Is it ever too late to try a new recipe and find it better than the one you have been using for the last 50 years? In my case, apparently not! Because this recipe produces, hands down, the best “toll house” type chocolate chip cookies I ever tasted. And you have to know that I have baked and tasted a lot of chocolate chip cookies in my day! (Actually, if I had a dollar for every cookie I ever baked, I would not be writing this blog today. I would be sipping Vin Santo and munching on cantuccini (small biscotti) on my balcony overlooking the piazza of a small hill town in Tuscany!)
I don’t know why I decided to look for a new recipe, but I typed “perfect chocolate chip cookies” as my search criteria, and this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated popped up. And when I looked at the recipe, it just made sense. So I gave it a try. And as they say – the rest is history. (Or in this case, my old recipe is history!)
There is just something about the browned butter that lifts the whole flavor of the cookie to a new level. And letting the butter/sugar mixture rest to allow time for the sugars to melt simply makes sense from a scientific point of view. (Like I would know a scientific fact if it walked up and bit me in the posterior!) So believe me when I say I would never have thought to brown the butter and let the dough rest on my own. But I’m sure glad the good folks at Cook’s Illustrated had the genius cells necessary to come up with this concept. Because my good friends; it works! Boy does it work! It even changes the taste of the chocolate.
Yesterday I brought some of these cookies to one of Mr. Cs rehearsals. James, one of the band members, absolutely did not believe me when I told him I had used plain old Nestle’s Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips in the cookies. He truly thought I had used a much higher grade of chocolate. I quickly assured him that I don’t usually keep Barry Callebaut* chips in my freezer, so he just had to trust me on this one. (I think the reason the chips tasted so good, was because the browned butter and dark brown sugar had created a more caramel flavored dough. And that dough had brought out the best in the rather très ordinaire chocolate chips I had used.) Whatever the reason, it was decided by one and all, that this was a winner of a cookie.
So next time you bake chocolate chip cookies, give this recipe a try. The dough does take a little longer to prepare because of the recess times. But those are perfect times to perform a little quality control. I mean really, don’t you feel it’s always necessary to sample a couple of the chocolate chips to make sure they haven’t spoiled? And what better time, than during recess?
*According to a taste test performed by the staff of Serious Eats, the following brands were the winners in “The Best Chocolate Chips for Chocolate Chip Cookies” contest:
– Trader Joes (best super market chip) $2.29 for a 12-ounce bag
– Scharffen Berger (best fancypants chips for adults) $6.50 for a 6-ounce bag (yikes)
– Barry Callebaut (pricey but great for children of all ages) $6.95 for a 16-ounce bag
- 1¾ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1¾ sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
- ½ c. granulated sugar
- ¾ c. packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp. table salt
- 2 tsp. real vanilla extract
- 1 lg. egg
- 1 lg. egg yolk
- 1½ c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl; set aside. Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch skillet* over medium heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Whisking gently, continue cooking until the butter is a dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 5-6 minutes. (Don’t hurry this step. If it takes longer than 6 minutes; so be it! You want the butter brown, not burnt.) Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to the bowl of your mixer. Stir the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into the browned butter until completely melted. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and beat on medium 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 beat for another 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and beating 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. With mixer on a very low speed, add the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips just until evenly disbursed throughout the dough. Do not over-mix. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Using an ice cream scoop, shape dough into whatever size cookie you prefer. (Actually the larger the better.) Arrange the balls 2 inches apart on baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper. Bake 1 tray at a time in a pre-heated 375 degree oven 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 the baking time. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool for about 5 minutes, then remove cookies from pan and let cool completely on rack before serving.
*Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned.
Please note: You may have noticed that there are no nuts in these cookies. There are two schools of thought on whether or not chocolate chip cookies should contain nuts. I am of the opinion that nuts detract from the overall pleasure of biting into a truly delicious chocolate chip cookie. Now, an oatmeal raisin cookie without nuts – unthinkable! So in essence, everyone needs to choose to include nuts or not. If you simply must have nuts in your chocolate chip cookies, add about ¾ cup chopped and toasted pecans or walnuts at the same time you add the chocolate chips.