Some things seem to always be just the way you want and expect them to be; stable yet perfect, no matter what: the fit of your favorite pair of jeans (perhaps prior to baking a batch of these!), a visit to see one of your favorite classic paintings, Meryl Streep’s performance in just about anything, and these chocolate chip cookies.
We can also add Paul Cézanne’s series of portraits of his wife to the list—together for 37 years, Hortense Fiquet was the subject of approximately 29 portraits done by her husband, over a span of about 20 years. The Met’s fabulous show Madame Cézanne (which closes on March 15, so go if you can!) showcases Hortense, who was her husband’s most painted subject, and brings together an impressive gathering of 24 of the known works from all over the world.
Not only did Cézanne paint his wife over and over again, but he also depicted her in the same way in every portrait—alone, plainly dressed (sometimes in the same blue or red dress), usually showing her straight on, with a somber, reserved expression. These portraits are a rare look into their long but somewhat unusual relationship. The couple originally got together in 1869, and had a child together before getting married in 1886. By that time they had been living apart for most of their relationship, and Cézanne suggested that he had fallen out of love with Hortense, but wanted his son to be able to eventually legally inherit his estate.
Despite a somewhat rocky relationship at times, Cézanne always depicted his wife in the same way. Though his style matured over the years, Hortense was always shown as a mysterious and ageless woman; plain, yet not unattractive.
These cookies are kind of the same way. If you take the time to let the dough chill overnight, they won’t disappoint. They always turn out as delicious, heavy, generous disks with the perfect ratio of buttery goodness and chocolate pieces. After growing up on the famous Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie, making these for the first time felt like I was cheating on a loved one. But they are too perfect to deny any longer—there is certainly a reason that Jacques Torres is called Mr. Chocolate! Don’t believe me? I dare you to prove me wrong.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cup bread flour
1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
flaky sea salt (optional)
Sift the dry ingredients together (flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt) and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together for about 5, until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Reduce the speed and slowly add in the dry mixture until only just combined. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F and scoop the dough into cookie portions about 2 rounded tablespoons in size. Bake on a cookie sheet lined in parchment paper or a silicone mat for about 15 minutes—rotate halfway through and watch carefully for the second half. They are done when they are golden brown in color and look like they are cooked through. Let cool completely and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from the New York Times, adapted from Jacques
Featured art: Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne, c. 1886, oil on canvas
Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne (Hortense Fiquet) in a Red Dress, 1888-1890, oil on canvas
Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory, 1891, oil on canvas