Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think the Ultimate Chocolate Chip cookie is something I've been searching for ever since I was five years old. I thought I had found it with Nestle slice and bake- my definition of homemade at the time. The search trailed off for a while until just last year, when I started high school. At lunch you could buy the most delicious fresh-baked cookies. For a while I was excited for lunch everyday. I virtually gulped down my sandwich so that I could end my meal with one soft, chewy, chocolaty, climax.

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.

34 comments:

Liz said...

I'd advise making certain that you use quality chocolate, too. Using, for example, a plain old milk chocolate Hershey bar isn't going to produce phenomenal cookies. I personally think you have to use at least a semi-sweet chocolate.

I really like Alton Brown's thin recipe- it worked better for me than the chewy recipe. Might try your variation, though! I did keep my batter in the fridge between batches, just to maintain doughiness.

Oh- and my preferred chips (I don't have time to really hack chocolate off a bar- and the bar would be at risk of simply being consumed and never make it to the batter) are Ghirardelli semi-sweet morsels (60% cacao). Morsels- bigger than chips, excellent chocolate to cookie ratio.

And while I prefer nuts in my cookies, many of the people that I bake for don't. So I tend to end up with nutless cookies. :(

xoconostle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
xoconostle said...

Wow, the difference between the appearance of the same-day and 36-hrs-later cookies is amazing! However I think the same-day version looks better, more "like mom made." I'll definitely try using bread flour next time. Thank you for sharing the cool tip! I completely agree with Liz ... Ghirardelli chips are the best of the easy-to-find brands. However if you wanna go crazy, chop up some Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, or Vosges ... the good stuff (pricey, though.)

Nick N said...

liz, thanks for looking out. I should've clarified

random_guy said...

I personally find Giada di Laurentiis's Hazelnut Chocolate Chip cookies to be way, way beyond anything I've ever had before…http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/scrumptious-hazelnut-cookies/15704.html

I'll have to try this Alton Brown recipe though; looks intriguing.

mike3k said...

Just what I needed to see on day 3 of a strict low-carb diet phase, after gaining 10 lbs from the holidays :)

craigkite said...

You are writing some excellent examples of food porn lately. Your English instructor should be reading your lines like "I virtually gulped down my sandwich so that I could end my meal with one soft, chewy, chocolaty, climax." This shows intense primal instincts/urges/desires and is followed by good solid "How-To" instructions to satisfy this desire.
Get your Science instructor tuned-in to your control and experimental processes. You should be getting credit for chemistry, physics, and even Math. Once again, thanks for doing the "Lab" work. You have eleven years into the research and experiments? Can I copy your your "Homework?"

Nick N said...

Craig you crack me up. Discussing this stuff with my science teacher is the only way I can keep class interesting.

My homework is up for the taking!

WindintheWires said...

I've made some version of Martha Stewart cookies(From her Baking Handbook), and I found that they were too flat and had too little chocolate chips. I've also made Alton Brown's cookies(from his baking book), and I thought those had wayyy too many chocolate chips. I still haven't found a recipe I really liked, though--I'll be sure to try this one. Plus, I just got 6 boxes of almost-expired scharffen berger chocolate from my dad's work that I've been meaning to use, so this would be a good excuse

I tend to scoop out my dough and freeze it for when I want just a few cookies. It'd be interesting to see what this does to taste/texture/appearance. . .

Jumper said...

My mother, an excellent cook (and a food chemist) taught me that 10% more flour than the recipe calls for would always give a chewy cookie. I said that was counterintuitive. But she was right.

deltay said...

Mmmm those cookies look amazing. I'll definitely have to try some of your recipes sometime!

mădălina said...

I love your blog, and these cookies look delightful. I might have to try them out soon.

- Madalina:0)

Passionfruit Butter said...

OH MY GOD, I think we are kindred spirits. You are a foodie at fifteen-now-sixteen and I am a foodie at seventeen. Our blogs kind of even look the same, although that's far from serendipitous considering they're just the standard minimalist Blogspot layout. In any case! We should so be friends. You cook and I write. I'm actually involved in something called the Food Chain (check it out at www.blakemakes.com), and this weekend is my turn to film a short video blog on the topic of my choice, so long as it pertains to food. I now know my subject matter: a tete-a-tete of your ultimate chocolate chip cookie and mine (called the fluffy luv patty... I have a blog entry about it).
Wow, I write a lot. Okay. Nice to meet you. I am Remy.

insanecollegian said...

Hey, I'm a new reader, just found your site name on the bloggie awards and was intrigued, I'm pleased to find another AB fan :D

Bob said...

It looks like Martha Stewart is a fan of the 1978 book "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts" that was recently reprinted.

Minus an egg yolk and the 8 oz. of walnuts, it's the same as her "Positively the absolute best chocolate chip cookies."

My Mom caused a scandal on my Dad's side of the family when she said the cookies I made that followed her recipe were better than Grandmom's.

c3 said...

