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The Origin Story
When I was a kid my dad loved to randomly ask me, “So, what kind of chocolate chip cookies are you going to make today?” His question was actually a thinly-veiled request for me to make Chocolate Chip Cookies, as they were, and still are, his favorite.
Now, today, in the world of Pinterest and the Food Network, asking that sort of question opens a portal to oatmeal, almond butter, gluten-free, paleo, Oreo-stuffed, pudding-mix, 3-step, 9-step, sugar-free, thousand layer, the best, ultimate, tahini-chickpea, cookie madness. What’s your pleasure?! But back-in-the-day, when recipes were pretty much only found in magazines, on food packages, and tin boxes of grease-stained note cards, there was only one chocolate chip cookie recipe: the O.G. – Nestle Toll House. And, you better believe, I had that recipe MEM-O-RIZED.
In spite of my devotion to the Nestle recipe, the truth is, even as a kid, I was never one for super sugary treats. I would regularly turn down cotton candy, Skittles, Starbursts, or anything containing vanilla ice cream (boring!) in favor of dark chocolate and salty peanut butter (still do, hands down). So, as I got older, I started yearning for something… different. I wanted a better cookie.
A Better Cookie
I wanted a chocolate chip cookie that wasn’t so sweet. Something that had more depth of flavor. Something that would be crunchy on the outer edges, only to get soft and gooey in the middle. So, I delved into research and development – i.e. – I read a bunch of recipes and made more than a few (dozen) cookies. I scribbled down notes on what I liked and what I would change; what worked and what did not. Many pounds of butter, sugar, and flour later I hit upon what is now my go to recipe.
With brown butter imparting a nutty, toffee-like note, and dark brown molasses adding a rich base these cookies are pretty near perfect. The not-too-sweet(ness) of the cookie is balanced out by a good dose of sea salt and plenty of chocolate shards. Fresh from the oven, the thin outer layer hardens as it cools and then shatters when bitten, giving way to the gooey center.
Notes from My Kitchen
I use salted butter – always. It’s the only kind of butter I buy. Even if a new recipe I’m following calls for unsalted butter, I use salted. Not just because I am a rebel, but also because salt is a super flavor enhancer! With baked goods especially, salt can be the difference between a gloriously triumphant cookie and a blob of chocolate chip studded wallpaper paste. Salt brings out the best elements of the ingredients and puts them on display.
In that same vein, I also tend to favor the use of dark brown sugar. The deep, rich flavor of the extra molasses is an addition that I always welcome. Truth be told light brown sugar rarely, if ever, makes an appearance in my pantry.
Almost Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup salted butter, 2 sticks
1 cup dark brown sugar
¼ c. granulated sugar
¼ c. turbinado (raw cane) sugar (If you don’t have raw sugar just
steal a few packets of Sugar in the Raw from Starbucks replace with another ¼ c. granulated sugar.)
1½ tsp vanilla (I use Mexican vanilla – because it is highly superior to all other vanillas!)
2 eggs, room temperature
3 cups AP (All Purpose) flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Scant 1/4 tsp. corn starch
10 – 12 oz. chocolate chips – aprox. 2 cups – but let’s all acknowledge that the only true measurement for chocolate chips is: the whole bag, always the whole bag.
TIP: Please, I beseech you! Try out the Ghirardelli 60% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chips. They are just THE BEST chocolate chips! Smooth, creamy, darker than your typical semi-sweet chip without being too dark, and slightly…tangy? It’s so good! I mean if you want to use run of the mill semi-sweet chips, okay, fine, ruin your cookies…but don’t come crying to me. … Guittard Extra Dark chips are also acceptable.
Preheat: the oven to 360 F
Brown: half the butter! Melt one stick of the butter in a pan. Let it continue to cook over low-medium heat til there are deep gold flecks of milk solids bubbling up from the bottom. Take off heat immediately and pour into mixing bowl to cool. Once the “beurre noisette” (Oh my stars and garters, so fancy! Calm down, it just means “nut butter” in French…) has cooled down some, place the other stick of butter in to help meld the two. If the browned butter is not cool enough, the new stick of butter might melt completely. That’s fine, no worries! Just pop the bowl in the fridge and wait til the butter has solidified to a soft (non-liquid) stage before you move on to the next step.
