09 March 2009

The Search For The Perfectly Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

One of the most common questions I hear from home bakers is, "How can I make a really good chocolate chip cookie? The Toll House recipe just doesn't work for me." I've heard this question asked of Martha Stewart and read it in some of my industry mags as well. I've been let down my so, so many recipes over the years that promised to be the best ever. If you've been afraid to ask the same question because it just seems that anyone ought to be able to whip up an awesome batch of chocolate chip cookies I'll try to cover some of the most common mistakes and misnomers of chocolate chip cookie baking for the home baker. First off, there are many stars that must align for your recipe to perform at peak.


I am pretty pleased with my current formula as it turns out a cookie that has a chewy texture with a mid-range thickness and a buttery crispness on the bottom that I strive for in all of my cookies. That's just how I like them. You can bake them big or little, which is a feature missing in many recipes. Have you ever baked a batch that got a little too done around the edge and remained doughy in the center if you made them just a smidgen larger than the recipe recommended? We'll get to the recipe in just a moment.

Things to consider when your chocolate chip cookies aren't turning out like a recipe promises: 1.) Did you follow the recipe precisely, right down to using the correct size cookie scoop and pan preparation? 2.) Did you weigh your ingredients? Baking requires that you carefully weigh/measure your ingredients- even when baking cookies. 3.) Did you allow your scooped cookie dough to become too warm before putting it int he oven? (causing your cookies to spread too much or burn) 4.) Is your oven temp. accurate? 5.) Are you using quality ingredients? Store brand chocolate chips don't always give the flavor of a better quality chip and they don't always melt just right. 5.) Is your baking powder too old? 6.) How are you cooling your cookies? 7.) Did you overmix the batter? These are just a few things to consider right off the top of my head.

If you prefer thick, chewy cookies, the secret in getting them just right is the combination of using melted butter, an extra egg yolk, and a higher ratio of brown sugar to white sugar. Also, definitely follow the instructions for making jagged edges on the top of the cookie - this gives them the crinkled and craggly bakery cookie look. In order to ensure all are about the same size, use a kitchen scale (more on my obsessive compulsive behavior related to weighing in a moment). Each ball of dough should weigh around 2.15 oz. Once you eye a few you'll be able to scoop them close enough without weighing all of them.

I use silpats on my baking sheets to keep the bottoms from browning too much. Midway during baking rotate your pan of cookies as ovens do not bake evenly on all sides. This seems to help many people turn out batches that are more consistent. Do this quickly so that you don't let all of the heat out of your oven. Always remove the cookies from the oven as soon as the outsides are set but the centers are still puffy and soft. Doing so plays a large part in the resulting texture and overall cook time. They will still cook for a bit once they are removed from the oven if you leave them on the baking sheet to cool. This will give you a crispier cookie. Cooling the cookies on a cooling rack allows air to circulate around them, cooling them down quicker and leaving you with a cookie that has a softer texture. Experiment to find what you like best. I personally cool them for a minute on the baking sheet because I really like a crispy bottom not only because of the taste but because it makes for a sturdier cookie that doesn't easily crumble in a lunch box. Be very careful with your bake time, especially if you aren't completely sure if your oven is baking at the proper temperature. My home oven bakes 5 degrees on the cooler side.

Why should you weigh your ingredients? Weighing is simply more accurate. Do a little test in your own kitchen. Scoop your flour and sugar and then weigh it. I'll bet you'll be off by 1 - 2 ounces, and usually scooping gives you more of an ingredient than you need. Weigh your milk as well. Many measuring cups are "off." I had an old plastic one that was off by nearly 3/4 of an ounce. That's alot when it comes to small batch baking. Weighing is a good habit to develop and it will be second nature to you once you do it 5 (or 10) times. Digital kitchen scales have really come down in price lately. Don't buy the cheapest, though, for the same reason I threw away that old plastic measuring cup. You can go to Amazon.com and read reviews before you buy.

Here is my recipe. Email me if it doesn't work for you and I'll be happy to help you troubleshoot the problem. Follow it to the letter!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Inspired by Baking Illustrated)

Makes about (18) 3" cookies

These cookies are best served warm from the oven but will retain their texture even when cooled. To ensure the proper texture, cool the cookies on the baking sheet.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10- 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1- 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3- 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1- 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper (I use a silpat) or lightly spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Be careful not to over mix. Stir in the chips.

4. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. (I weigh my dough balls until they are 2.15 oz. and you can go as big as 2.5 oz. without fail) Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2- 1/2 inches apart.

5. Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

Enjoy!



3 comments:

Hannah said...

Now that looks like one awesome cookie!!! Unfortunately I've given up chocolate for lent so can't go anywhere near it!

I love cookies when they are a little squidgy in the middle but a little crunchy on the outside - does that make sense?!?

My favourite time to eat cookies is when they are just cooling down so they are still really really gooey lol!

(godsrockangel from Swap-Bot)

Hannah said...

Now that looks like one awesome cookie!!! Unfortunately I've given up chocolate for lent so can't go anywhere near it!

I love cookies when they are a little squidgy in the middle but a little crunchy on the outside - does that make sense?!?

My favourite time to eat cookies is when they are just cooling down so they are still really really gooey lol!

(godsrockangel from Swap-Bot)

FibreJunky said...

I'll give this one a shot - with some help from my kids, who refuse to let me bake on my own. If they can't screw it up, you will have my undying gratitude.