Tuesday, June 08, 2010

how to make a chocolate chip cookie

Let me preface this by saying: There is no such things as the PERFECT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE. In my opinion, saying that a certain chocolate chip cookie is "the best ever" is completely subjective. Some people like 'em flat and crispy. Some like 'em gooey and chewy. Some cake-like and dense. Some with milk chocolate chunks. Some with traditional semi-sweet chocolate chips. You see? There are so many different kinds of C.C.C.s out there and they are all different. I won't proclaim that the following tips and recipes are "the best" but, if it counts for anything at all, these are my favorites. Count yourself lucky because for years I have resisted sharing these recipes. Something to do with my need to be "the best chocolate chip cookie maker" . . . ironic? Yes.

I also want to add a plea that if you would like to share this information, please give credit where credit is due and don't try to pass this off as your own blog post. I have spent a lot of time typing this up, taking notes while I bake and testing recipes. It is really lame to steal others' blog content, mine or other people's.

OK, enough of that.

I want to start with one of the first recipes I ever made. It's my older sister's recipe and the first time I remember making this was around 7th grade. I should mention that these cookies were my "secret weapon" to get boys to like me, specifically all the boys in my older brother's singing group, Euphony 5 (yes, all of them). It never worked because I was a dorky little sister who hid behind the swinging door to the kitchen and dreamed of the day when one of those harmonizing high-schoolers would notice me. Ah, awkward youth.

Anyway, I wanted to start with this recipe because it was my favorite for a really long time (and lately, still is). I'm going to give my tips along the way that I think are what really make a great cookie.

Thick, Soft and Full-Bodied (I'm such a wine-o) Cookies

1 cup butter, softened (room temperature) - butter should be softened not melted. I once tried an America's Test Kitchen recipe that called for melted butter and I personally didn't care for the results. It produces a much different flavor but to each his own. If you're impatient, like me, and you don't want to wait for butter to reach room temperature, you can microwave your butter in the paper while rotating it on each side every few seconds for a total for 20 - 30 seconds.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar - I prefer dark brown over light brown sugar because of the more rich molasses taste.
4 large eggs (room temperature)
2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla - I don't have access to Mexican vanilla anymore but the flavor is so good and very unique in these cookies. If you can get it, use it!
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, dip and sweep method - getting the right amount of flour is one of the most important things about baking. You have to be exact. Too little can result in too-doughy, flat cookies and too much can result in tough, dry cookies. "Dip and Sweep" means to dip your measuring cup into the flour, shake off the excess and level (or "sweep") with a knife to get an even amount.
2 teaspoons kosher salt - I like using coarse kosher salt because every few bites you get a little salty mixed with the sweet.
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips - I've tried every kind of chocolate chip out there and I still believe in semi-sweet for cookies. Milk chocolate chips tend to be sickeningly sweet combined with the sweetness of the dough and bittersweet is often times not sweet enough for some people, especially children. Semi-sweet tends to be the most universally liked. I've also tried just eyeballing the amount of chocolate chips but have found that doing so usually produced too much chocolate in each cookie or too little. Measure!

You'll also need (notes on all these):
Kitchenaid stand mixer - I love my Bosch mixer for just about everything but when I make cookies I usually go for my Kitchenaid. Do what you will but don't attempt to make these by hand and I also discourage a hand-mixer. If you must, then please only use a hand mixer for the creaming process. Fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula (more notes on that later).
Silpat baking sheet - yes, you can use parchment paper or you can just spray your pan with PAM but I love, love, love my Silpat sheet. It is $20 (or I got mine at Crate & Barrell for $16) but so worth it!
Small cookie scoop - this makes the perfect size cookie. Yes, you can use a tablespoon but I strongly recommend spending a few bucks and investing in one of these.
So, here's the steps for making the dough. The creaming process is a very important part of cookie making. Creaming is the mixing of the butter and sugar and eventually the eggs and extracts until you get a fluffy, light mass. I recommend starting with softened butter and the sugars in a mixing bowl. Beat them on high speed until they start to lighten in color (the brown sugar makes it darker and as you mix, it becomes lighter). Then add the eggs one at a time and beat more until the entire thing looks light and fluffy (about 2 minutes on high speed). I usually turn off the mixer and add the vanilla (and almond, if using) extract and then mix it in.

The next step is to add the dry ingredients. Most cook books and professional chefs insist on premixing and sifting the dry ingredients. You can do this but I don't. Pretty much ever. I typically just dump in the flour, leaveners and salt and have never had any adverse affects. Do what you will but I personally like to save myself one less bowl to wash. Once you add the dry ingredients the goal is to mix as little as possible so as not to develop the gluten in the flour. Developed gluten is what you want when you make bread but not cookies. At this point I mix on low speed for about 20 seconds just to barely get things going. Then I add the chocolate chips and continue mixing on low speed just until everything is evenly incorporated. This way you get the chocolate chips evenly dispersed without overmixing the dough.

The next step is putting the cookies on the baking pan. Again, I recommend using a cookie scoop because it makes uniform sized cookies and they are typically prettier and spread evenly. I do four rows of three and have found that gives them ample room to spread.

Here's what the cookies should look like when you put them on the sheet before baking (or freezing for that matter - see freezing tip below):
Put the cookies in your 350 degree preheated oven for about 10 minutes. I personally hate an overcooked cookie (I border on the undercooked side - something to do with my love of cookie dough I guess) but even if you love them on the more cooked side I feel like 12 minutes is about the max. Of course, this is contingent upon your oven's heat, but should be pretty accurate. You'll want to pull the cookies out of the oven when the tops start to break apart and the edges are a nice, golden brown color.

Here's what they should look like right out of the oven (before they cool an extra five minutes):
Let the cookies cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes just to give them a little more time to get accustomed to the cooler atmosphere. They "continue cooking" as well on the hot sheet so letting them cool is important. And that's it!

You'll notice that both my recipes call for butter. Here's my opinion: butter is natural and perfect in almost every way. Why would I ever use anything else? Once upon a time, I used half butter half shortening but then I actually looked at the Crisco label and read "partially hydrogenated oil" as the sole ingredients and I wished I could go back in time and remake all those dozens of cookies with pure, natural, delicious butter.

One last tip: if you're reading this you obviously love a fresh cookie and yet you probably can't (or shouldn't) eat a whole batch of cookies before they go stale. What I do is bake one sheet to eat right away and then freeze the rest of the dough already shaped into balls. You'll want to shape them into balls, freeze them on the baking sheet for one hour and then pop them into a Ziploc Storage bag. When you want to have fresh cookies, preheat your oven about 25 degrees lower than you bake fresh dough and cook an additional 3 - 4 minutes (this allows the frozen dough to cook evenly).
Then there's my other favorite recipe. I discovered this on Shake & Bake blog a long time ago and it has become David's favorite. It's unusual in a few ways: first it has substantially more brown sugar than white sugar and it has almond extract in it. People are always asking me what the secret ingredient is . . . and now the whole world knows. Let's be honest - there's no mystery to me anymore.

Now. These cookies are chewy, flat, sometimes gooey and slightly toffee-like. So if you're on the lookout for a cookie with those characteristics - this here is your friend.


Chewy, Flat and Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
6 Tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 cups of flour, leveled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar and white sugar together until fluffy and creamy, around 1-2 minutes. Crack in the eggs one by one, blending until you've got a light brown, whipped mixture. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.

Sift in the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate, and then using a cookie scoop, scoop out rounded balls and place on a Silpat lined cookie sheet.
Bake for ten minutes, check, and what you should have are wrinkly, golden-brown edges and a little cluster of melty chips in the center. If you don't have that, bake a little longer and check after two more minutes -- if you like a crisp cookie, do the same.

18 comments :

  1. Hooray for Silpats! Glad to see you took the plunge. =)

    Your cookies look divine!

    I have that same cake stand, by the way.

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  2. Yum! I also love those cookies you made for us when we first moved in. My mouth still waters for those! :-)

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  3. Oh boy. I saw on picture on this post and immediately started craving cookies at 9 am. Long day ahead I'm afraid!

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  4. To think that all these years, I've been flying by the seat of my pants in cookie making! I'm going to go find all the magic tools and try to do this right. Love it! Liz, you need to do a cooking and decorating show!

