Wednesday, April 29, 2009

“Perfect” Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I saw the recipe for “Perfect” Chocolate Chip Cookies in Cook’s Illustrated, my first thought was, “Really? Isn’t it a little arrogant to say your cookie recipe is perfect?” My second thought was “I’ll be the judge of that. Bring it on!”

Like most of us, I was brought up on Toll House cookies, and I was satisfied with them, that is, until a couple of years ago. I blame my recent dissatisfaction on an experiment I embarked on. I had decided to see if I could make myself like dark chocolate. I had read somewhere that if you give a picky child a food he or she doesn’t like often enough, the child would eventually grow to like it. It was worth a try. I had always loved milk chocolate. Dark chocolate, on the other hand, always tasted bitter and harsh to me. I wanted to like dark chocolate, so I ate a piece of dark chocolate every day for a week or two (I know, a difficult job!). And, do you know what? At the end of the experiment, I loved dark chocolate. I the harsh bitterness was gone, replaced by a delicious complexity that I couldn’t get enough of. I no longer enjoyed Toll House cookies as a result of my experiment, though. The chocolate chips tasted too sweet, and the dough was too cakey.

That being said, I decided to take up CI’s unwritten challenge of the “perfect” cookie. The magazine recommends Ghirardelli 60% cacao chocolate chips, so I pick up a bag along with some dark brown sugar (the only two ingredients I needed) at the grocery store.

The technique for making these cookies is very different—No creaming the butter and sugar in this recipe. No, you melt and brown the butter before you mix in the sugar. I do have to say, the browned butter gives the cookies an amazing toffee and caramel flavor. Don’t skip the step of browning the butter, as it is important to the flavor of the cookie.

Is this a “perfect” cookie? I don’t know. I do know it is a really good cookie I will make again. I also know the cookie has the chewy texture and the complex flavor I have been looking for, and the dark chocolate chips work beautifully in this cookie.

“Perfect” Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Cook’s Illustrated
1¾ cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ¼ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
¾ cups chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 375°F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch skillet (do not use a non-stick pan because you will not be able to gauge how brown the butter is on the dark surface). Cook the butter over medium heat until it is melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly, until the butter is golden brown and nutty, about 1 to 3 minutes. Spoon the butter into a heatproof bowl. Add the remaining butter, and stir to melt. Once the butter has melted, stir in the tow sugars, salt and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the egg and the egg yolk and whisk until no sugar lumps appear.

These next instructions are unique, but the magazine insists they are important to the texture and taste of the cookie. Whisk the sugar mixture for 30 seconds then put down the whisk and leave the mixture for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, whisk again, and repeat the interval twice more. The mixture should be smooth, shiny and thick. Stir the flour mixture into the sugar mixture just until combined. Add the chocolate chips and pecans and stir to combine.

Spoon the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets leaving 2 inches between the cookies using about 3 Tablespoons of dough per cookie (I used a cookie scoop to keep the cookies even). Bake the cookies for about 10 to 14 minutes, or until the middle of the cookies are still soft, but the edges have begun to set. The magazine recommends baking the cookies one tray at a time. Don’t tell anyone, but I have a convection oven, so I baked the cookies all at once. They were probably not as evenly baked as they could have been, but I was pressed for time. Take the cookies sheets out of the oven and cool on a wire rack. Cool the cookies completely before serving (another CI instruction, but who are they kidding? As if anyone could wait). Makes about 16 cookies.

4 comments:

  1. OK. You've convinced me that I MUST try this recipe. You'll have to remind me again of how I'm supposed to set my convection oven so that I won't turn the cookies into crispy critters. I can't wait to try these. ;-)
    -Sandy

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  2. I have made 4 batches of these cookies so far! I definitely think this recipe is PERFECT and it will be my new standard for chocolate chip cookies.

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  3. Hi Sandy, I usually turn my convection oven down about 25 degrees, and I usually skim some time off of the total cooking time. If I am trying a new recipe, I watch the cookies like a hawk, to see how long the first batch takes, so I can repeat for the other batches.

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  4. Hi Anonymous, I will probably use this recipe for my standard too. I do really like the way the browned butter makes the cookies taste. I also like the texture of the cookies. I wish I could make some now! Thanks for reading!

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