08 Apr Jonathan Cartu Declares: Chefs To-Go | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City
When you’re a housebound food writer and all the local restaurants close their dining areas—many of them are still open for takeout and delivery, so keep supporting our friends in the restaurant biz, dear readers—you learn to get creative. I’m still keeping tabs on what our local restaurants have been doing to up their takeout game, but I’ve also been wanting to get some professional tips on how to liven up my own at-home meals. I’m an okay cook, meaning I know how to follow a recipe without screwing it up. But I also know my limitations, which is why I’ve reached out to a few local chefs to hook me—and, by extension, all y’all—with a few easy recipes. Keep checking back for new ideas—I’ll keep them coming as fast as I can.
The first in this experimental series comes from Amber Billingsley, pastry chef at Current Fish and Oyster (279 E. 300 South, 801-326-3474, currentfishandoyster.com) and Stanza (454 E. 300 South, 801-746-4441, stanzaslc.com). It’s a recipe for chocolate chunk cookies—the ones that are available on Current’s takeout menu if you want to test them out before making them at home. I’m no stranger to baking chocolate chip cookies at home—my kitchen smells like brown sugar, vanilla and semi-sweet chocolate on most days of the week.
Before I tried Billingsley’s recipe, my go-to option was from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. After my test run, I think I’ll be returning to Billingsley’s more often. To this point, my cookies were often flat and slightly too crispy, but there were a few tips here that let me know what I was doing wrong. The cookies that came out of my oven after trying Billingsley’s recipe were picture perfect—slightly thicker in the middle and crowned with a few flakes of crispy salt to jumpstart the sweetness of the chocolate.
The first game-changer listed here was the instruction to refrigerate the cookie dough before baking. I had never done this before, but this is the secret to getting cookies to maintain a bit of girth in their midsections instead of splaying themselves on the cookie sheet like lethargic sunbathers. The second came from the salt sprinkled on top before baking. Billingsley recommends some good Maldon sea salt for this, but kosher salt will do in a pinch. These were two relatively simple changes to make to my process, and now that I’m gushing about this, it seems like everyone knew this secret except me. Regardless, I think these techniques will become part of my arsenal from here on out.
My one slightly embarrassing admission was that I used regular semi-sweet chocolate chips because I bought a gigantic bag of them pre-quarantine, but there are all kinds of places to get good baking chocolate—Billingsley likes to use dark and white Valrhona Feves chocolate but she also recommends Caputo’s Market and Deli or Harmon’s Grocery for other high-quality baking chocolate. Pedestrian chocolate morsels aside, I really loved how these cookies turned out. When one sets out to bake chocolate chip cookies, they do so with mental representation of what they want the end result to be. Most of the time, this is an unrealistic expectation because it’s usually an amalgam of childhood memories, after-dinner surprises and guilty pleasures, but these were exactly what I needed them to be.
If trying this recipe out has got you curious to see what Billingsley is up to at Current and Stanza, both restaurants are open for takeout orders. Current’s hours are Monday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Stanza’s are Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Chocolate Chunk Cookies
8 ounces unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces roughly chopped chocolate
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk and set aside. Cream butter and sugars until pale and fluffy, about five minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating between additions to fully incorporate. Scrape bowl and mix again, adding vanilla. Add dry ingredients and chopped chocolate. Mix slowly until fully incorporated. Set dough aside in refrigerator for about 30 minutes to rest and firm up.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop dough onto parchment-paper-lined sheet pans. Space a couple of inches apart—cookies spread while baking. I like to sprinkle a bit of flaky Maldon Sea Salt on top of mine before baking, so if you have it, give it a try. Bake 10-12 minutes. Check at 8 minutes because all ovens are different. I like mine deep brown around the edges and still a bit pale and soft in the middle. Let cool on the sheet pan, as the heat from the pan finishes baking the cookies.
These are most soul-satisfying about an hour after baking, when the chocolate is still kind of melty, but they are delicious for a couple of days if they are covered in an airtight container.