Tuesday, February 16, 2010

MY Best Chocolate Chip Cookie - A Chocolate Chip Cookie Tasting



Pull up a chair. We're talking chocolate chip cookies, and I have a lot to say. Here, have a cookie. Ready?

I first made Dorie's chocolate chip cookies right after I started blogging. In fact it was my first baking post. I liked them, but didn't love them. They are thin and I'm a chewy chocolate chip cookie fan. I made them again a few months ago, thinking I must have done something wrong, and still wasn't won over by them.

So when Kait of Kait's Plate selected My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies from Baking From My Home to Yours for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, I wanted to mix it up a little. So I did a tasting of three recipes, none of them Dorie's. Sorry, Kait!

When the New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe took the world by storm in 2008, I planned to make them and never did. So that was one of my picks. I had read with great interest when Nancy at The Dogs Eat the Crumbs made Thomas Keller's chocolate chip cookie recipe from Ad Hoc At Home. Nancy liked them a lot but wasn't sure, without a side by side tasting, if they eclipsed the NYT recipe. My third pick was Alton Brown's The Chewy, which has its legion of fans. I had made The Chewy a few months ago and liked them, but I didn't feel the earth move.

In order for the contest to be fair, I refrigerated all of the cookie doughs at least overnight as that is one of the two groundbreaking techniques in the NYT cookies. The three recipes utilized different techniques for creaming the butter and the sugar. The NYT relies on the standard creaming technique, while The Chewy recipe has us melt the butter and then cream it with the butter. The AHAH recipe has us cut the butter into small pieces and cream it while cold, then add the sugars. It also relies on using dark brown or molasses sugar.

For the NYT cookies, which call for using chocolate disks or feves, I used Valrhona 61% extra bittersweet feves. For The Chewy, I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips (the recipe didn't call for premium chocolate). The AHAH recipe instructs you to chop two different chocolates (one 71% and one 56%) and shake them in a strainer to remove the chocolate dust.

I conducted a mini tasting at home, forcing M. to eat multiple chocolate chip cookies "No, eat it now. I need to know what you think." His clear preference was the NYT cookie. He liked the flavor of the dough in the AHAH cookie, but he was wowed by the sheets of chocolate in the NYT cookie, the result of using the feves.


From left to right: Ad Hoc At Home, The Chewy, New York Times

Next, I conducted a tasting of the three cookies at work. My coworkers are a discriminating bunch, but they gratefully eat whatever I bring in, so I had to urge them to leave comments and criticism on sheets of paper. I tasted each cookie, listened to some of their comments, and then left the room.

The comments drove home that taste is indeed very subjective. What is delicious and decadent to me may be rich or too much chocolate to someone else. But what came through was a clear pattern of preference: many tasters liked the chocolate distribution in the NYT cookie but preferred the taste of the AHAH cookie. They didn't like The Chewy cookies at all, likening them to store bought. This gave me the information I hoped to get from the tasting.

Then Nancy, Cathy, Tracey and Wendy were tweeting about making the Cook's Illustrated cookies which Peggy the Baker raved about in the P & Q. The CI recipe calls for melting and browning the butter, then adding the sugar to it, whisking and resting several time before adding the dry ingredients and chocolate and nuts. If you'd like the recipe, you can find it here. Unbaked, the dough was fantastic. The browned butter and caramelized sugar flavors were prominent. I was sure I had found my #1 cookie.

Cook's Illustrated

Alas, the baked cookie was good, but the flavor of the chocolate overwhelmed the flavor of the dough. I baked some of the AHAH and NYT cookies I had in the freezer, and took them and the CI cookies to a friend's house for a mini tasting. She pronounced AHAH the best, followed by the NYT cookie.

Then I made my hybrid NYT/AHAH cookies. I used the dough recipe and technique using the AHAH recipe, but I used one kind of chocolate and used feves rather than chopping the chocolate. I refrigerated the cookie dough before scooping it out and baking the cookies. After trying the cookies with three combinations of chocolate (70% only, 61% only and a mix of the two), this was the cookie that was the recipe I wanted to eat the cookie for more than the chocolate. It's a richly flavored dough like the AHAH cookie, and it bears delectable sheets of chocolate like the NYT cookie. I will continue to tinker with it, but this is my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Lethally Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies - makes about 30 cookies

11 3/4 ounces (335 grams) all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound/227 grams) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup (6 ounces/170 grams dark brown sugar) (preferably molasses sugar)
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces/150 grams) sugar
2 large eggs
10 oz bittersweet chocolate disks (preferred) or feves (I use 61%)

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl, beat half of the butter on medium speed until fairly smooth. Add the sugars and rest of the butter, at beat until light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating until the first one is incorporated before adding the second egg.