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  5. Chewy, Flat and Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies are one of the many many reasons I love you!

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  6. I want to make some right now!!! Those look delicious!!!

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  7. you are so cute! Thank you so much for sharing your recipes... it really is nice.

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  8. I still have that recipe! The first one that is. Love it. Especially your trick about the butter. It's funny, because you gave me this recipe way back when, 4 yrs younger than me and just a little kid. But you seriously make the BEST chocolate chip cookies ever! You've always been a master at baking even if it never got you a E5 man. :)

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  9. Hi Elizabeth! A friend of mine has your blogged linked on her food blog as a favorite of hers, so I often check out your recipes, and they are all so good! So funny that you wrote about E5 because as I was reading the first paragraph I was thinking, "I so remember Nate saying you made the best cookies ever and that you baked them on an upside down cookie sheet." You actually did win them over with your cooking... and they all said you made the best sandwiches. Something about salt and peppering cucumbers on top? Anyway, love your recipes and may your ego be massaged because those boys DID notice you!

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  10. I am always on the lookout for go-to cookie recipes (note that I did not say "perfect" because like you, there are different cookies for different occasions!) Freezing is a great idea but my rule of thumb is I only bake when I have someone to give it all away to (minus a couple for me, of course!) Thanks so much for sharing your recipes & insights. Can't wait to try both of these!

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  11. These both look amazing! I love almond flavor and can't wait to try the second cookie. I completely agree with you about butter! It is the BEST! ...however, when I my daughter was born she developed milk and soy allergies, meaning I couldn't eat milk or soy while nursing her. Crisco is all soybean oil, so I started using spectrum organics palm oil shortening. It is not as good as butter, but it is way better than crisco!
    I'm going to end this rambling post by saying, I love you blog and your recipes. We've eaten something from your blog every night for the past week!

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  12. You have obviously made careful notes through this process. Congratulations on all of the hard work. For a two-year period during my childhood, my mom was on a quest to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie--which to her meant one like Mrs. Field's. Every Sunday night for two years, she would make another batch of chocolate chip cookies until she arrived at her version of a great chocolate chip cookie. It was a great two years of Sunday nights.

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  13. I will be printing out that first cookie recipe post haste. Just like I did that Korean beef recipe WHICH I MADE LAST NIGHT and we all devoured it. My kids loved it and Marc loved it and I loved it. Keep those simple and easy recipes coming!!

    and baby boy falling asleep in the chair--I find myself making googly-eyes at his photos on your blog. Yes, thank you, indeed. Fun to finally hold the little fella.

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  14. Hi again,
    I just got my King Arthur's Flour catalog (best baking supplies ever!) in the mail today and they have Mexican vanilla!
    I am thinking of ordering it and trying the cookies.

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  15. Hey,
    We live in Yuma...so close to the border and the food City on our side of the border carried Mexican Vanilla (they all may). Let me know and I'll get you some.

    We are headed for a quick weekend next weekend.

    Susan (Crum) Cook
    smcookmom@gmail.com

    BTW I love readinag your blog and seeing pictures of your darling baby.

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  16. Hey Liz,

    I know I'm jumping on this comment thread way late, but I just had to tell you how you've revolutionized my life! (Well, at least when it comes to making chocolate chip cookies.)

    You see, deep down I've always kinda felt like a failure in this department, because no matter which recipe I used, my cookies would never come out thick and soft (the way my husband and I like them). They would always flatten, and would be soft for about 2 minutes, and then become crispy.

    BUT, a few weeks ago I decided to try your recipe (following every direction perfectly), and the cookies were AMAZING!!! I'm one of those people who likes to know why I'm doing something, so your explanations of the steps were very helpful. I especially loved the directions for freezing dough balls. I LOVE having fresh-baked cookies without the hassle of mixing everything again.

    Alright, I'll wrap this up. I'm sure you've heard (and thought) all these things before, but I just wanted to thank you again for posting this recipe. I know it's hard sometimes to share special recipes, and this one would be especially hard since you devoted so much time to perfecting it. But just know that I (and my hubby and 4-year-old) are eternally grateful! :) Keep up the great work!

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I love it when you comment on my blog - but please remember "if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all".