I noticed two very important things about your recipe: extra vanilla and DARK brown sugar. You always hear about using real butter and chocolate -- and neglect those two at your own peril! -- but those first two choices just put the flavor factor on overdrive for me. They turn a chocolate chip cookie into a taste extravaganza. Now I really look forward to trying your recipe

cingt said...

Wow, I really admire your severe work! Wish I had the time and love for cooking to go through with that! I'll definitely try your recipe some day, thanks for sharing your recipes with the less clever than you!
Have you btw tried to make peanutbuttercookies? Those are great! If you ever do, write about the result, will you?

Susan said...

Hey Nick! You may want to post that you're a finalist for the Bloggies awards in the Best Teen Blog category so you can tell the devoted readers to go vote for you. I already did so. You're not in the same category as Cake Wrecks for these awards. lol. ;-) Check it out! The site layout sucks (hate the sideways scroll), but it would be pretty sweet if you could rake in an award like this.

http://2009.bloggies.com/

Nick N said...

thanks susan for the heads up

Baking and Mistaking said...

Wow I've been searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe for (what seems like) my whole life. I'm definitely gonna try these out soon.

Amy (from bakingandmistaking.blogspot.com)

Jenny said...

Just wanted to let you know that I made your recipe today and my five-year-old son declared them, "Better than ultimately good!" These are amazing cookies. I used dark chocolate instead of semisweet--I hacked up one of those pound-plus bars from Trader Joe's.

My only mistake was making these before dinner. I suspect that these will become dinner. Thanks for posting your recipe!

Sarah said...

i made these the other day, minus the nuts, and they were amazing! i loved them and so did my hubs! you are a gem and i can't wait to try more of your recipes. thank you!!

bella said...

these were delicious!
thanks!

Kim said...

"underground network of chocolate"...now, that is something every cookie...heck, person! needs! love the blog...thanks for the tips!

Zoe W. Scott said...

So I've made your cookies a few times this summer (due to high demand). Yesterday though, I mixed it up a bit.

I doubled the recipe. Then since I had them laying around I mashed up 3 very ripe bananas and threw them in the mixer. This made the batter kind of gooey and weird, so I added about 1/2-1c additional flour and about 1/2 tsp additional baking soda. Give or take.

Let it site for 36 hours...

The results... FREAKING PHENOMENAL (I think). Although they could have slightly more banana flavor, I'm thrilled with the soft, airy, moistness of the cookie. And I'm not complaining- there is definitely a delicious banana taste to them!

My one fatal mistake- I used 16oz of Nestle morsels instead of chopping up fine semi-sweet chocolate as I have before. I think this really compromised the overall quality and taste of the cookie. I actually think reducing the amount of chocolate in this recipe by about half when using banana wouldn't be such a bad thing.

I am OVER THE MOON to now have what I believe is the most DELICIOUS banana chocolate chip cookie recipe out there. Many, many thanks.

Even though I don't think it's really necessary, I will play around with adding additional banana in the future.

Jessie said...

these were AMAZING! i loved them, even though mine turned out a bit flat. my parents are throwing a big party next weekend and have decided to serve these as little, crispy bites of baked deliciousness! thanks so much for this great recipe. any ideas as to why mine were so thin?

Alonna Smith said...

Love your blog. I'd be curious what you think of this recipe? http://under-belly.org/recipes/chocolate_chip_cookies.pdf

Thczv said...

Good cookies. But if you are going to melt the butter, you might as well brown it too. It makes the cookies taste more like butter/caramel. Delicious!

chefbella said...

I know this is a shortcut, but if you break up a bar of semi sweet chocolate and throw it into a food processor with an s-blade, you get chunks, plus slivers that lace the entire batter with a heavenly hint of chocolate...

Ryot said...

This is a great recipe. I've modified it a bit for my health concerns -- I can't handle regular sugar, but unprocessed evaporated cane juice granules work wonderfully in this recipe, in place of the brown sugar. I've managed to find chocolate chips that use cane juice as well, and while I don't get the underground network of melted chocolate that way, it's really nice to finally be able to make a sweet treat I can actually eat, all organic and using cane juice. Great feeling, and great tasting cookies. Thanks for this!

Teddy Devico said...

Nice work....Maybe using brown butter instead of plain melted butter will lead to a nuttier cookie flavor.
I love how you are using salt in the cookies. Salt makes everything better including sweets.

Liquor License New York said...

This really looks delicious. I'm definitely craving for a plate of that right now. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. This is definitely a must do recipe this weekend since I got my Food Handler Certification.

Anonymous said...

I've been coming back to this recipe for 4 years now..I know the recipe by heart, but the prose is worth reading again every time.

Kyle T said...

These look amazing! I love to bake, especially cookies and things like that. This looks like s recipe I would use. I need to try it sometime! Keep up the great posts, I can't wait to see more!