Friday, March 9, 2018

Kristi's Pretty Dang Good Chocolate Chip Cookies


Rarely do I include a long introduction to my recipes … but this one deserves an exception, as I believe there are many of you out there that will relate! For over eight years, I've been longing to conquer a good chocolate chip cookie recipe, and in those eight years I haven’t made ANY progress. Why is the most classic and simple American cookie recipe so complicated to make?!?!? About once a year I decide I’m going to try again and I try a new recipe which is perfect pictures online and then every time it fails and they get worse and worse. They usually turn out flat, with greasy burned edges … and then I get mad and swear off trying again. Every time I come to the conclusion it’s a mystic voodo art that I will never achieve success at.

Well, a few weeks ago I got the urge again. While buying chocolate chips at Aldi, I ran into my friend Alice, dumped my cookie making woes on her, and she told me it took her about 18 years! She gave me some tips and encouraged me to keep trying. So at that moment I was fully motivated and decided the biggest problem with every recipe I’ve tried is that they never call for enough flour, but I didn't know what that magic amount of flour was.

Also, I am very picky. The perfect chocolate chip cookie will not only taste perfect, but look perfect, and it has to adhere to my standards for ingredients. It must be crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, no flat edges, and uniformly thick with lots of nooks and crannies It must be made with butter (absolutely no shortening or Crisco sticks), the dough should not require refrigeration before baking, not make a huge batch, and not have weird numbers of measurements for the ingredients.

I started with the "Joy of Cooking" cookbook’s recipe, and after it turned out to make the worst, flattest, most greasy cookies ever, I literally had to double the amount of flour. I have no earthly idea how everybody (including every recipe I've tried from the internet with decent pictures) is making chocolate chip cookies with so little flour!!!

It took me about two weeks and over a dozen batches. I also gained 5 pounds in the process ... so you are welcome for that! Besides the flour, I tweaked the ratio of sugars, the amount of salt, and added a touch of cornstarch to stabilize the cookie and give it a little lift without adding too much flour. I feel that I have now achieved the best possible cookie that my hands and my kitchen can make, using unsalted butter as the only fat. I sure hope this recipe works for others too, because it is quite simple and easy to memorize.

If you can, please try this recipe out in your kitchen! Please follow it "to the T" the first time you make it (including ingredients, directions, and equipment), send me pictures, and let know how they turned out. If you have to make any changes, including type of pan or oven, higher altitude, etc., let me know those details too! I really want to know if this recipe is repeatable in other kitchens and altitudes. Please carefully read the entire recipe including all the instructions, notes, and thoughts. Chocolate chip cookie baking really is a science and there are so many variables, so I am trying to control for as many as possible with my instructions. Let the great chocolate chip cookie making challenge begin! 




Kristi's Pretty Dang Good Chocolate Chip Cookies  

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, naturally softened to room temperature
⅔ cup light brown sugar, packed
⅓ cup white sugar

1 large egg
½ tablespoon salt (1.5 teaspoons)
½ tablespoon vanilla (1.5 teaspoons)

2 cups unbleached flour (presifted is preferable)***
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 cup regular size semi-sweet chocolate chips, chilled or frozen

Directions
Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl use hand mixer to combine butter and sugars on low speed until well creamed together, 1-1.5 minutes.

Add egg, salt, and vanilla. Mix with hand mixer on low for 20-30 seconds or until well combined. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until all flour is incorporated and dough starts to pull together, about 20-30 seconds. Stir in chocolate chips by hand with a wooden spoon. Dough should not stick to your hands at all.

Measure 1.5 tablespoons of dough for each cookie (I have a small springed cookie scoop that measures 1 tablespoon, so I just overfill it a bit). Shape into rounded ball between hands, and place area with most chocolate chips clustered together on top. If there isn't an area with at least 3-4 chocolate chips clustered together, pull some chocolate chip from bottom, stick them next to some other ones, and reform the rounded ball.

Place on parchment paper lined aluminum baking sheets and bake one sheet at a time at 375 for 8-10 minutes, until tops just barely start showing blushing spots of golden brown. My oven take 9-9.5 minutes. Remove from oven and they will still be a little puffy. Let cookies sit on the tray for 3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack, and they will flatten out with some nice nooks and crannies.


MUST DO’s
  • ***When you measure the flour be sure to stir the flour container well, spoon it into your measuring cup with a dinner or soup spoon, then level off the top with the handle of the spoon. This will ensure that your flour is measured correctly and you aren’t adding too much. 
  • Let butter sit out on counter until room temp, soft. Place out night before or morning of if needed. Do not try to gently microwave it, just be patient and let it slowly soften itself on the counter. 
  • Use chilled or frozen chocolate chips 

TIPS
  • Refrigerate dough balls at cookie sheets for at least 10 minutes if kitchen is warm. (Since it is Spring right now, I have not made this recipe during the summer months yet). 
  • If you want to make the cookies larger, use approximately 2 tablespoons of dough, roll into rounded ball, and flatten slightly after putting on baking sheet. 
  • I have read that different flours may vary in their protein content, and that it could affect the outcome of your cookies, so that is something to keep in mind. I have read that King Arthur flour is very consistent, though I have not tried it yet. I used Walmart brand all purpose unbleached, presifted flour for these cookies. 
  • These taste best about 15-20 minutes after coming out of the oven :)
  • Try baking 1 or 2 cookies first, let them cool completely, evaluate, and then add more flour if needed. If they are too dry or thick, or don't flatten properly after cooling, try making them again and omit the cornstarch or reduce the flour by 1/4 cup. 

EQUIPMENT
  • 2 beater hand mixer 
  • Electric oven (no convection capabilities). 
  • Pans I used, so if you use a different type of pan they may turn out vastly different: Large jelly roll style aluminum cookie sheets (13x18 - 18 gauge aluminum). 
  • Cookie sheets were lined with good quality parchment paper (Sam’s club brand). 

KITCHEN CONDITIONS
  • Kitchen temperature was around 71 degrees. 
  • I have a regular electric oven (no convection capabilities). 
  • Elevation approximately 700 feet 
  • Cookies were cooked one sheet at a time with the rack set in the middle of the oven. 

OPTIONAL VARIATIONS
  • Sub semi-sweet chocolate chips for butterscotch, white, etc. 
  • Add ½-¾ cup chopped pecans 
  • For large bakery style cookies, measure out 3 tablespoons of dough. Roll it into a ball and flatten it into a hockey puck shaped disc. Bake for 9-11 minutes.

Acknowledgements
My lab mate Melissa in grad school who got me started on this quest! My husband, kids, school teachers, bus drivers, neighbors, and friends that were "forced" to eat the test batches. My friend Alice who gave me tips and encouraged me on that fateful day in the baking aisle of Aldi. And my friend Apple, who ate the very cookies that are featured in these pictures ;) 


Inspired by Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition, Chocolate Chip Cookies, page 766.