Friday, March 27, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies Revisited

Flipping through my latest issue of Cook's Illustrated a couple of nights ago before bed, (I realize some people read romance novels before bed but I digress) I noticed a new recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies. Having experienced something close to nirvana with the old Cook's Illustrated Chocolate Chip cookie recipe I was immediately intrigued and thought about it all day. I went to Central Market to grab some shrimp for dinner ($6.99 a pound this weekend - heck of a deal) and found myself heading down the baking isle tossing Gihradelli 60% chips, Billington's brown sugar, and some organic cane sugar into my cart. My subconscious was determined for me to make cookies last night so I surrendered to the cause.

This Cook's Illustrated issue also had an article rating chocolate chips (these people complete me). The Ghiradelli 60% came in on top and I enjoyed the validation. Several years ago, I had determined that these were the definitive chips to use for chocolate chip cookies - or for eating right out of the bag. Not only do they taste perfect - their slightly wider shape melts perfectly in the cookie. Regular Nestle Toll House chips are way too sweet with no depth of chocolate flavor. The Cook's Illustrated article ranked them second to last (only Nestle Chocolate Chunks were below them). Even more validation. I really felt inspired to make this recipe ... it was as though it were meant just for me.

There were several key differences in the recipe including an interesting "whisk then rest" process at the combining stage plus the melting and browning of the butter before adding the sugars, salt, vanilla and eggs (one egg plus one yolk) providing a deeper caramel/butterscotch/toffee thing with regard to the flavor of the dough. So clever and definitely something I could see having a major flavor impact on the overall cookie. The whole article is fascinating in all aspects as they tweak the recipe - worth picking up the issue for this alone but rather than going through all of that, I will just submit the highlightss along with the actual recipe below.

When I was melting the butter in the skillet I realized I was supposed to save 4 of the 14 Tablespoons to add to the browned butter afterwards. I tried to grab what hadn't melted but it was probably more like 2 Tablespoons (ooops). I decided to let it go and moved forward with the butter browning, which was fun actually, swirling the skillet around as the nutty aroma filled the air. The rest of the recipe is described below. The only other thing I did not follow to the letter was that I used light brown sugar instead of dark brown (ooops again).

Still, these turned out so well ... I can only imagine when I follow to the letter as I am generally apt to do but I went to the store not knowing I would be making these and didn't have a real list or my recipe with me as I normaly would. See the gorgeous dough-porn shot (above) with the flecks of "brown butter" within. The flavor truly was more intense than any chocolate chip cookie I can remember and the texture was delightful ... crispy on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle. The chocolate melted perfectly and served as a great contrast with the complex, buttery, toffee-flavored dough.

My personal notes about the recipe ... quality ingredients always product a better product so consider organic eggs, sugars, vanilla, flour, etc. Also be sure and take these out when they look just a bit "underdone" - just brown around the edges but still very soft in the center. Most people overbake their cookies. If you take them out at the right time, they'll still be chewy beyond the first day (if they survive that long!).

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies - Cook's Illustrated May/June 2009 Issue
Note: Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter, the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, mois brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored.

1 3/4 c (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
14 T (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 c (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 c (5 1/4 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
1 t table salt
2 t vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 c semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (I wouldn't use anything other than Ghiradelli 60%)
3/4 c chopped pecans of walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets w/ parchment paper. 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. 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 tablesppons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2" apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet (or fewer on smaller sheets).
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. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.


Anonymous said...

Your food chemistry question of the day. Why baking soda in the recipe?

Jodie said...

hmmm ... great question! I have no idea! I am just such a rule follower ... do I need to question things more? Ha! Is there a better way than w/ baking soda?! I know that baking soda reacts to acidic things but nothing like that in the cookie recipe ... so what gives?!

Pam Houston said...

I was flipping through Cooks Illustrated and came across this recipe also. Like the idea of not having to cream the butter so tried it out. The flavor was amazing, but the dough spread a lot during baking. Son said they looked like pancakes instead of cookies. (He wasn't critizing, he like the look.)Came online to see if I could find others that had tried the recipe and see if they had the same problem and ran across your post. It doesn't sound like you had a similar issue. I think I'll try chilling the dough next time. Also, I noticed your recipe says 1/2 tsp of soda. The Cooks Illustrated online recipe was 1 tsp. I'll check my copy and see which one they printed.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little late with this comment, but I think the acid in the brown sugar is sufficient to activate the baking soda, so you don't need to use baking powder. And I am guessing that the soda is used to make the cookies nice and brown in this recipe and not so much for leavening.