Monday, April 13, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've always been one for the good ol' Toll House Cookie recipe. It certainly has withstood the test of time since its invention in the 1930's. But there is always room for improvement. I like my cookies mounded and chewy in the middle, but I've never figured out how to do this consistently. One option is to use Crisco instead of butter, but (a) this makes them taste like Crisco instead of butter and (b) the partially hydrogenated oil is not good for you. (I care a lot more about (a) than (b)). Alton Brown suggests refrigerating the dough before baking it, but this doesn't seem to help either. So what to do?

Cook's Illustrated to the rescue! By experimenting with every possible variation on the recipe, they've hit on the secrets for a superb cookie that's chewy, mounded, and has rich buttery, toffee flavors. The key modifications to the basic Toll House recipe are: more brown sugar; melted, browned butter; 1 egg + 1 yolk (remove an egg white); clever pauses; and larger cookies. (To be honest, I usually make my cookies larger than the recommended size, so this isn't much of a change for me).

Try this chocolate chip cookie recipe, adapted from Cook's Illustrated. You won't be disappointed. The only hardware required is a whisk, a spatula, a saute pan, and a few bowls. You don't need any electric equipment! (Unless you have an electric stove, I suppose.)

Makes 16 cookies.

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
14 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg + 1 yolk
1 1/4 cup semisweet chips.*
3/4 cup nuts (optional, and why would you want to ruin these cookies by putting nuts in them?)

Preheat oven to 375. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together. Heat 10 tbs butter in a wide saute pan until melted (a couple of minutes), and continue to cook until brown (a few more minutes). Remove from heat, add remaining 4 tbs butter to melt. Whisk sugars, vanilla, and butter in a medium bowl. Add egg and yolk and whisk until sugar lumps are gone, about 30 seconds. Let stand 3 minutes, and whisk again for 30 seconds. Repeat stand/whisk process 2 more times. (This ensures that the sugar is fully dissolved and the cookies will develop a richer caramelized flavor.) Using spatula, stir in flour and baking soda for about a minute. Finally, stir in chocolate chips. Split dough into 16 cookies, each about 3 tbs. Put 8 on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 10 to 14 minutes. For most consistent results, bake only 1 batch at a time. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

* Cook's Illustrated recommends Ghirardelli 60% chips, and these are fantastic. Notably, they're the only chips that use the same formula as the associated chocolate bar, only they are half the price for the same weight of chocolate. Who knew?