Cookies have always been my comfort food of choice. Cookies are the ideal dessert/snack; portable, easy to eat, sweet enough for dessert but can sub for a breakfast and everyone loves them. I love experimenting and trying new cookie recipes, like the toffee cookies posted a few days ago (they look delicious). Sometimes, however, you just want an traditional chocolate chip cookie, hot from the oven with a glass of ice cold milk. I believe that is how Nestle has made their millions? (of course I haven’t bought nestle products in years – read the boycott information if you want to know why).
So back to the perfect cookie; cookies, to me, are nearly impossible to screw up. I often make cookies for social gatherings and work functions because there are minimal variables that can cause a dessert disaster. I was surprised to hear, on a cooking show not long ago, that cookies are considered one of the most difficult dessert items to perfect. Perhaps I have just been baking them too long that I have forgotten or blocked the failures 🙂
In any event, I wanted to share a few things that I have learned over the years to make the chocolate chip cookies that beat out Nestle Tollhouse every. single. time.
Top 10 secrets to the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
1) Find a favorite recipe and stick with it! I use the (du-du-dumm) Betty Crocker recipe. It’s so easy I have it memorized and it *always* turns out. Every time. This recipe produces a cookie that is neither too flat or too tall, chewy but slightly crisp around the edges and has the perfect dough to chocolate chip ratio. I’ve tried several dozen recipes and I always come back to this one. So now I stick with it. Its not going to make any ‘healthy’ food choice list but it will satisfy your craving for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie
2) Use quality, fresh ingredients. The single most important of these is real butter – not margarine or shortening or anything else made from a long list of chemicals (I kid.. sort of). I can always pick out cookies made with margarine and they have an ‘off’ taste. Butter is the way to go, trust me. Other ingredients to pay special attention to, if you don’t bake often, are flour and baking powder. If you haven’t baked since last December, I would recommend tossing your baking powder and flour and spending the $5 to get new ingredients – it is worth it.
3) Line your baking pans with parchment paper! Your cookies will never stick to the pan again and it dramatically improves (in my opinion) the crisp edge versus chewy center dynamic. I use this brand but any brand will work – silicone coated is preferred.
4) Plan ahead and let your cold ingredients come to room temperature (butter and eggs). Depending on the ambient temperature of your kitchen this can take anywhere from 1-4 hours. The microwave works in a pinch to soften butter but its unpredictable. If you live in a warm climate (like I do) make sure you don’t let your butter over-soften or your cookie wont be ‘as’ perfect.
5) Pay special attention to the taste of your chocolate chips – resist the urge to buy the store brand that is on sale for $1.79 unless you have tasted them and know the chocolate is good quality. My favorite brands of chocolate chips are Trader Joe’s brand, Safeway/Vons Organic chocolate chips and Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips (I don’t have access to Trader Joe’s or Safeway in South Carolina so I try to stock up on Ghirardelli when it is on sale, like around the holidays).
6) Watch the cookies carefully and note the perfect timing for your oven – it might be less, more or the same as what is written on the recipe. Also, for my oven, even if I wait until it is properly preheated per the oven, the first pan usually takes about 1 minute longer then the subsequent pans of cookies.
7) Don’t cheat and try to bake multiple pans of cookies at the same time! The pan on the bottom will be too dark on the bottom and the top wont brown. Stick with 1 pan at a time, placed in the center of the rack that is in the middle position in the oven. I keep my pizza stone on the bottom rock of the oven that is said to help with heat distribution (I haven’t noticed a difference but I don’t have anywhere else to store my pizza stone so it stays in the oven)
8 ) Mix in the chocolate chips (and nuts, if you prefer) by hand. I confess, I often skip this step as I am inevitably making chocolate cookies at 10 pm on a work night but it does create a superior texture to put the extra effort into mixing in the chocolate chips by hand.
9) Practice, practice, practice! Find people who like cookies and bake for them often. I probably bake 3-4 batches of cookies per month during baking season (for me, that means when it isn’t 90+ outside and I can stand to have the oven on!). I have my stand-by recipes but I also experiment. You will learn your own little trick by doing and it helps to have a husband that ‘loves’ chocolate cookies, almost as much as I do.
10) And the final secret to a perfect chocolate chip cookie – do your taste test straight from the oven with a tall glass of ice cold milk.