I look back on those days and wonder why I succumbed to cafeteria chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chip cookies that were, in reality no more homemade than Nestle slice and bake. I'm proud to say that I can now create a cookie that I believe is much tastier than anything Nestle can mass produce. A cookie that I can truthfully say, is the best chocolate chip cookie I've ever tasted.
To create an "Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie" for yourself, you must first determine your preferences. I'm really not a big fan of crunchy or cakey cookies. I like em soft and chewy, and to prepare them like so, I followed some principles Alton Brown describes on his show. Alton's show altered the Tollhouse recipe to create chewy cookies. I tried his recipe first.
To make his cookies chewier, Brown uses bread flour rather than all-purpose. The higher protein content of the bread flour allows for more gluten. Gluten is chewy. Bread flour can likewise hold a lot more moisture than all-purpose. More moisture=chewier cookie. Rather than creaming the butter with the sugar, Brown melts the butter before combining with the sugar. Unmelted, butter is an emulsion of butterfat, milk solids and water. Melting the butter allows these three components to separate, therefore allowing the flour to mix with the water from the butter and create that chewy gluten I mentioned earlier. Brown also uses a high ratio of brown sugar to granulated sugar. Brown sugar is coated in molasses, molasses loves water, we want more water. Finally, Brown uses one egg and one yolk, as opposed to two whole eggs. Egg whites are pure protein, and when they coagulate, they dry up baked goods. "That's just what they do" says Alton. The fat in the egg yolk helps to lubricate the cookies, and keeps them from drying out.
Alton's recipe works phenomenally, but Internet research led me to this recipe, seemingly preferred by cookie enthusiasts. Many people seemed to like the taste of these cookies better, but preferred the texture of chewier cookies. Hey! with all the principles I now knew about creating chewier cookies, why not alter this recipe to create chewier cookies. And so I did.
The cookies came out delicious, but they could be further altered to my preference. I really prefer cutting up chocolate to using chocolate chips or chunks. When you cut chocolate from a bar, not all the chocolate comes off in big chunks, some comes off in tiny slivers. These sliver melt in with the batter when cooked, and create a kind of underground network of chocolate through the cookie. I much prefer this to just having a few spots of chocolate in a cookie. I also thought that the Martha Stewart recipe asked for too much chocolate. 12 oz is a lot! I only used 8 oz.
I love nuts in baked goods. The flavor, but mostly the texture adds a whole new dimension to food. I added four ounces of chopped pecans to the cookies.
I like my cookies pretty big and I found that baking at 375 browned the edges of my cookies before the cookie finished cooking. I baked mine at 325 for 18 minutes and they came out perfect.
Finally, the New York Times came out with an article in July about their quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. They claimed that allowing the batter to sit in the fridge for a few days before baking, hydrated the batter leading to a better consistency. I tested this and found that performing this extra step led to a more uniform cookie. By uniform I mean the flavors really melded together. I slightly preferred these cookies, but it is unlikely that when I want some chocolate chip cookies, I'm going to wait 36 hours for a cookie that tastes only slightly better. What's more, I gave a few friends a blind tasting comparing cookies that were baked regularly, to cookies that sat for 36 hours in the fridge, and 4 out of 4 said they preferred the former.
The one on the left was allowed to sit for 36 hours before baking. The one on the right wasn't.
So here it is. My recipe for my ultimate chocolate chip cookies, using Alton Brown's principles, adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe.
2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large whole egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chunks cut from a semisweet bar.
4 oz. chopped pecans
fleur de sel or other fine salt.
1) Combine the melted butter with the sugar over medium speed in a stand mixer.
2)Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda.
3) Add the egg and yolk, and vanilla extract to the stand mixer.
4) Very slowly add your flour.
5) Add the chocolate and pecans and mix until combined.
6)Chill the batter thoroughly in the fridge.
7) Preheat the oven to 325
8) Scoop the batter in huge, even, spoonfuls onto parchment paper.
9) Sprinkle with fleur de sel or other fine salt.
10) Bake for 18 minutes.
11) Cool for 15 then enjoy!
Note: If you are planning to eat all the cookies right away, you may want to use 1 cup or brown sugar and 1/2 cup of white sugar and/or 2 eggs instead of 1 egg and one yolk . This will give the cookies more structure right out of the oven but will make them not as chewy after a day or so.