Innovations in Chocolate Chip Cookie Bakery

Photo by Flickr user Curtis McCormick. Creative Commons license.

by A.A.

Chocolate chip cookies. You love them, I love them, and we can all agree that anyone who doesn’t love them is not to be trusted.  Unlike other desserts, though, there hasn’t been a lot of notable innovation in chocolate chip cookie baking.  As a kid I used to make the standard Toll House recipe fairly often, but it was generally just a ruse so that my brothers and I could eat massive amounts of raw cookie dough.  I thought about it recently, and decided that the Toll House recipe can’t be the final word. With so many amateur home cooks and their delicious baking blogs, and with foodie reinterpretations of comfort food at an all-time high, I figured somebody must have taken the time to update that old chestnut.

After some dutiful googling, I discovered that there are a handful of new recommendations to improve chocolate chip cookies.  Basically, they are:

  • Melt the butter. Melt it carefully on a double-boiler and let it cool before combining it with the white and brown sugars.  Toll House et al. always said to simply “cream” softened/room temperature butter with the sugar, but melting it makes for a smoother butter-sugar end product. Which, let’s be candid, is delicious in and of itself.
  • Double, triple, or quadruple the amount of vanilla. Not one teaspoon. More like one tablespoon.  And of course, I don’t even need to stress the importance of using real vanilla and not “imitation” extract, right?
  • Refrigerate the dough overnight, anywhere from 12 to 36 hours depending on your baking schedule.  I don’t know why this is assumed to help, but I tried it anyway and refrigerated my dough for about 24 hours.  Note that this makes it much harder to work with the dough before baking, so you may want to consider rolling the dough into balls and then refrigerating them.
  • Sprinkle sea salt on top before baking.  This is another example of the saltification of desserts that’s all the rage.

I tried all of these tips, and added one of my own, by readjusting the white-to-brown sugar ratio from 1:1 to one-half cup granulated sugar and 1 cup light brown sugar.  This makes the cookies a little bit darker, but richer.

Verdict?  Success.  These were definitely better than your everyday Toll House-recipe cookies.  Despite using the same amount of butter (1 c.) as a normal recipe, these tasted very buttery – I credit melting the butter.  The best ever, though? I don’t know.  They still flattened out a bit too much for my liking – any ideas on how to minimize that?

And the key takeaway is that no matter what recipe you use, chocolate chip cookies, like most baked goods, taste best when eaten warm out of the oven.

Recipe below the jump. Add your tips in comments.

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. real vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • Chocolate chips to taste – I used an entire bag and think that’s pushing it too far. Consider ¾ of a normal-sized bag of chips.
  1. Melt butter on a double-boiler and set aside to cool briefly.  Once cool, combine butter with the brown and white sugar and beat until smooth.  Add vanilla, then stir in the eggs one at a time.
  2. In a small bowl, sift flour, salt and baking soda together. Or, if you are like me and don’t own a sifter, combine in a bowl and stir with a fork.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg-sugar-butter mixture, stirring in just a bit at a time until all of the flour mixture has been integrated into the dough.  Add the chocolate chips.
  3. Roll dough into cookie-sized balls, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 12-36 hours.
  4. When it comes time to bake, preheat oven to 350-degrees. (You know your oven better than I do; adjust accordingly).  Line cookie sheets with foil and make sure the cookie dough balls have plenty of space in between them.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake for 10-12 minutes (again, keep an eye on them and adjust time accordingly).  When done, remove from oven and transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.
  5. Pour a glass of milk.  Enjoy your milk and cookies. Contemplate how much happiness has been distilled into this one brief, fleeting moment.

21 responses to “Innovations in Chocolate Chip Cookie Bakery

  1. My pastry-chef girlfriend says instead of increasing the vanilla extract, try using vanilla paste, you get the actual bean and less soapy flavor.

    Me? I have to shrug!

  2. As with all dessert questions, David Lebowitz is my go to guy, and he wrote this a couple of years ago: http://bit.ly/298GYx

    I don’t do all of these, but some will certainly help.

    I’ve taken to mixing chocolate chip cookies by hand, using melted butter. (Amen on that one, btw.) Then, if I can spare the time, as you did, to refrigerate overnight, I roll it into a tube in plastic, and cut like prepackaged cookies.