Cream: the butter with the sugars for about 5 minutes – stopping occasionally to scrape down the bowl. You could do less time, but that depends on how patient you are and how badly you want the cookies to come out right… the butter will become very fluffy and take on a pale tan, almost off-white color. Add the vanilla towards the end of the beating.
Add: the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly. This allows a sort of merengue to develop and makes for a nice crackly surface.
Sift: the flour, baking soda, salt, and corn starch
TIP: When measuring flour for baking (if you aren’t using weights and scales) spoon flour into your measuring cup and level off with a knife. None of this scooping from the container nonsense… I know it seems like extra work, but scooping and shaking ends up compacting the flour, rendering the measuring cup process even more unpredictable. The bottom line: If you are scooping flour with the measuring cup you could be adding more flour than the recipe calls for, resulting in a thicker/breadier cookie.
Fold into the flour mixture: all the chocolate!
TIP: If you happen to have an excess (2-3 ounces) of dark chocolate lying around the house -which I typically do- chop some up into small shavings or flakes and add that in as bonus chocolate (yay!). It adds a whole new layer to the texture and taste. If you don’t have extra chocolate (why?) reserve ½ – ¾ cup of the chocolate chips and chop them up. Trust me. Do it. PS – Extra chocolate is ALWAYS a good idea in these cookies… or in life…
This time around the extra chocolate I happened to have on hand was a bar of Alter Eco’s Brown Butter Dark Chocolate! How serendipitous! And sooooo yummy!
Add: the flour/chocolate chip mixture to the creamed butter at medium speed. Mix only as long as it takes to incorporate all the flour mixture. This helps to avoid over developing the gluten in the flour, which would result in a tough cookie. In life being a tough cookie is a good thing, in baking it is not.
Okay: now the dough can be scooped, rolled, baked, and/or frozen for later use. I recommend refrigerating the dough for at least 30 minutes before baking. But if you can’t wait, huck those bad boys in the oven at 360F for 9 minutes. At 9 minutes check them and see if the edges are golden. If not let ‘em bake a minute or two longer.
TIP: Typically, I don’t bake off the whole batch of cookies right away unless I’m making them for a large group. But, I DO scoop/shape all the dough at the same time. I bake off the amount of cookies I need and then freeze the remainder of the dough balls on cookie sheets. Once the dough has firmed up, I transfer all the individual cookie balls to an air-tight container or freezer bag. They keep for AGES in the freezer. You will have the ability to make cookies at a moments notice – whether you need 10 or 2! Those little frozen gems have come in handy when I just had to have a cookie! I have successfully baked off a single cookie in my toaster oven more than once.
I use an OXO Medium Cookie Scoop to measure out the cookies.
TIP: Always err on the side of slightly under- rather than over-baking. Under-baking results in gooey deliciousness, over-baking results in a collectors set of vanilla-scented polka dot frisbees.
Cool: and eat.
(Have you ever tried eating a chocolate chip cookie with peanut butter spread over the back of it? No? Again, I must ask: Why?)
Almost Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Mixing Bowl
- Sauce pan to brown butter
- 1 Cup Salted Butter
- 1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
- ¼ Cup Granulated Sugar
- ¼ Cup Turbinado Sugar
- 1 ½ tsp Vanilla
- 2 Eggs
- 3 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 1 ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp Salt
- ¼ tsp Corn Starch
- 2 – 3 cups Chocolate Chips
- Preheat the oven to 360 F.
- Brown half the butter.
- Once the brown butter has cooled, add the other stick of butter
- Cream the butter with the sugars for about 5 minutes.
- Add vanilla
- Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and corn starch.
- Fold all the chocolate into the flour mixture.
- Add the flour/chocolate chip mixture to the creamed butter at medium speed. Mix only as long as it takes to incorporate all the flour mixture.
- Scoop, roll, baked, and/or freeze for later use. I recommend refrigerating the dough for at least 30 minutes before baking.
- Huck those bad boys in the oven at 360F for 9 minutes. At 9 minutes check them and see if the edges are golden. If not let ‘em bake a minute or two longer.
- Let cool and eat.