Dwayne Ingraham, winner of Food Network's "Best Baker in America," first made a pound cake from scratch at 11 years old. But it wasn't until he went off to college that he learned about the restaurant world and that pastry could be a career.
"I was like whoa, you're telling me someone will pay for me to play in sugar and flour?" he said. "They didn't mention that at the career fair."
Ingraham, who led the pastry program at John Currence's City Grocery in Oxford, Mississippi, is now the pastry chef at Odette, a restaurant and shop in downtown Florence, Alabama.
His sweets menu elevates classics in a playful way, including the chocolate chip cookies available at the service counter as take-home treats. An adaptation of that recipe is below.
The secret to the very best chocolate chip cookies, Ingraham said, is dark brown sugar. The caramelization of the molasses that makes it brown adds depth.
Ingraham's cookies contain a blend of three chocolates, which come together to lend complexity. There are bittersweet 65% cacao couverture chips, which have dark berry notes. He also adds 40% milk chocolate chips and a semisweet chocolate chunk.
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"So you're biting into a cookie, you might get dark choc berry notes then you may get the milkiness and sweet and creamy, and then semisweet adds traditional flavor," he said. "The flavor profile just changes."
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Note that the measurements in this recipe are largely in dry weight rather than liquid cups, with Ingraham advising use of a kitchen scale for the most accurate measure. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can adapt your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe by tweaking the type of sugar and mixing up the chips as seen below.
8 ounces unsalted butter (melted)
8 ounces dark brown sugar
4 ounces white sugar
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
10 ounces all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces milk chocolate 40% (chopped)
4 ounces dark chocolate 65% (chopped)
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
8 ounces pecans (toasted and chopped)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter, combine with sugars and salt, and place in a large bowl. Whisk in the liquids. Sift and gently mix in dry ingredients. Fold in chocolates and nuts until all is incorporated. Chill in the refrigerator for five minutes.
Line a cookie sheet or half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Scoop with ¾ ounces cookie scoop or equivalent spoon size. Place 9 cookies on pan evenly spaced.
In a conventional oven, bake for about 10 minutes, or until baked through and nicely browned on the bottom. If you're using a convection oven, bake for 3 minutes, turn the pan, then bake another 3 minutes. Remove cookies from pan to cool.
This chocolate chip cookie recipe comes courtesy of Ingraham's forthcoming book, "Crumb, Crust, Butter & Lard."