Saturday, October 4, 2008
I’ve been trying to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe since I was 12 years old. In my search I have tested nearly every permutation of ingredients: butter, margarine, or shortening; ground oatmeal or not; milk chocolate or dark; Nestle, Hershey, or Ghirardelli; baking powder or soda; large eggs or extra-large eggs, and on and on. I have made six versions of the Neiman Marcus recipe and every version of the Mrs. Fields recipe floating around on the web. About 7 years ago I settled on a recipe that I had tweaked over time. It contained all the ingredients you would find in the Toll House recipe, just in the proportions that worked best for me, and we loved the cookies. Lots of people loved the cookies - I became known as “the Cookie Lady” at the school. One morning I caught my daughter baking a batch for the Spanish teacher to make amends for some unruly behavior. My other daughter sold these cookies at school to pay for her class trip to Wasington, D.C. and had enough left over to buy a digital camera. One day during an especially discouraging nursing clinical I contemplated quitting nursing school and opening a cookie cart in front of the hospital.
The only problem with my cookie recipe is that it required some shortening in addition to butter. I know that Crisco eliminated all trans fat from their shortening last year, but this wasn’t about health issues. It was about using shortening. Serious cooks don’t use shortening. They use real butter. Unsalted butter. But I could never get the right texture using just butter.
This past summer the New York Times ran an article on the best chocolate chip cookie in New York City, along with a recipe. Imagine my excitement – I was already planning on going into New York the very next day to take my nursing boards. But now I had reason to celebrate. The New York Times had found the perfect cookie for me!
If ever there was incentive to finish a test in a hurry I had found it. I was in and out of that testing center in just under an hour. The walk down Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge took longer than my test. Finally we found Jacques Torres’ chocolate shop, tucked away in a tiny little boutique on the edge of Brooklyn. I would like to report that I met my chocolate chip cookie Nirvana in that shop, but I did not. The cookies were good, but that is because they were warm. Otis Spunkmeyer cookies taste good warm. Nevertheless, I decided to try the recipe from the New York Times. It was good, but with a few tweaks of my own I like it better. Is it better than my tried and true favorite? yes….
Chocolate Chip Cookies
16 ounces all-purpose flour (3 1/2 cups)
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt OR 3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter (2 ½ sticks)
10 ounces dark brown sugar (1 ¼ cups)
8 ounces granulated sugar (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
Sift (or whisk together) flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and both sugars together until blended. Don't go crazy here, just make sure everything is incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a size 20 ice cream scoop (approximately ¼ cup) form dough into balls, *place on cookie sheet and bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown but still soft. Let cookies rest on cookie sheet for only 1 or 2 minutes, then gently remove from tray and place directly on counter top until set enough to eat. Don't even bother with a cooling rack.
Best enjoyed with a tall glass of cold milk.
Notes on the recipe: Size matters. Anything smaller than ¼ cup produces an inferior cookie. Milk or dark? You decide. I use half milk and half dark.
*These cookies always taste better if you freeze the dough first and cook them from the frozen state – just add a couple of minutes to the baking time. The dough keeps well for about a month in the freezer – just form into balls before freezing. Toasted walnuts or pecans are fabulous.
Update on 3/29/09: For those of you who have been using this recipe, I want you to know I've made a few little tweaks. First, I cut back on the flour from 3 3/4 cup to 3 1/2 cups and I no longer cream the butter and sugars for 5 minutes. I found that just a nice little mix gives the cookie a better, less cakey texture (and it's easier too!).
Also, please use dark brown sugar, Domino brand if you can. Light brown sugar just doesn't have enough flavor. Finally, I made a fortuitous discovery the other day. I removed two packages of butter from the freezer to soften. When I came back several hours later, the package of Trader Joe's butter had practically melted through the wrapper. The Land O' Lakes butter was perfectly softened, but not melted. Long story short, apparently all butter is not created equal, and, in my humble opinion, Land O' Lakes butter makes the best cookie (sorry Trader Joe's).
Equipment Update: If you have been looking for a really great cookie scoop, I LOVE the Vollrath 1 5/8 ounce Yellow NSF Certified Food Disher. Mine has been used at least once a week for several years and shows no signs of giving up. It makes the perfect size cookie if you like to bake 12 cookies at a time and is perfectly dishwasher safe. It's only $9.81 cents plus shipping from Restockit.com. (I did not get paid for this endorsement, darn it.)
Here is the link to the NY Times article: