Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is more than a blog post, this is an opus. I apologize in advance for the length… but chocolate chip cookies are very important to me. I have a history with them, life would be less without them, and I am always happy when I eat a good one.

Biting into a perfect chocolate chip cookie will always remind me of my dad. I have an amazing father – and I truly mean amazing.

He went to school to become and architect (when I was a toddler, no less), and was the first in his family to earn a college degree. He worked for the federal government as an architect from my childhood, through my brother’s graduation. For a design-oriented person, the federal government is not the sexiest place to be an architect. But it did afford him a more substantial salary than a private firm would have offered a young designer, and it allowed him to work a schedule that allowed him to be the dad he wanted to be – which was more important to him than working at a swanky private design firm.

My dad was there to coach our softball teams, attend our recitals, and to cook. Weekly, he made delicious Sunday breakfasts of pancakes or eggs.  Sometimes he created lavish Saturday night suppers – eggrolls, fried tacos, cherry cheesecake – whatever tickled his fancy that week. He made fudge, peanut brittle, toffee, divinity…and cookies.

Peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate chunk, chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate with white chocolate chunks – he made batches and batches of cookies. And he made most of them sans recipe.

Sigh, no recipe – when it came to re-creating the perfect chocolate chip cookie, I was on my own. So I began a quest for MY perfect chocolate chip cookie.

I say ‘my’, because this is a subjective art. I like my chocolate chip cookies chewy, with some structure, and I like the cookie part to be rich, buttery, with a toffee-like undertone – a perfect complement to the chocolate, instead of merely a carrier for it. This may not be another’s idea of perfection. Some people (gasp), enjoy their chocolate chip cookies thin and crispy (I can hardly write that, it seems so wrong.) So if that’s your cookie, you need to look for another recipe.

In July of 2008, the internet food blogosphere was overtaken with the ‘New York Times chocolate chip cookie’. The article was written by David Leite, renouned food writer and blogger , and the recipe was adapted from chocolatier Jacques Torres.

I made it, and was quite pleased. More so than I had been by the other dozens of recipes I had tried. But (and I cringe to even say this, especially being in the presence of such greatness as David Leite and Jacques Torres), it was still not MY perfect chocolate chip cookie.

After another 8 or so runs, as I tweaked different ingredients, I eventually found my bliss. Be prepared, unless you are dealing with a crazy person who prefers crispy, thin chocolate chip cookies, you will make people swoon and you may receive marriage proposals. They really are that good. And while my recipes usually aren’t that fussy, this one is. A chocolate chip cookie is so simple, you can’t take many shortcuts without losing some magic.

Anna’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
18 oz packed brown sugar (about 2 1/3 cups)
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 1/2 oz bread flour (about 1 2/3 cups)
8 1/2 oz all purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
20 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

1) Cream the butter and brown sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat them on high, for about five minutes until they are very light and fluffy.

2) Add in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla, mixing well after each addition.

3) In separate bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until incorporated.

4) Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, and mix on low until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

5) Cover surface of dough with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24-72 hours. Be sure to taste test a spoonful of dough every few hours, to make sure its getting along.

6) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop dough (about the size of golfballs) onto cookie sheet, flatten slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt.

7) Bake for 8-11 minutes. The centers should look soft, but not doughy, and the bottom edges should just be turning gold. Let cool on sheet for a few minutes, then transfer cookies to cooling rack to finish.

8) Enjoy with ice cold milk.

Tips and Tricks

-I’m picky about my sugar, especially brown sugar. If you ever do a brown sugar taste test (you mean, not everyone does this?), you will find there is a difference. I always use cane sugar, and avoid beet sugar like the plague. When brown sugar is made from beet sugar, molasses is added to already refined white beet sugar. It tastes funny. With cane sugar, the molasses occurs naturally and does not have to be added. A common grocery store brand  of cane sugar is C&H.

-A food scale is really best for this recipe, as flours don’t weigh the same. Bread flour really is important for good cookie structure.

-Eat as much dough as you like (insert standard caution about consuming raw eggs here), but if you cook them right away, they really won’t be as good as if you let it chill for awhile. 24 hours minimum, but you can go up to 72 hours and things only get better…your cookies will have more color, and more toffee flavor.

-I spring for Maldon sea salt, but I have yet to plunge for really fancy chocolate. I do think a Valhrona or Guittard chocolate feve or chunk would take this recipe over the top, but honestly, Nestle Tollhouse semi-sweet does just fine. For some reason, I’m not partial to Ghiradelli – it has an overly fruity/chalky  quality that I don’t care for.

-Use a standard baking sheet – no fancy ‘air cushion’ sheets, and nothing too dark. Do NOT overbake these cookies.  All ovens are not created equal, so keep a close eye your first time around.

-I don’t bake more than one sheet at a time – I just can’t get two sheets properly baked in my oven at the same time. But I have a nasty old oven, so whatever.

-You can scoop these out, flatten slightly, and then freeze on a cookie sheet. When individually frozen, toss into a storage container and freeze. You may need to increase cooking time by 2 or so minutes, but you can cook them directly from the freezer. I always do this, expecting to be able to make a few cookies whenever the mood strikes. However, I underestimate the deliciousness of raw, frozen chocolate chip cookies…

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