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.
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.