Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eating NYC: Jacques Torres Chocolates, Chelsea Market

I came to the Chelsea Market branch of Jacques Torres Chocolate with one item in mind - the saucer-shaped, palm-sized chocolate chip cookie made famous a few years ago, by the New York Times. Completely bypassing the cases of pretty little chocolates (for which Jacques Torres has claimed the name Mr. Chocolate), I pointed resolutely at the heaping pile of lightly bronzed cookies behind the counter. The girl selected one, wrapped it in paper, placed it in a tiny, two-handled bag and passed it over. Transaction complete. In all, my visit took about three minutes. There was no browsing, no hanging around - just bold, single-minded purpose.

What followed, however, was an extreme exercise in delayed gratification, since I was still full of Amy's Bread and had plans to save my cookie for an evening snack.  Sadly, my attempts to resist the allure of chocolate, sugar, flour, and butter met with complete failure. The Jacques Torres website praises the virtues of a hot chocolate chip cookie (apparently, you can get them warmed for you upon purchase) but mine was eaten cold...on the bus, on the way home! (If it makes it any better, I did share with my sister!)

I did a bit of research before our visit, and in the process I stumbled upon the official Jacques Torres website. I found it to be a little heavy-handed (it calls chocolate-making a 'godly process' and hails Jacques as its mastermind), but I must admit that it seems Mr. Torres really does seem to know what he's doing when it comes to chocolate. His cookie is famous for the thin, gooey layers of melted chocolate inside - created by the use of couverture chocolate formed into slender discs, instead of the more familiar chunks, drops, or chips of semi-sweet. When I broke open my Torres cookie, there were the layers, all dark and sinuous and handsome - your childhood chocolate chip cookie all grown up!

Look at those layers! 

But stratified chocolate isn't the only change Jacques Torres has made to everyone's favorite after-school treat; even his dough has a secret. It's known for its long resting period - the dough is supposed to be wrapped and refrigerated for at least 24 to 36 hours prior to baking - which apparently allows the ingredients time to soak up the liquid in the recipe, creating a crumblier dough that bakes up more evenly and with a richer, more caramel flavor.

So, how do all these details affect the finished product? Does the marriage of science and instinct really add up to a better cookie? To be honest, I can't be sure. The layers of molten chocolate really were a touch of genius (and I'd recommend the Torres cookie for these alone), but any advantage gained by 'resting' the dough was lost, in the case of my cookie, by over-baking it. I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be too firm and crispy - the edges were browned, rather than golden, and the center was barely soft. Perhaps someone left it in the holding oven for just a little too long - just long enough to burn out the complex caramel and buttery flavor. The cookie was still good, don't get me wrong, but just not as revelatory as it could have been.

See the burnt little edges?

Sure, I was disappointed, but I'm not willing to give up on the Torres cookie just yet. In a wonderful display of magnanimity, the same New York Times article that gave us the Torres cookie also gave us a recipe. I haven't tried it yet, but I will someday - when I can finally get my hands on some couverture chocolate discs. Sadly, I'll have to reserve my opinion of the Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookie until then...or until such time as I can return to NYC to try another!

Ooops - well, at least we weren't eating fish!


  1. I hear if you go to the Hudson Street location and get the cookies fresh out of the oven they are mind blowing. At Chelsea Market they were baked in the morning at Hudson Street and have been sitting out.

  2. I've since heard the same thing - I guess I'll have to plan a trip to Hudson Street on my next visit to NYC!