Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Ultimate - Basic Chocolate Chip Cookie

I am about to launch a bomb on my friends and co-workers. I have hereby commenced the great chocolate chip cookie bake-off of 2009.

Listen, god knows the blogosphere certainly doesn't need another chocoloate chip cookie recipe. I'm sure there are a million recipes out there that will do just fine. And frankly, when it comes right down to it, when you want a chocolate chip cookie, you want just that. You don't want to spend a whole lot of time pouring over the intricate details about what makes this particular cookie so much better than the others. You just want it to be warm, straight out of the oven and to go nicely with a cold glass of milk. At least, that's what I want.

But. I do have my curiosities. There are several recipes out there proclaiming to produce the end-all-be-all of cookies. Three of these recipes have caught my eye.

1. The 2008 NY Times David Leite/Jaques Torres cookie (Claim to fame -a combination of bread and cake flour and chocolate discs, or feves.)

2. The Thomas Keller Ad Hoc cookie (Claim to fame - Keller uses dark brown sugar, a departure from the light brown sugar method so many recipes call for. He also uses two kinds of chocolate chips. One 55% chocolate, the other 72%, which gives a more complex flavor, apparently.)

3. The Cooks Illustrated "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies"
( Claim to fame - two words. Brown. Butter.)

Aren't you curious to know which of the three produces the ultimate cookie? Let's go over our requirements, shall we? The perfect cookies should be:
  1. Warm, right out of the oven and served with the requisite milk

  2. Crisp on the edges, chewy and soft on the inside. Not crumbly and cakey.

  3. Have the correct ratio of sugar and salt. Good salt can go a long way towards bringing out the chocolate flavor.

  4. The cookie should not have an overpowering vanilla extract flavor.

Is that it? Have I missed anything? What does your perfect chocolate chip cookie require?

And finally, I said that the quest had begun. I took what I believe to be a very basic cookie recipe and adapted it from several sources to start us off. Here it is, the recipe upon which, all other recipes will be based. And I will have you know that one of my co-worker's pronounced a cookie from this recipe to be the best she'd ever eaten. Just wait!

Oh, and in case you're curious? Yes, this is basically exactly the same as the recipe on the back of the Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip bag. The ol' standby of all our youths!

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Basic Recipe

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
10 ounces dark chocolate chips
2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl whisk together the flour through the salt. Combine the chocolate chips. Cream the butter and sugar together in another bowl until well combined and fluffy with a hand-held mixer or in a kitchen-aid. Add the vanilla and one egg at a time, mixing well after each egg is added.

Gently fold in half the flour mixture in with a rubber spatula, mixing well. Add the other half and combine. Cover and chill in the fridge for 24 hours (this is the key to a really chewy cookie, but if you, like me, can't wait that long, put them on a middle rack in a 350 oven for 15-18 minutes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.) When you're ready to bake, use your hands to form balls of dough about 2 inches in diameter. That's if you like a fairly large cookie.

I like to rotate the cookie sheet at least once during the cooking time so that each side bakes evenly.

I sometimes add a teaspoon of espresso or finely ground coffee to give these a kick.

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