Tuesday, December 8, 2015

My Life: The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment

Don't worry, I'm not going to post the endless details of all the versions of chocolate chip cookies I've experimented with. And here is why:

MY LIFE has been The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Experiment. Years and years of baking chocolate chip cookies. I have tweaked and re-tweaked recipes forEVER. I have eaten SOO SOOOOO many cookies. If I actually wrote the details of all the cookies I've tried, this would be a long book, not a blog post. And it would get cumbersome and boring.

I wish I could say I bake them all for my kids and family. But I don't. I bake them for me. Good thing I have kids to justify all the baking, "um, yeah, I am baking these for the kids. Sure..."

I have made all those versions out there on the Internet claiming to be the best, too. Including the New York Times version, the Serious Eats version, and many many many many others. If one of my sisters recommends I try a recipe, I also MUST try it. I cannot let it lie. I have a compulsion.

My original favorite recipe (years ago) was the kind that had vanilla pudding in the mix. Because they stayed soft. They're still good, but I've moved on.

I've tried browned butter (which sounds awesome, and I LOVE browned butter taste and smell) in cookies, but it didn't actually change the end-taste of the cookies compared to those with un-browned butter. So it is a lot of work for no added benefit.

I've cut up high-quality chocolate (instead of using chocolate chips), but in the end, chocolate doesn't chop so well and makes a mess when chopping, and using a good quality semi-sweet chocolate chip works just as well. Because part of the joy of chocolate chip cookies is the convenience in making them.

I've tried resting/chilling the dough, as well as baking right after the dough comes together. There is slight difference in flavor and a difference in appearance either way. But the awesome thing about the recipe I'm going to share is that it works well both ways: baked right away as well as baking after chilled. Baked right away, they have more of that rough appearance to them. I do like the texture slightly better once the dough has rested (and so do my kids), and the color is a nice toffee color, but the appearance is a little more smooth. But you're not going to disappoint anyone by giving them cookies that haven't been made with chilled and rested dough.

So here is how I like my chocolate chip cookies:

I like them to be crispy on the outside, and fudgy in the middle (believe it or not, melted butter helps them be fudgy). I'm not a fan of cakey chocolate chip cookies. They also MUST be made with butter. No margarine (gross). And NO shortening: not in chocolate chip cookies. No way. The butter and sugar caramelize together when baking to make this wonderful toffee-like buttery flavor. Yum. And I like a lot of vanilla, with a good balance of salt, and with baking soda to give it a slight rough/craggly look. And chocolate: good, semi-sweet chocolate. Luckily, Costco has a really good semi-sweet chocolate chip made with pure vanilla. They're awesome. And I haven't been able to go back to other chocolate chips (sorry Nestle) since. Also required of the perfect chocolate chip cookie: it must stay moist. I hate a dry cookie; it's so disappointing when you bake cookies and they end up dry the next day. That's where a higher ratio of egg yolk comes in to play in this recipe. And they cannot be flat. And they cannot be mountainous and cakey (I believe I already said that...). So that's a rough description of my perfect chocolate chip cookie.

And here is what they look like:

And yeah, they taste wonderful. And yeah, they stay soft and fudgy even the next day (if they last that long). And yeah, you're gonna love 'em.

You can get extra fancy if you want and sprinkle them with sea-salt once they come out of the oven.

I weighed the ingredients for these cookies. but I have also posted volumetric measurements so it is a more user-friendly recipe.

I adapted this recipe here.

Here is the recipe for these bad puppies:

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

12 oz. all-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt (or table salt)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and slightly cooled--just not hot
7 oz. (1 cup packed) dark brown sugar
4 oz. (1/2 cup) white sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 egg + 1 yolk
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 cups)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (**if baking immediately). Line baking sheets with silicone liners, or use parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a mixer, and using paddle attachment, beat sugars (brown and white) and melted butter on medium speed until well incorporated (about 1 minute). Add the egg and one egg yolk and the vanilla extract and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is light in color, about 3-5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a bowl. Pour the flour mixture into the mixer with the sugar/eggs and with mixer on low speed, mix together until just combined (about 15 seconds). While there is still some white flour showing/not fully incorporated, add the chocolate chips and mix on low until just combined (about 15 seconds).

4. Place the dough in an airtight container and place in fridge for 8 hours, or overnight. You can keep it in fridge for up to 3 days. 

**Alternatively, scoop dough into rounds (I use a #40 disher) and place on cookie sheets, at least a couple of inches apart. Bake in 325 degree oven for 11-14 minutes, possibly longer depending on oven. The edges will be turning golden, and the middle will still look slightly moist/underdone. Take the cookies out and allow to cool on sheets for 4-5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to fully cool. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container. 

5. When ready to bake chilled dough, allow oven to preheat to 325 degrees (give your oven a good 20 minutes to warm up). Place cookie dough balls (about the size of a walnut) on cookie sheet and flatten very slightly with the palm of your hand. Place in oven and bake for13-16 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the middle still looks very slightly underdone.  Take the cookies out and allow to cool on sheets for 4-5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to fully cool. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container. 


They will have a slight crunch as you bite into them, and then a fudgy, gooey chocolaty center to die for. And they will taste of toasted buttery, chocolaty goodness. Mmmm.

These are seriously my favorite chocolate chip cookies I have made and/or tasted. And I've eaten and made a lot. I hope when we die there's not a counter in heaven showing how many cookies we ate in life. 'Cause if there is, I think all of heaven will line up to see the "girl who out-ate all other cookie eaters." Well, my sister and I might tie. 

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