it in almost everything and there's no noticeable taste difference but it's loaded with goodness. Have you tried it?

  4. This is not the first time I've heard about adding butter chilled. Interesting. And the cookies look great.
    In Florida, we have to keep our flours in the fridge or they spoil quickly or get bugs. I have at this moment, 4 kinds of flour in there. It's getting crowded!

    Also, I love cookbooks with photos. But they have to be great recipes as well.

  5. well, if she gets chocolate chip cookies right, that's quite a good indication. i definitely agree about wanting to try various flours, but who keeps all those varieties in stock? not i! kamut? i haven't even heard of that one!

  6. That last picture is total food porn, its georgous! That book sounds great, I'll have to keep my eyes open for it.
    I'm with you on all those flours. They are so hard to find, and then after you buy them, once you make the recipe, you don't know what to do with the stuff.
    Hope you have a great weekend ahead.
    *kisses* HH

  7. My most favorite cookies are whole wheat chocolate chip from a local bakery down the street. I've always thought about asking them for the recipe but I figured they probably didn't hand out that kind of thing.

    Now I don't have to ask! I'm going to try this recipe. Thanks for posting it!

  8. Ooh, I've been thinking about making some chocolate chip cookies. It's a sign! I kind of like wholewheat flour but only in cookies NOT cake, although I could be persuaded (that Muscovado Sugar cake sounds pretty tempting).

    I'll definitely try this one. Have a great weekend:)

  9. oneordinaryday: I haven't tried that but I need to!

    Barbara: yes, the best cookbooks have amazing photographs and even more amazing recipes.

    grace: never heard of kamut either, until this book!

    HH: Thank you! Lovely weekend to you as well.

    D.A.: Great timing! I hope you give these a try--if you do, let me know how they work out!

    shaz: I'm definitely making the sugar cake. Doesn't it sound delicious? Great weekend to you too! :)

  10. I know what you mean about cookie recipe loyalty, but I am intrigued by the "nutty background" from the whole wheat. She didn't give weights, by chance?

  11. Hey! Did you see that the author of this book is doing a signing at Omnivore Books on May 24??

  12. I made chocolate chip cookies with whole flour once and loved it (it cuts the nauseating sweetness) and the addition of dark brown sugar adds moistness, this is a great recipe!

  13. camille: No weights, sorry!

    Erin: Nice to see you here, I miss your blog! Thanks for the tip about the signing!

    tasteofbeirut: It really adds a subtle difference to the flavor, I agree. Hope you try this one!

  14. I have this book on my shelf and have been trying to find the time to bake from it. I just love the idea of sweet treats made with whole grains -- and unusual ones at that.

  15. HD, thanks for following my travels. It's good to be home and to be able to check in with you. The only thing better would be to have a plate of these cookies...

    I prefer them with chopped up dark chocolate as well.

  16. CJ: I'm looking forward to trying some more of her recipes, so many of them sound surprisingly good!

    Kate: You know I live vicariously through you! :)

  17. Hungry Dog, I could have sworn I commented on this. Hmm...lost in cyberspace space I guess. I like my cookies with processed flour, brown sugar and an amazing amount of butter. Oh yeah, lots of chopped chocolate chunks too. With whole wheat flour I probably wouldn't feel any guilt when I gobbled down the whole batch.
    I have a bag of whole wheat flour and I about 15 pounds of dark chocolate, so I'll give this one a go.
    Thanks for posting the recipe.
    How about the May 26th? Will you be around?


  18. Pam: The 26th would be great! Cafe de la presse? What time?

  19. To die is too late right now to make these....