What’s a girl to do when confronted with platters and trays filled with the most luscious Jacques Torres Chocolates all for free? If you’re like me, you succumb to temptation within nano-seconds, grab a plateful and then, albeit somewhat sheepishly, come back for more.
That’s what I did last year at the Chef’s Table Presented by Jenn-Air, a fundraiser for the Chicago chapter of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). I must not have disgraced myself too much as I am invited back to this year’s culinary event on July 11, featuring signature dishes by ten of Chicago’s top chefs -- Chris Macchia of The Florentine Chris Pandel of Balena, Frederico Comaccio of Coco Pazzo, Jared Van Camp of Nellcote, Jess DeGuzman of Sunda, Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate, Thai Dang of Embeya and Jacques and Hasty Torres of Jacques Torres Chocolates.
The event is being held at “World of Whirlpool Corporation,” an interactive, state-of-the-art facility created for designers, trade customers, sales associates, people in the home appliance industry and the media who cover it located in a historic building on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. The chefs prepare their food in Jenn-Air’s test kitchens, which were set up along the perimeter of the large glass windows overlooking the Chicago River and skyline.
And then there was one whole area devoted to the aforementioned chocolates of Jacques Torres. There were trays of chocolates like his Alizé Heart of Passion milk chocolate filled with a milk chocolate and passion fruit flavored center, Jacque’s Beans to Bar – a blend of African and South America cocoa beans chocolate bar created by Torres with proceeds going to benefit a New York City food bank — the most marvelous chocolate chip cookies and, of all things, chocolate covered Cheerios.
For all of us who have covered various food stuffs with chocolates for soccer camps and elementary school birthday parties – there’s no comparison. These Cheerios are covered with a rich creamy milk chocolate that is his specialty.
I must have looked so overwhelmed that the chocolatier manning the table encouraged me to take as much as I wanted, saying you must try this and this over and over again. And so, of course, I did. But it was way too much to eat at once so I wrapped a few cookies and chocolates in napkins and put them in my purse to take home. I ate a few as I was driving and tried to keep the remainder neatly wrapped but the next morning when looking for my car keys, I stuck my fingers into a mess of chocolate goop – a candy or two that had broken up and blended with some of the cookie crumbs – which I ate anyway.
All this reminded me of Nora Ephron – one of my favorite writers – who I had had the chance to interview her about her book I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, a collection of essays in which one of the things she talked about was how she put all sorts of unique stuff in her purse. I mentioned to her how I had once tucked a yogurt and banana in my purse when leaving a hotel for a very early flight and then had rediscovered them much, much later. That was the kind of stuff she did too and so when I melded the variety of Torres’s goodies in my purse on the same week that she died, it somehow seemed like an appropriate gesture in honoring her passing.
As for this year’s Chef’s Table, also on the menu are cocktails created by mixologist Adam Seger showcasing La Crema Wines, Mionetto Prosecco, Patron Cocktails and Stella Artois Brews. All this is against a backdrop of the Chicago River and skyline with music as well as several unique auction items including $25,000 worth of Jenn-Air appliances.
The event includes a post-party tasting of chocolate and dessert wines and chocolate tutorial. Each attendee will receive a signed copy of Jacques Torres' hardcover book "A Year in Chocolate: 80 Recipes for Holidays and Special Occasions" as well as a special gift from Jacques and Hasty.
The following recipe was adapted from a Jacque Torres recipe by the New York Times and though much more complex than the Tollhouse Cookie recipe on the back for the semi-dark chocolate chip bag, certainly much more wonderful too.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.
Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.