Everyone loves homemade chocolate chip cookies. It’s almost impossible to make a bad one. But it’s natural to be curious about the other chocolate chip cookie recipes out there. If there’s an ingredient that hasn’t been folded into the recipe for novelty’s sake at this point (bacon, chocolate, cherries), I can’t imagine what it is. Garlic, maybe. But what if you gave a chocolate chip cookie recipe the kind of close attention and precision you’d give a soufflé or sourdough bread? What happens then? The answer: these cookies.
Just for fun, I scoured the chocolate chip cookie recipes of famous and gifted chefs, looking for what makes them the very best cookie ever. You might think the ingredients were the key, and while using good chocolate and dark brown sugar makes a noticeable difference, the real gamechanger was the chemistry of the recipe. It’s the process that makes a good cookie great, and after many trial batches shared around (our mailman says we’re his favorite house on the route at this point), I think I’ve found the quintessential chocolate chip cookie.
The ingredients are drawn from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook, but I’ve incorporated several different processes for putting it all together. The biggest change from the basic recipe is allowing time for the dough to properly emulsify by freezing it for 36 hours before baking. This allows the egg to moisten the other parts of the dough and somehow, it changes everything. Not 12 or 24 hours, but 36 hours in the freezer before baking is the magic number to get just the right flavor. The butter, chocolate, and sugar join forces to create a fulsome, sublime, cookie. The ideal is to have three different textures in one cookie: soft and melty in the center, chewy in the middle, and crisp and crunchy at the edges. They’re also better if you take them out a minute before you think you should. The cookies won’t be over-crystallized and brittle at the edges when they cool.
It doesn’t take much longer to make this recipe, but you have to plan ahead to freeze the dough. You can store the frozen dough in the freezer for up to two weeks, and then casually break it out when someone drops by to say hello. “Oh, these little ole cookies? I just threw them in the oven when I saw your car in the driveway.”
The Thinking Woman’s Chocolate Chip Cookie
as adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook
Makes: 2 1/2 dozen cookies
Prep time: 30 minutes plus 36 hours in the freezer before baking
- 2 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (don’t leave out the salt: it balances the sweetness of the chocolate)
- 10 ounces of Guittard semisweet chocolate (63% cacao), or any good baking chocolate
(If you are chopping the chocolate yourself, be sure to sift any tiny fragments of chocolate out by sifting the chocolate before putting it into the dough.)
- ½ pound (two sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar, preferably molasses sugar (If the sugar is very hard, melt in microwave for 15-30 seconds)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- Prep a freezer container for storing the balls of cookie dough in the freezer. Cookies do not need to be thawed when baked; they can go straight into the oven.
- Sift flower and baking soda into a medium bowl, and stir in the salt.
- Beat half of the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add both sugars and remaining butter, beating five minutes until mixture is creamy and light. You don’t have to worry about overbeating until you add the flour. You want to beat the sugar and butter well because you’re adding air to the cookie to make it lighter.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and scrape down sides of bowl until it’s all well-combined.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix just enough to combine.
- Mix in chocolate by hand.
- Roll cookie dough into balls of about 2 level tablespoons each in quantity.
- Place in freezer containers to store.
- When baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cookies on a Silpat-covered baking sheet, leaving several inches around each cookie, because they will spread.
- Bake for 12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. If you want a softer cookie, give them a spritz of water just before putting in the oven. Allow cookies to cool before removing them from the baking sheet.
- Serve, and let the kudos roll over you like a wave of cookie dough-scented warmth.