Everyone and their mother has their own cookie recipe that they swear by, and will protect any secret ingredients with their lives. Well, I’m here to share. I make a mean chocolate chip cookie, and simple as they are, the techniques in making the perfect cookie are paramount.
When I was in culinary school, my first batch of cookies came out a mess. They had all baked into one giant, thin, glob of a cookie. I was flabbergasted. I had followed the recipe, so why did they come out so horribly? The main reason was the oven – in our lab, their was one that baked at completely wonky temperature, like a good 25 degrees off what it said on the dial, if memory serves. It’s a good idea to invest in a little oven thermometer that stays inside and tells you an actual temperature rather than going by just what the dial says on the outside. Many ovens have hot spots and cold spots as well; I know mine cooks faster in the front left corner.
When it comes to actually preparing the batter, no matter what recipe you use, there are a few really important things to keep in mind.
1) Creaming the butter and sugars together is something you cannot overdo. You want it to be really blended, and don’t worry about over mixing at this stage.
2) Same goes for adding in the eggs and vanilla extract. Just make sure it’s completely homogenous.
3) However, when you start adding in the flour, baking soda, salt, you absolutely CAN over mix. You want to just mix it until it’s combined, on a low speed so you don’t poof flour everywhere. The more you mix, the more gluten development will occur, and the chewier your cookie will be. (And not chewy in a good way.)
4) Once again, the same goes for the addition of chocolate chips, or raisins, or oats, or whatever thing you add to your cookie. Just mix it a tiny bit, because you will again encourage gluten development as you mix once there is flour present.
A few more things on the science of cookie baking:
You can change the texture of your cookie by raising or lowering the type of sugars present. For a chewier (in a good way!) cookie, do more of the brown sugar. As brown sugar bakes, the raw molasses in the sugar will bake out and into the cookie, binding everything together and giving it that soft texture. Conversely, if you add more granulated sugar, your cookie will be crispier since this kind of sugar bakes more into a hard solid.
The last thing to really keep in mind is the batter temperature. If you chill the batter before baking, your cookies will hold their shape better, and be more even in size. If you put a warm batter in the oven, they are just going to glob everywhere. So either chill the batter in the bowl or put the sheet pan with the dough dollops already set out in the fridge to chill before baking for about 30 minutes.
Also, by the end of that baking course in culinary school, I had the best cookies in the entire school – and the highest grade. That sound is me tooting my own horn. As a non-baking inclined individual, that was one of my proudest moments 🙂
Foolproof Chocolate Chip Cookies
3 Sticks + 2 T Unsalted Butter, Slightly Cooler Than Room Temperature
1 1/4 C Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 C Light Brown Sugar
1 T Vanilla Extract
3 3/4 C All Purpose Flour
1 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
2 1/4 tsp Salt
3 1/4 C Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a stand mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugars together until lightened in color and smooth. Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time. Blend together on medium speed until completely combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Toss in the salt and baking soda, and then the flour. Mix on low speed until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and mix for 15 – 20 seconds on low at the most, just to disperse the chips throughout the batter.
On a sheet pan covered with a silpat or parchment paper, lay out dollops of batter about 2 tablespoons in size, at least 1.5 inches apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes, depending on your oven. When they are done, remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!
Makes about 40-45