Have you ever noticed that the seemingly most simple dishes are the ones that some people consider the most difficult–or if not difficult, than the purest expression of perfection in cooking? For example, the egg. Scrambled or as an omelet, there are French chefs who will tell you it takes years to perfect cooking an egg. And yet it is something that I have been doing since I was about 10, in the microwave for my baby brother. OK yes those eggs probably sucked, but the point being, there was no hesitation on my part–it did not feel like I was attempting to make a croissant or something similarly intimidating. And, to be honest, I do not taste subtlety in eggs. I suspect those height of perfection eggs would not taste too different to me from my hastily scrambled ones.
But I am totally willing to believe that there is a difference. Why? Because of my own personal equivalent, chocolate chip cookies. In their own humble way, chocolate chip cookies inspire a similar sort of mania for perfection in many home bakers–and probably professional ones too. I’ve been making them since, well, I am not sure–middle school maybe? Late elementary? That used to be a fun Friday night for me and my brother! And yet the more I make them, the more convinced I am that they are one of the finickiest, trickiest recipes out there. Sure everyone loves ANY chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven, but loving them the next day is no mean feat. People believe that cookies are forgiving and cakes are demanding–and this might be true as a rule, but I think the key to chocolate chip cookies might be in demanding an absurd level of detail.
Take the NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookie, which I still believe to be one of the best home baked chocolate chip cookie recipes out there. The level of the detail in the recipe is quite impressive–and therefore the results are quite consistent. Whereas I have followed other recipes that people have loved and had results that varied wildly from batch to batch. Most notably in the famous Nestle Tollhouse recipe–which over the years has produced chewy, crunchy, thin, thick, you name it chocolate chip cookies in my kitchens. Shirley Corriher, in Bakewise, offers some clues about this. She notes that the protein level in different brands of AP flours can vary dramatically (depending on what kind of wheat is used, where and when harvested, etc)–changing the amount of the moisture that is absorbed in a dough significantly, leading therefore to more or less spreading (and for many of us chocolate chip cookie aficianados spreading is the enemy) and causing or eliminating greasiness–a problem that has plagued me in the past with melted butter recipes and which I have read complaints about on other blogs for this very recipe. So from here on out, I will try to identify what flour I used in a chocolate chip cookie recipe. King Arthur flour has a higher protein level, leading to more moisture absorbed–with a different flour I might add more flour. Corriher also is a firm believer, as is the NY Times recipe, in allowing the dough to sit, to absorb more moisture, so I am trying to do that more often. Last, and this one was a shocker that I discovered myself, I might try to measure my eggs more consistently (I already weigh most other ingredients).
First I made the Chocolate Angel Food Cake–a very detailed Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe–and discovered that my 14 egg whites weighed enough for her 16 egg white recipe. Then, utilizing some of the leftover egg yolks, I weighed my egg yolks for this recipe and discovered I needed 3 for the 2 called for. Whoa!
Listen, much like me and scrambled eggs I am not claiming you need to be this anal to make a good chocolate chip cookie. I am never going to worry that much about my eggs. I am just saying that if you are as weirdly obsessed as *I* am with creating that perfect chocolate chip cookie, I think that more level of detail is called for than is given in the average chocolate chip cookie recipe.
So without further (or at least not much more) ado, here is my latest. I am loving this recipe. Because I adore giant bakery style cookies and because those larger sized cookies last better, it is not supplanting the NY Times recipe, but it is being made more often around here because honestly my waistline cannot afford those ginourmous cookies–and it is hard to send them into John’s work since sending in 4 cookies, for example, for the department seems kinda stingy. I have been making this recipe for a while but waiting to share them until I was certain exactly how I liked them (some batches came out better than others).
300 g (2 1/4 cups) King Arthur AP Flour
1 t baking soda
1 t fine sea salt
150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
100 g dark brown sugar
42 g light brown sugar (the brown sugars should total 3/4 cup–I like more dark than light so the cookies are not too pale)
227 g/1 cup/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
40 g egg yolks (Brown says 2–but for me it was 3–from large eggs in both cases), beaten
1 1/2 t vanilla
10 oz chocolate chips (I like a little less than the full 12 oz bag for this recipe)
nice quality sea salt for sprinkling
Thoroughly whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
Whisk together in another bowl the slightly cooled melted butter and the sugars. Whisk in the eggs. Add the vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix–it is ok if some of the flour is not absorbed yet because you still need to mix in the chocolate chips and you do not want to overwork the dough. Add the chips and use your hands to knead the chips in. Do absolutely the minimal amount of mixing–do not overwork the dough–but I have found with this recipe hands work best to incorporate the chips.
Cover the dough with wax paper, pressing firmly, and then place in a sealed container. Let the dough chill for as long as you can wait, up to 72 hours.
Before shaping the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 F or 350 F convection bake. This dough will be dry and crumbly after sitting in the fridge–and hard from chilling. If you forget to bring it to room temperature first (as I always forget), you may need a butter knife to break off chunks of the dough. Shape the dough with your hands–this dough will not spread much, if at all, so I like to shape it in a ball and then flatten it a bit. Sprinkle each cookie with sea salt to taste–I like coarse flakes here. My favorite is a grey sea salt from France, but I decided to try Hawaiian pink this time. Bake for 10-12 minutes, longer if you made your cookies bigger or shorter for smaller. I got 20 cookies from this batch if that gives you an idea for size–I am guessing mine were about 2 tablespoons each. I baked 6 to a pan until the last sheet, when I did 8. Given how little they spread I probably could have done more.
I also like to let my chocolate chip cookies cool completely on the sheet–thereby allowing me to pull them out of the oven when they are still slightly underdone. They will firm up and bake further on the pan. They will last 2 days–and maybe longer depending on how picky you are (I am quite picky so take this with a grain of salt).