Add the dry ingredient and mix on low speed until very few wisps of flour remain. Remove beater, add chocolate pieces, and finish mixing with a spatula or wooden spoon. Make sure you get to the bottom of the bowl while folding in the chocolate, and that the chocolate is evenly distributed.

Transfer cookie dough to a storage container or zip top bag, press out any air, and refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours before scooping out the cookies.

To bake the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Center rack in the middle of the oven, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Spoon out about 2 tablespoons of cookie dough (try for no more than 3 chocolate disks per cookie) and put on the cookie sheet, spacing 2" apart as the cookies will spread. Cookie texture and aesthetics are best if the chocolate disks are horizontal rather than vertical.

Bake cookies for 12 minutes, rotating cookie sheet after 6 minutes and checking cookies at 10 minutes. Cookies are done when the tops are a bit puffy, no longer shiny and the edges are lightly browned. Put baking sheet on a rack to cool for five minutes before carefully transferring cookies to a rack to cool completely.

Note: Scooped dough can be frozen. To freeze, place scooped dough on a cookie sheet and freeze until hard. Place frozen balls of dough in a zip top bag and freeze for up to 2 months. I write the name of the recipe, the oven temperature and brief baking instructions ("350 for ~ 12 min until tops not shiny") on the bag before I put the dough in the bag.

40 comments:

Jennifer said...

Wow! Your taste test and cookies are so impressive!

I really loved Dorie's espresso version of the cookie.

Clivia said...

Thanks Leslie for sacrificing the time and chocolate! We will all benefit from your hard work. I'm going to try ths recipe soon.

Kayte said...

I never realized that people had such preferences for the CCCs! OMW you all are research scientists when it comes to the CCC! Guys loved NYT cookies, and now they love Dorie's because they love crunchy things and Dorie's were crunchy. It's a texture thing, I think. Like the crunch of potato chips for them...they love potato chips. Your research was fun to read and it was great seeing the cookies all lined up for comparison. Missed baking with you this week...have you done next week's cookies yet? I haven't b/c I need you to get me going!

lakegirl said...

I wonder how many total chocolate chip cookie recipes there are in the world. Everyone has one! These all look good and the taste testing is the best thing!

Pamela said...

Wow! This is an incredible post, Leslie. No one liked The Chewy?? I'm surprised. But then, while I really enjoy them, some people have found them too sweet.

I am definitely moving your version of this recipe to the top of my chocolate chip cookie recipe to try list. It looks wonderful and I can't wait to sample a cookie!

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

WOW! I love all the research and work you did to find the perfect cookie. I will have to give your perfect cookies a try sometime soon.

vibi said...

I looooove this! A taste test! What a great idea... I wish I could have been part of that! Do you deliver? LOL LOL They all look great, but in the end, I will leave it to the experts... and eventually try yours! Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Steph said...

My favourite is the NYT because it has the lowest ratio of butter to flour, yet is still delicious! Thanks for doing this test and making it fair by resting all the doughs for 3 days.

Nancy/n.o.e said...

OK, the next CCC I'm baking is going to be the Lethally Delicious ones - how cool that you came up with your own! Great and thorough job, Leslie. Isn't it funny how CCC tastes differ?

Kimberly Johnson said...

I'm a fan of "The Chewy" but will definitely try some of the recipes you posted! Dorie's were too crisp for my liking.

bakingwiththeboys said...

This is a post! I am going to have to try your cookies. I loved the NYT cookies when I made them last year. yum.

Lauryn said...

WOW!! I love that you did a cc cookie taste test!! Now I want to do that too! All of them look mouthwateringly delicious!!!

HanaĆ¢ said...

I enjoyed your side-by-side comparison. I agree. Taste is very subjective. I'm glad your hybrid worked out. Thanks for posting the recipe. I like that you added the weight measurements (I'm a scale-loving girl) :o)

Sweet and Savory said...

You are a discriminating baker. I wish I had the patience. I do want to try all the recipes that I have not made before.

I told my class, we were going to have a taste test either with chocolate chip cookies or brownies. You have provided a basis for this.

If I really do this, it will be, at the end of the school year.

Mary said...

Great post! I am bookmarking it now so I can find all these recipes in one place. I made the recipe as written, and they were okay, but I'm still looking for the perfect recipe. I have a feeling it might be right here!

