Choc it up to the chips: Reimagining chocolate cookie perfection

Tyler Hoffman, The Food Factor

The word “cookie” may be the most complex utterance in the English dictionary. Think about it. To some individuals, the word signifies a four-dollar hunk of Godiva-containing deliciousness courtesy Mrs. Fields. To certain males, cookie defines the ultimate goal of the sexual pursuit. But to me, cookies signify a modest piece of home, and they’d better contain chocolate morsels.

However, what the food industry has done to the chocolate chip cookie may be the greatest American travesty since Sarah Palin’s latest public appearance. Rather than donate a few minutes of time, cultivate a little culinary know-how, and locate the nearest oven, consumers would rather purchase this baked delight from a random bakery or rely on a certain pasty doughboy for assistance (the cartoon one, not Justin Bieber).

Rest assured, the chocolate chip cookie can easily be everything your heart can possibly imagine. It can be soft, chewy, gooey, and simply delicious. If you’re picturing your mother’s crispy (read: burnt) shards of love, think again. We’re talking perfection here, not punishment.

The way to make your own overpriced-bakery cookie at home lies in the details. First, let’s talk butter. In addition to being the straw that broke the camel’s glucose levels, butter is simply tasty. However, butter is a complex character. Unlike Snooki, it actually gets better the darker it gets. “Browning” the butter before adding it to the cookie dough brings out its nutty flavor notes, meaning that the end product will taste more complex and have pleasant, toffee-like characteristics.

A second, all-important ingredient is the chocolate. The first lesson in proper morsel selection is to step away from the yellow bags. The bell simply does not toll for thee. (For those of you who didn’t understand the first reference: Toll House sells chocolate chips in yellow bags. For those of you who didn’t understand the second reference: go back to high school and consult an English teacher.)

Simply stated, money buys quality. Buy the best chocolate chips that can afford, preferably of the milk chocolate or dark chocolate variety. I find semi-sweet chocolate too sugary for this application. Further, when in doubt, consult Hershey’s or Godiva. These brands are available in most supermarkets and offer a quality alternative to Toll House.

The final obstacle to overcome on the road to baking nirvana is the technique. Melting the butter and then adding it to the sugar ensures that the sugar will fully dissolve. Allowing brief pauses between mixing ensures that the flavor will intensify and the edges will turn pleasantly crisp upon baking. Speaking of baking, know when to pull your goods from the oven. Once the edges begin to turn brown, yank out that cookie sheet like your life depends on it.

 

Recipe:

Makes 16 cookies

 

Ingredients:

1¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)

½ tsp baking soda

14 T unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)

½ cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)

1 tsp table salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

 

Instructions:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 T 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 T 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 twice more 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, giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 T. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet.

5. Bake cookies one tray at a time until 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.