Saturday, January 22, 2011

wherein I pursue perfection of the chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Today I woke up and weighed myself.  I am happy with the number, but it hasn't really changed in a long time, so I was all (I kid you not),  from now on, I'm done eating sugar and processed foods.

And within about twenty minutes, I followed this declaration by making myself a mocha (oops) and then taking it upon myself to bake cookies.  What?  Yeah, I don't know.

I'm on a mission.  A few weeks ago, I made chocolate chip cookies and they came out a little cake-like.  Puffy.  Thick.  Not gooey or melty at all.  I am on a mission to recreate these cookies.

I'm no n00b when it comes to choco-chips.  They're the only cookies that will really get eaten in my house, so since I've been married I've probably made them eleventy billion times.  When E was really trying to stick to a Gluten-free diet, I'd made his cookies and then I'd make a batch of "real" cookies for the rest of us.  In-laws and friends request them.  Children cry with overwhelming joy when I pull them from the oven.  They make teenage girls scream.

My cookies are the Justin Bieber of baked goods.

So why can't I recreate that magical accident that happened the other day?  I mean, they're good cookies of their own right.  Don't get me wrong.  But now I'm curious.  (Read: obsessed.)

The cookie expert, "Google" seems to think that flat cookies arise from one of the following possible mistakes:

-old ingredients (nope)
-over-mixing, thereby letting too much air into the batter (nope)
-too much fat (butter, margarine, or shortening) (shouldn't be)
-a too-warm cookie sheet to start (nope, room temp)
-an oven that's too hot (nuh-uh)
-not enough flour (I err on the side of a little more than the recipe)
-dough gets too warm before it's cooked (nope)

A few websites suggested using bread flour or cake flour.  So, this made me realize that those magical mystical cookies could have been made with bread flour.  I have a whole load of twist-tied bags from Winco with various unlabeled flours (white, whole wheat, bread, whole wheat bread) that I *ahem* may or may not just grab at random when I make cookies.  It is possible that the magical rainbow butterfly unicorn glowing batch of world peace and happiness was made with bread flour.  I have no way of knowing, since I broke my flour canister a few weeks ago and have decidedly not allowed myself to think too hard about flour, since.

The only thing I know for sure that was different that day was that I used a combo of Nestle chips and Gluten-free chips because I came up short.  So maybe the secret's also in the chips?  I know that using good butter is a must (organic=worth it, IMHO).  I prefer the taste of unsalted butter in mah cookies.  Fresh eggs? Def.  New-ish baking soda?  Good vanilla? Fer sure.  I measure carefully, because I had a few times when I got heavy handed with the vanilla and it was like, wow.  And not in a good way.

So these are my normal tweaks to the standard Toll House recipe (yep, that's the base for my wondrous cookies--don't hate!), and I find they come out consisently delicioso:

1) Not letting the butter get too warm.
2) I use 1 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 a cup of regular instead of an even ratio.
3) For chewier/more oatmeal-like cookies, I use 100% whole wheat flour.  (For lighter, more cake-like cookies, I use bread flour.)
4) Sometimes if the dough is too warm, I will chill it before I scoop it.
5) I use a Pampered Chef scooper so they come out uniform and kind of tall.  Tall dough means it doesn't spread out as much.
6) Never--and I mean NEVER--leave the kitchen when they're baking.  Stay in, set the timer early, and watch 'em like a hawk.  Take 'em out *just* this side of looking done.
7) Good equipment is a must.  I swear by my Kitchen-Aid mixer and a good jell-roll pan that's NOT nonstick.  Nonstick will mess your cookies up, friend.

Today I tested two things: bread flour and chilling the dough for a good, long while.  The cookies came out lighter than the last batch, but still not up to par with the accidental cookies of legend that I stumbled upon a few weeks ago.  What makes me mad is that I basically threw everything in the bowl that day without one ounce of care, and they came out better than ever.


An-y-hoo, the cookies I made today came out close.  I'm sure they'll be gobbled up in two days, and I think I still keep my title as bomb-diggity cookie master.  But I have decided to make this little science experiment my new obsession hobby.  I will perfect you, cookie recipe.  Besides, everyone I know is all I'll taste test them for you.

And no, Mom, I didn't make any without chips for you because that's just weird.  I'm surprised I ever recovered from living in such a house where some of the cookies were chocolate chipless.  Ew.

I will defeat you, Toll House.  Victory will be mine.


  1. When you perfect this amazing cookie recipe, will you be so kind as to share it? :-)

  2. I feel like maybe I should go make some cookies, now! Keep us posted on your new adventure. :-) I always enjoy reading about your cooking and preparing of meals. I just hate cooking.... don't mind baking, but cooking... U-G-H!

  3. I feel like maybe I should go make some cookies, now! Keep us posted on your new adventure. :-) I always enjoy reading about your cooking and preparing of meals. I just hate cooking.... don't mind baking, but cooking... U-G-H!

  4. "My cookies are the Justin Bieber of baked goods."
    Best blog line I've read in a long time!

  5. PLEASE try the New York Times recipe... uses part cake flour - and both flours are sifted.. and at minimum the cough refrigerates 24 hours so you must plan ahead. It's not like they puff up like little cakes, but they are almost ALWAYS perfect looking. I do smooth mine flat a little bit though because I think if you don't, the outer edges get cooked a little more since they "melt" before they cook :)

  6. For years, my choc chip cookies have turned out into flat, crispy, ugly cookies. I used only butter, check on all the common mistakes that can affect the way they turn out. Finally, (much to my horror) I tried a recipe using half butter, half Crisco. I hate to admit it, but they turn out awesome every time. I HATE Crisco and now I only have it in my pantry to make choc chip cookies. Not sure if you want to go that route, but it's an idea.