Through all of high school, and maybe even before, I got into the habit of throwing together a batch of Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies, a great recipe I’d come across in an old issue of Bon Appetit, but had practiced so many times I’d commited it to memory. Those cookies came out perfectly every time, and were always such a source of pride for me. It’s incredible the passion and fire a simple batch of cookies can evoke. They brought our family together after a long week, when we’d finally have a few free moments, all four of us sharing the same space. I secretly loved it when my Dad would ask for a new batch - he’d mention it almost like I was doing him a favor by baking — getting all the ingredients out, and measuring and beating and portioning and baking. Little did he know, he was doing ME a favor.
I was part of a culinary program for two years in high school, and we learned about a lot of things, though to my chagrin not all baking related. One particulalry sweet spot, though, was the enormous vat of Chocolate Chip Cookie dough that we’d make periodically and keep in the fridge, available at all times to portion and bake as necessary. It seemed as if cookies were “necessary” nearly every class. Somehow, my best friend and I finagled our way into being the designated cookies bakers, so while our classmates were listening to our instructor go on and on about the temperature danger zone, we’d be on the other side of the room giggling and eating cookie dough by the spoonful. I am thankful now, looking back, that my metabolism erased those many misdemeanors of my sugary youth.
So you see, Chocolate Chip Cookies and I go way back. We’ve established a sort of relationship, I’d like even to say a mutual fondness, but after all, these are cookies we’re talking about, so the fondness is all mine. I have tried them every way they come, with nuts and dried fruit and white chocolate and peanut butter chips, I’ve added cocoa powder and oats and cinnamon and salt. But in the end the truth remains that there is NOTHING better than a Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Prior to about three days ago when I made these cookies, I thought I’d already found the perfect chocolate chip cookie. When America’s Test Kitchen challenged Boston Food Bloggers to make their version of the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, there was no way I could say no, but I was admittedly skeptical that they would be the best I’ve ever had. But truth be told, these cookies are really something special, and I dare say they actually are the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made. These cookies to me embody everything that a perfect chocolate chip cookie should be.
The difference starts with the batter, which has an entirely different consistency than a typical cookie dough, thanks to the melted and browned butter. I think it makes the dough much more congruous, and also allows for the sugar particles to break down further than normal. There is only one whole egg, and an additional yolk – the egg white has been omitted to improve texture. This, too, makes a big difference, and helps with the cookie’s chewiness factor. There is more brown sugar than white, so there’s a bit more molasses then most recipes, which translates into a greater depth of flavor than if you’d used the majority as refined white sugar. And lastly, this recipe uses a generous heaping scoop of cookie dough, which creates the contrast of textures. Smaller balls of dough lend to evenly textured cookies, which is exactly what these cookies are not.
The cookies are different to bake, too. I recently made Compost Cookies from Momofuku, and that dough was required to sit in the fridge for some time before baking. Until now, a lot of my favorite recipes have had a mandatory chill time, so I was under the impression that the best cookies require that. However, these cookies are baked right away, and at a slightly higher temperature than normal, so the edges crisp up and get a bit more brown than the centers. This aspect is crucial for the cookies, because it’s what gives you the perfect end result! When a batch comes out of the oven, the edges look golden brown, and the centers are still very lightly golden, appearing almost as if they need a minute more. But they don’t! If you take them out at this stage, you get a cookie that is perfectly crispy on the edges, and soft and chewy in the center. Absolute cookie perfection.
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies Courtesy of Test Kitchen
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)
1) Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
2) Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
3) Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
4) Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)
5) Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.