What quantifies the perfect chocolate chip cookie? Everyone holds their own discretion regarding what defines this most beloved cookie, but the broad characteristics seem unanimous; a cookie with a soft chewy center, chewy but crisp golden edges, the perfect ratio of chocolate to buttery dough, a little bit of sweet with the balance of some salty, not too thick, not too thin…such a simple cookie demands such complex merits! Chocolate chip cookies are one of the most fundamental elements that a baker holds in his/her repertoire. It even seems like they need little explanation. What could be complicated about such an unassuming yet omnipresent cookie? So here I ask…why is this cookie so difficult for me to master?? I’ve spent countless hours making so many chocolate chip cookie recipes and while they’ve been graciously consumed (mostly by yours truly…occupational hazard), they’ve fallen well short of ideal. I’ve thus decided to take this cookie on head to head stopping at nothing for defeat. Let the pursuit begin…may the best cookie win.
In order to battle this cookie properly, I had to dissect and assess the role of each ingredient and how it directly affects the end result. While this might just be too much information for your interest, I personally found the process fascinating and feel compelled to share my research with you nonetheless.
While some cookies are unaffected by high altitude, this cookie proves quite the challenge. My chocolate chip cookie creations of the past have emerged completely flat due to unruly spreading and entirely too crisp lacking the desirable chewiness that they deserve.
Here are a few discoveries that I’ve made along the way to cookie perfection:
- Butter adds wonderful flavor to a cookie but at high altitude it can pose a problem by causing the cookie to spread too much when baked. I find that substituting anywhere from 1-3 Tbsp of vegetable shortening (Crisco) in place of the same amount of butter provides additional structure and prevents the cookie from spreading too much without hindering the flavor of the cookie.
- Sugar not only provides sweetness to the cookie, but also crunch. Brown sugar on the other hand, lends itself to a moist and chewy textured cookie due to its molasses content. You’ll find that most chocolate chip cookie recipes call for an equal amount of these two sugars in order to create the ideal textural balance. You can however play with these individual sugar amounts depending on if your cookie preference runs chewy or crispy.
- Letting the dough rest overnight (24-36 hours) not only allows the flavors to meld together, but also allows the dry ingredients to soak up the eggs, which will create very dry dough. This dryness creates the most perfectly textured cookie.
- After the dough is incorporated, I chill it in the refrigerator (in the mixing bowl) for about 30 minutes to one hour until it is slightly firm, then I scoop the dough into ¼ cup scoops onto a cookie sheet. At this point, I chill it overnight in the refrigerator and then double wrap the dough scoops and place in the freezer. This makes it easy (sometimes too easy) to grab individual cookie dough servings to bake so that you can enjoy fresh warm baked cookies any time!
- On this note, it is imperative to place the dough straight from the refrigerator or freezer immediately into the oven to bake. The baking time is the same whether frozen or chilled. Cold dough means firm butter, which in turn means less spreading during baking.
- Use parchment paper or Silpat liners on the cookie sheet to help prevent cookies from sticking and to make clean-up easy.
- Finishing off the cookie with a light sprinkle of sea salt just before baking truly enhances the flavors of the cookie while also balancing the sweetness.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 ¼ cups [+1 Tbsp for high altitude] all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature [replace 3 Tbsp with shortening for high altitude]
¾ cups granulated sugar
¾ cups dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chips
1 cup semi-sweet chips
Sprinkle of sea salt (optional)
Whisk the flour, baking soda and the salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and add both sugars. Beat until well incorporated and smooth, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
Adjust the speed to the lowest setting and gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Beat until well combined.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Place plastic wrap directly on the cookie dough surface and place in the refrigerator until chilled, about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and form dough into ¼ cup portions using a large cookie or ice cream scoop. Return the cookie scoops (on the cookie sheet) to the refrigerator for overnight storage. After 24 hours, the cookies are ready to bake. Simply remove cookie dough from the refrigerator and place directly into the oven or double wrap the dough mounds and relocate to the freezer for longer storage.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 with the rack placed in the middle of the oven. I like to bake one sheet of cookies at a time, but if you choose to bake two sheets at a time, place the racks on the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Make sure to rotate the cookie sheets halfway through the baking time. Bake the cookies, spaced about 4” apart, until the edges are golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven when the center of the cookies still looks soft…trust me. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and relocate to a cooling rack to cool completely (or indulge in them while they’re still warm). I like to make the cookies large (4” cookie), but if you’d prefer to make smaller cookies, make the dough balls with a medium sized cookie scoop (3” cookie) and bake for about 10-12 minutes.