Chocolate Chip Cookies
I’ve never met anyone – child or adult – who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies. They are a perennial favourite and a staple in many cookie jars. There are any number of recipes for these traditional cookies and I’ve tried a good many of them. Some I’ve been satisfied with and some, well, not so much. You see, I like a nice rich flavour in a soft chewy cookie, not the hard, crumby variety.
I am often asked if I have a recipe for a “soft” chocolate chip cookie. Yes, I do….and so does every other baker out there – they just may not know they do. Here’s the key: It’s all in the baking time. Slightly underbake the cookies and do not bake them any longer than the recipe directs. Even if they don’t look completely done, take them out of the oven! If the recipe says to bake the cookies 8-10 minutes (assuming your oven is accurate on temperature), look at them at the 8-minute point and, if they’re not too moist looking, remove them from the oven (it’s okay if they are somewhat moist looking on the top; if they are showing no moisture, then you are likely to end up with a hard, dry cookie). At the very least, do not leave them a minute past the 10 minutes or whatever baking time the recipe directs. Leave them on the baking sheet for just a couple of minutes after they come out of the oven – this will help them set. Leaving them longer than that will cause them to continue to bake from the baking sheet’s heat and result in a hard, over-baked cookie. Make sure you use a large enough thin, flat spatula to move the cookies from the baking sheet to a wire rack to allow them to cool completely. This will ensure they don’t crack or break in the moving process from sheet to rack. This is important because slightly underbaking the cookies means they are more fragile and susceptible to breakage.
I came across this recipe for these Chocolate Chip Cookies by happenstance through an internet search. That search led me to this recipe that was published in the New York Times on July 9, 2008. What I particularly liked about this recipe is that the measurements of ingredients are given both in cups as well as in ounces. I actually prefer the ounce measurements because they are more accurate – when, for example, a recipe calls for a “packed” or “well-packed” cup of brown sugar, it’s difficult to know just exactly how much brown sugar to pack in that cup and what the fine-line difference is between “packed” and “well-packed”. If the recipe indicates that 10 ounces of brown sugar is required, it’s a more exact measurement. I also found the directions simple and easy to follow.
I also liked that the recipe specified which attachment to fit the mixer with (i.e., paddle versus wire whisk attachment). The sign of a good recipe is one which gives full and adequate directions and I found this one did just that.
This was the first time I had ever made cookies using cake flour and bread flour and must admit that was an intriguing factor to trying this recipe – I wanted to see what texture of cookie these flours rendered. I was not disappointed!
As with all recipes, the first time I use it, I try to follow the recipe exactly – both in ingredients and in directions. Then, if I like it sufficiently well, I may (if I feel they are needed) make some modifications to the recipe the next time I make it. However, I changed three things about this recipe the first time I made it: 1) the recipe called for a 3.5 oz mound of dough per cookie which made a 5-inch baked cookie. This is way too large a cookie for my liking so I used 7/8 oz of dough which I found generated about a 2½-inch cookie (you wouldn’t think that only 7/8 oz of dough would yield a 2½-inch cookie based on the recipe calling for 3.5 oz for a 5-inch cookie but this is what mine turned out to be). While I usually “eyeball” the amount of dough per cookie using a couple of teaspoons to drop the dough onto the cookie sheet, I did use my cookie scoop for this recipe because I wanted consistently-sized and similarly shaped cookies that would all bake at the same rate. I weighed one of the scooped dough mounds and found that it weighed 7/8 oz. I adjusted the baking time to account for the smaller cookie and baked the cookies for 11-12 minutes and let them cool on the baking sheet for just 2 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling; 2) I didn’t have bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves and I don’t actually care for bittersweet chocolate so I used 1¼ pounds of milk chocolate chips and they were just fine for my liking, although I think I could have done with a slightly lesser amount than what the recipe called for; and 3) the recipe called for sea salt to be sprinkled lightly on top of each cookie. I omitted this because I try to cut back on salt wherever possible.
A few tips I would offer for any cookie recipe, not just this one, would be these:
1) Make sure the butter is at room temperature. Don’t soften the butter in the microwave as at least part of it will likely liquefy and that will affect the lightness of the butter/sugar beaten mixture.
2) If the recipe calls for a certain kind of flour (e.g., bread or cake), don’t substitute with all-purpose flour because they have different textures and consistencies and they do not measure out exactly the same, cup-for-cup; therefore, the resulting texture and consistency of the cookies will not be as the recipe intended.
3) Always use cool cookie sheets and don’t place the next batch onto a cookie sheet that has just come out of the oven. Doing this will cause the cookies to start baking before they are in the oven and will likely result in a harder cookie because the bottom has already started to bake before the cookie dough reaches the oven.
This recipe is not suitable for someone who has an instant craving for homemade chocolate chip cookies because the dough must rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours (and up to 36). I read several online reviews of this recipe and discovered that other bakers had tried the recipe both ways — by baking the cookies instantly as soon as the dough was mixed and by letting the dough rest for the full 24-hour chill period. The consensus appeared to be that baking them without first chilling them meant the cookies simply were not as good. A warning, though, the dough will be very hard and somewhat difficult to work with when it comes out of the fridge after its 24-hour rest period; therefore, you will need to use a bit of muscle to handle the dough and be sure to use a strong spoon or cookie scoop that will not bend or break (yes, this dough is very hard). The purpose of letting the dough “rest” is to allow the liquid ingredients (in this case, eggs) to get fully incorporated and absorbed into the other ingredients and eggs tend to take longer to do this than, say, would water if that was the liquid in a recipe. The “resting” period makes for a drier and firmer cookie dough and this controls its spread while baking so you don’t end up with a really flat cookie.
I thought I had found the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe a number of years ago but, I must say, this one gives it a run for the money and is now my new favourite! The texture, taste, and appearance of these cookies make them a “10” in my books! An informal testing this morning amongst my co-workers readily garnered the thumbs-up rating on these cookies. You know they must be good when they were eaten at 8:00am since chocolate chip cookies are not a traditional breakfast food!
This is not a cheap recipe to make as it calls for unsalted butter, cake flour, bread flour, a substantial amount of both brown and granulated sugars, and 1¼ pounds of chocolate. However, if you are looking for the consummate, decadent chocolate chip cookie, I think this one would fill that bill nicely!