    But, let’s face it. Chocolate chip cookies are one of the many things in life that, even when it’s bad, is actually pretty good.

  3. Alton Brown has a cookie episode of Good Eats where he shows how to modify the basic Toll House recipe to get either thin-n-crunchy, chewy, or puffy cookies.

  4. Mother Dubinsky

    I have found that by using bread flour instead of all-purposeflour the cookies don’t spread-flatten out-as much. It probably has to do with the higher gluten content of the flour limiting syneresis.

  5. I’ve had good success using the NYT “consummate chocolate chip cookie” recipe that was published last year. I really like the combination of bread flour and cake flour. And 60% cacao chocolate chips are a revelation.

  6. Like X I go as dark as possible on the chocolate chips. if you relaly want to freak people out buy some 95% or 99% cacao bars and chunk those up.

    I also like to go with half butter and half shortening. They melt at different temperatures, and since shortening melts at a higher temperature the cookies will hold shape a bit better. You can take additional advantage of this by switching the light brown sugar to dark brown, since the shortening will help the extra molasses not turn your cookies into one big flat crispy sheet.

    Unless you like that.

    A little bit of peppermint in the dough was a happy accident once, too.

  7. Usually cookies flattening out means that you mixed the dough too much. So if you use a slightly lighter hand that should help.

  8. Melting the butter will cause the cookies to flatten. I prefer to use very cold butter and cream with the sugars till it’s turned white. This introduces more air into the cookies, making them lighter and fluffier!

  9. Smitten Kitchen’s crispy chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe is my go-to, although i like to use mini chips for the perfect chip-cookie ratio. Also, Cooks Illustrated’s tasters ruled imitation vanilla just as good as the real stuff. I still prefer the real stuff, but something to think about if you’re going to be baking a lot.

  10. A high proportion of fat in a cookie generally means that it will spread out more. Switching half of the butter for shortening will, as B said upthread, make sure the cookie holds its shape better. But you could also cut back on the butter by a couple of T. There’s lots of wiggle room — one recipe I make has similar proportions but only half of the butter. Those cookies don’t spread out much at all.

  11. My general view is that the classic toll house cookie recipe has too high a ratio of butter to sugar to flour. The classic chocolate chip cookie recipe I was raised on has a 1:2:<~4 ratio, and I actually like its results much better than most chocolate chip cookies people make. Too much butter makes the cookies taste bad, IMHO. (Personally, I don't like my cookies to taste like butter, but that's another conversation all together)

  12. I add the zest of approximately one orange ; soon I’ll save my Clementine peels.
    I got the idea from obscene Israeli Sabra orange/chocolate liquor

  13. I’ve actually started replacing half of the vanilla extract with chocolate extract to my cookies to enrich the chocolate flavor. I also love to add spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and occasionally even cayenne.

  14. My trick is adding malted milk powder to the dough. I also find the tollhouse recipe has too high a butter ratio and reduce that to 1 3/4 cups, among other slight modifications.

    But it’s the malted milk powder that really makes the difference. With malted milk powder, the cookies taste like the sugar in them has been caramelized somehow.

  15. I also use the recipe the NYT published last year now (my mother used the Silver Palate’s recipe through my childhood). But I use chopped up very dark chocolate, largely because they sell chocolate chips in ridiculously small packets here in the UK and they’re terrible quality. I think the bread flour makes them stay thicker.

    Recipe here – http://cheesecloth.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/best-cookies-ever/

  16. Armchair Warlord

    I find that adding pudding powder to the dough makes for a hell of a good cookie. Very moist.

    On the other hand my recipe uses a 2:3:4 butter-sugar-flour ratio (and two eggs!) on top of the pudding, which might have something to do with it. Little heart attack bombs they are.

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  18. Ha ha, my Dad doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies… I’m not so sure I can trust him anymore…

  19. Freeze the cookie dough to the point where it is slightly frozen, I use the toll house directions and add a half a packet of vanilla pudding mix, very moist thick chocolate chip cookies!

  20. Don’t see this in the comments, maybe I missed it. But one way to make less flat cookies is too roll them and then chill the rolled balls overnight or so. When they’re chilled in the ball shape they get that crunchy side with soft center thing going on.

  21. Use 1/2 butter and 1/2 shortening. That’s it. No flat cookies.

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