What can be more satisfying than finding what you were seeking for years? The perfect chocolate chip cookie can be elusive, despite its simplicity and iconic status.
I found that the traditional Toll House Cookie recipe (on the back of the chocolate chip package of the same name) yields serviceable cookies but did not produce the thicker, chewy toothsome variety, which I prefer. I am not even considering the time my mother used baking powder instead of baking soda in the Toll House recipe she made – under duress, for a school bake sale – resulting in rock-hard disks, which may have been over-baked, as well. (To avoid being accused of being an ungrateful son, just past Mother’s Day, my mother frequently has told this story, without my prompting….)
Over the years, I occasionally would discover a bakery or home baker who created the ideal cookie: one that has a minimally crisp circumference, contrasted by a soft, chewy pliable interior, yet filled with more-than-enough chocolate chips and the nutty counterpart of pecans or walnuts. The nut-component truly is optional, but I will dare to take a stand and declare that I am 100% pro-nut. However, I never did find a recipe to produce the ideal treat. I even bought a cookbook nearly 25 years ago – and still have it – entitled enticingly, The Search for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie. This book promised to reveal the paragon of chocolate-chip-iness, yet none had the exact texture I craved. Many of the award-winning recipes are good, and there were some interesting variants on the classic…just not “The One”.
Five years ago, I purchased The New Best Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (AFK). One of the first recipes I tried was the “thick and chewy chocolate chip cookie”. Finally, I was able to attain my long-desired state of chocolate- chip nirvana at home.
The ATK recipe is precise and scientifically tested. ATK tested the various permutations of this genre and found the very best combination. As with some of their recipes, not every pain-staking step is absolutely necessary (see below). This cookie achieves its texture from melted butter (as opposed to creamed room-temperature in most recipes), more brown sugar than white (two-to-one), and an extra egg yolk. Careful attention to baking time is vital, i.e., a slightly underbaked cookie is actually done, while one looking “done” is probably over-baked.
I have two comments about the ATK recipe. First, I used dark-brown sugar for more depth of taste; light-brown sugar is an option, but it would be a paler and a bit less flavourful – so, why use it? Second, the “jagged-edge” technique is good for appearance and not terribly time-consuming; nonetheless, it can be skipped with no loss in the cookie’s interior texture – see the first photo for the difference in the smooth dough ball (top) and the jagged-edge variety for contrast in appearance. I think this technique is more a subjective matter for the cookie’s appearance.
You need not seek perfection any longer. To make your chocolate-chip cookie dreams come true, give the ATK recipe a try. It is the ultimate in this most important of dessert genres.
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
From The New Best Recipe (America’s Test Kitchen)
Makes about 18-24 large cookies.
These oversized cookies are chewy and thick, like many of the chocolate chip cookies sold in gourmet shops and cookie stores. They rely on melted butter and an extra egg yolk to keep their texture soft. 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. Oversized baking sheets allow you to get all the dough into the oven at one time. If you’re using smaller baking sheets, put fewer cookies on each sheet and bake them in batches.
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks, or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light- or dark-brown sugar (NB: dark-brown is better!)
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 – 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (NB: I used a scant two cups – why skimp on the defining characteristic of these cookies, I say – “more is more” in this case…)
1 cups of chopped pecans (NB: I use pieces from a bag of halves and just manually break the few big pieces)
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 or spray them with nonstick cooking spray or use a non-stick silicon mat, e.g., Silpat.
2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Either by hand or 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. Stir in the chips to taste.
4. Roll a golf-ball size of the dough into a ball (or use a two-tablespoon ice cream scoop), for standard-sized cookies, or use a scant 1/4 cup amount of dough for larger cookies. 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 (and look a little bit wet in the middle), 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 spatula.