America's Test Kitchen's Boston Blogger Cookie Challenge: Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
When everyone went crazy over The New York Times' chocolate chip cookie recipe a few years ago, I had to try it. I wasn't particularly attached to any other chocolate chip cookie recipes at that time, and with a few modifications The New York Times' recipe became my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I basically dismissed all others. Don't get me wrong, I would try a new recipe now and then, but none of those new recipes stood up to the recipe I truly loved. The one with bittersweet chocolate and sea salt. The one that produced soft, chewy cookies. I would often make this cookie dough, form it into dough balls, and store them in the freezer so I could bake them off any time I craved a warm, gooey cookie. No cookie has been a match for that one.
But recently America's Test Kitchen challenged Boston bloggers to make its recipe for perfect chocolate chip cookies, and I decided to take on the challenge. And as if homemade chocolate chip cookies aren't motivation enough to make chocolate chip cookies, a trip to America's Test Kitchen certainly is. That's right: One blogger and a guest will be invited to tour the test kitchen and watch a live taping of America's Test Kitchen.
Anyone who knows me knows that I can go on and on about my love for America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated. I have an online subscription as well as a subscription to Entertaining from Cook's Illustrated, the iPhone app, and a handful of the cookbooks. I've made so many recipes from the magazine, books, and website. I love the analysis of the trial and error involved in coming up with each perfect recipe, and I love the attention to detail inherent in all of the recipes. Considering all of the Cook's Illustrated recipes I've made, you would think I'd have made these chocolate chip cookies before now. Somehow I never did, so here's my experience making these cookies for the first time...
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Cook's Illustrated)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks) (I recommend cutting the butter in chunks first.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. (I used Silpat mats.) Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes.
Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.
Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. (You can measure all of these out into a bowl while the butter is melting on the stove.)
Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.
Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.
Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute.
Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.) (Don't worry, your cookies won't run together even though you'll think they will.)
5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. (My cookies took only 10 minutes per tray.) Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving. (Okay, who lets cookies cool completely? I did my best, but the whole reason I make chocolate chip cookies is so I can eat them when they're still warm and gooey.)
My notes: I weighed the flour and sugars. I used kosher salt instead of table salt because I never have table salt in the house. I used 1 cup of Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips and 1/4 cup Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. (The recipe calls for all semisweet, but those aren't the chips ATK highly recommends.) I opted to add the 3/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans.
America's Test Kitchen claims that this recipe produces a cookie that is moist and chewy inside, yet crisp around the edges, and that is exactly right. I loved the soft centers and that little bit of crunch from the cookie edges.
For a yield of only 16 cookies, these cookies are a lot of work. They are more hands-on than other recipes I've tried. I actually thought these would be pretty easy when I saw that I didn't even have to pull out my Kitchen Aid to make them, but the whisking, waiting, whisking, waiting, whisking, waiting really challenged my patience a bit. As with all baking, this timing is important though. The whisking and waiting gives the sugars more time to dissolve, contributing to the flavor and texture of the cookies.
The cookies are large (about 3 inches in diameter), and I could only eat one; Jeff made it through two of them. We both decided that we definitely prefer mini cookies, and I wonder if making these in mini form would sacrifice the texture all that much. The notes from the recipe say that a smaller amount of dough produces a more uniform cookie and the larger amount gives it more crispy-chewy contrast.
As far as flavor, I expected the nutty brown butter to come through more strongly, but it lingered in the background. I could detect it because I knew it was there. I think a sprinkling of sea salt on top of these cookies would have really made the flavor pop. (That's actually the first thing Jeff noted when he tried one of these too.)
The next morning, the cookies were still really chewy and well flavored, which was a huge plus. As with most baked goods, I am a cookie snob, and I would much rather have a fresh cookie than a day-old cookie. But these cookies don't taste stale at all the next day. And they're actually still chewy and have a stronger toffee flavor from the brown butter two days later.
I appreciated the challenge, and I'm happy to have a new chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe up my sleeve.
What is your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?
Labels: Desserts - cookies bars candies