Friday, August 10, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies 101

Chocolate Chip Cookies. The standard by which all cookies are judged. Everyone has their favorite: thin and crunchy, chewy, thick and caky. You probably like what you grew up with. What your mom made, the first cookie you learned to make. Over the years I've tweaked and fiddled until I came up with what I think is the best chocolate chip cookie ever. Period, end of story. (See this post for more background.) I like a thick caky cookie with just a bit of crunch on the edges. And while most of the time my recipe turns out this way, sometimes it doesn't. They also have great texture the day they are baked but tend to "dry out" and aren't so caky on the second and third day. Hmmmm, I needed to fix this. I did a bit of research on the web which led me to this series of posts by Joe Pastry. (He does a great job breaking down the different cookie versions.) A bit more searching and I arrived here and learned all about Ruth Wakefield's original recipe. It seemed as though I found the fix and as much as it pained me to do so, I set aside my recipe and went with Ruth's.

No surprises here: Flour, salt, butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs and baking soda. Oh yea, and chocolate chips, which I can't believe I forgot to show. I'm losing it! Big time!

Sift together the flour and salt, set aside.

 Cream the butter and sugars together. Don't just mix them, CREAM them. Get a lot of air in there. I went almost 5 minutes until the mixture was very light in color and fluffy.

 Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.
(Note: I didn't beat my eggs before adding them like the recipe says. Sorry Ruth!)

Next dissolve the baking soda in 1 teaspoon of water, add to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well. Then add the flour/salt mixture stirring on low speed until just combined. Be careful not to over mix.

Lastly add the chocolate chips. I like to do this by hand with a wooden spoon. You can use the mixer but it tends to bust up the chips a bit. If you like nuts then replace 1 cup of the chocolate chips with 1 cup of chopped nuts.

Now here's where you need some self control. Cover the dough tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. I know, I know, you're going to have to wait a whole day or more. I got busy with other stuff and 3 days went by until I was able to bake the dough. (This step allows the flour to absorb more moisture from the butter and eggs and results in a more tender caky cookie.)

Now, finally, let's make some cookies. Take rounded tablespoons of dough and roll them into balls (about 1-inch). Chill these for 1/2 hour or more. (I actually parked them in the freezer while I ran a quick errand.) When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375°F.

Lay the dough balls out on a lined cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack. I under baked my first batch (towards the back) and as they cooled they sunk into chewy lumpy disks. I forgot to set a timer on my second batch (to the front) and over baked them a bit. Remember when I said I was losing it?? Hmmm? I did eventually get the timing right, just about 10 minutes and the result was a thick, soft, melty, chocolate chip cookie.

These cookies definitely had the soft chewy loft of a bakery cookie. They also had good flavor and a good chocolate to cookie ratio. (I didn't use nuts.) Three days after being baked they were still soft and chewy. My one complaint would be that the cookies are small, about 2-1/2 inches across. I had wanted a big (3-4 inch) soft, bakery style cookie.  All and all I think this experiment was a success. I learned that the perfect chocolate chip cookie isn't so much about ingredients, but about the method: pre-beating the eggs, dissolving the baking soda in water, letting the dough rest at least 1 full day and keeping the dough balls chilled until ready to bake.  I think this method could be applied to any chocolate chip cookie recipe with a similar result. Next time I'm going to apply this method to my own recipe and use a bigger scoop (a #24 disher), adjusting the cooking time as necessary. For soft, caky, bakery style chocolate chip cookies, try Ruth's original recipe (Find it here.) or apply this method to your own favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.

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