AmyRuth said...

I love that you took the time and energy and dare I say your beloved chocolate to do a taste testing for us. Very impressive. We read, we bake, we taste and we learn. How fun. Just wish I could have been in your kitchen. hehe Thank you so much for your beautiful cookies! I may need to order some feves also. Definitely need to make Leslie's cookies.
AmyRuth

margot said...

Leslie! I did a taste-off too! I haven't even written my TWD post, though, so I probably won't post the results until later this week. I made Dorie's, NYT, AHAH, and CI. I made the Chewy a while back and didn't really think it was worth making again. I'm curious to try your hybrid.

Linda said...

This is a fantastic post! I'm a huge fan of the NYT recipe, but I've been dying to try the AdHoc recipe. I think I need to get off the sofa and into the kitchen. Thank you so much!

Tracey said...

Wow, great post Leslie!! I can't believe you baked and compared so many different cookies. I haven't tried the AdHoc recipe but so far I think the CI recipe is my fave. I think I'd have to do a side by side comparison to be sure though.

Susan said...

Wow! What a lot of research! Thank you so much for posting all the results! I wasn't impressed with Dorie's recipe. They were too flat. Tasted good, just looked bad.

Shandy said...

You did not feel the earth move with Alton Brown's "chewy" ccc recipe? I can not believe it (smiling)! You did go all out with the chocolate chip tasting didn't you? Well, I am a fan of leaving ccc dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours so the ingredients mingle and the cookie dough acquires that caramelie flavor. The NYT's ccc recipe is delicious isn't it? Great photos =)

Flourchild said...

I can be your taste tester anytime! All of the cookies look good.

Kaitlin said...

I'm not offended at all - I'm a lover of chocolate chip cookies, so reading your side-by-side comparison was very enlightening! Thanks for a wonderful post.

Megan said...

Aye carumba! That was a serious taste test you conducted.

I wish I had been a part of it!

jillbert said...

It's so cool that you did all that experimenting and came up with the ultimate cookie. I've been wanting to try the NYT cookie, but maybe I should just skip to your version!

vickys said...

Totally love the hard work you've done in the name of the best choc chip cookie. It;s almost like a doctor conducting research.

Kim said...

Great post. Love all the cookie comparisons.

Liz said...

This was FASCINATING. Thanks for the great post! I can't wait to make your perfect cookie soon. Sounds delicious.

Cakelaw said...

Cool - I love the fact that you took the time to conduct this experiment.

steph- whisk/spoon said...

i love reading taste comps like this! so interesting to hear people's preferences in the quest for the perfect thing! thanks for sharing all your work!

Teanna DiMicco said...

I am IN LOVE with your tasting comparisons! That's a lot of cookie dough! I'd surely be 5 pounds heavier after all of that! I'm a NYT girl at heart, but I definitely want to try Alton Brown's recipe after your review!

Madam Chow said...

This is a great review.
FYI, Alice Medrich came out with the melted butter technique years ago, but she gets little credit for it!

myfamousrecipe said...

Sheets of chocolate. What a perfect way to describe how the Valrhona feves spread their chocolate-y goodness all throughout each cookie. Thanks for doing this tasting. As a NY Times ccc devotee, it's now my duty to try the Ad Hoc cookies!!

TeaLady said...

Coming up with your own recipe based on two favorites. GENIUS!!! I will add yours to my list in my quest. Dorie's didn't do it, I like AB' Puffy better. Haven't made the CI or NYT yet. So I have more tasting to do.

Delightful post, Leslie.

Katrina said...

Now THAT'S my kind of experiment! Love it. Great work. The NYT is my favorite recipe (besides the Levain copycat, but it's in a different class, totally different kind of ccc.)
Thanks for sharing your work!

Carol Peterman said...

Excellent research! I wasn't wowed by the NYT cookie. It was too much chocolate for me. I recall making the CI recipe and deciding it wasn't worth the work to brown the butter. I have yet to make the AHAH recipe and will give your lethally delish recipe a try. I have my own favorite, but I'm always up for more research!

Karen said...

What a fun side by side comparison. I would have loved to have been your taster! :)

Di said...

Wow, now that's in in-depth comparison. Most of the recipes you mentioned are on my to-try list. Now I just need to find time to make some of them.

The Mortensens said...

I'll have to try these. I was disappointed in Dorie's cookie too. Thanks for all the work and research!

Anne said...

Yum! This post is so great, so much awesome info and what a yummy trial! I can't wait to try your version!