Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies. Whether it is the original creation of Ruth Wakefield at her Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass or the infinite numbers of attempts by commercial bakeries and home cooks to make variations on the primal concept, these cookies are all wonderful in their own way. However, the debate continues as to what might be the “ultimate” chocolate chip cookie.
This is not the first time I have visited this subject. I posted the Grand Prize winner of the Orchards’ 1987 cookie contest (best of 2600 recipes) in my September 2013 blog, a great double chocolate chip cookie with nuts. Exactly one year ago, I discussed the original “Toll House” cookie and America’s Test Kitchen reworking of the recipe. In my quest for something even better, I have looked at many cookbooks and many recipes on the internet. I’ve tasted a bunch of cookies from bakeries. I haven’t found a stellar replacement that was a quantum leap better until now.
A post by Michelle Norris on her browneyedbaker blog lead me to a July 9, 2008 New York Times article by David Leite. This article does a great job of explaining the history of the chocolate chip cookie, and ends up with a recipe that is a distillation of all the secrets of making a great chocolate chip cookie. Since this is copyrighted material I can’t reproduce it here but it is imperative to read the article to understand the underpinnings of the cookie recipe. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/09chip.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1426461985-2l7wZ43hFSY/Tzbyds0I5Q.
In her blog, Michelle posted a variation of the NY Times cookie, and more recently, a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie variation, but I will post the original recipe from the NY Times article:
The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie
Original source The New York Times
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
- 1 ⅔ cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 ½ sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces)granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
- Sea salt.
- Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
- Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
- Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
- Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods. Ghirardelli makes a wonderful 60% cocao chip, available at Cost Plus and other retailers.
Now, some caveats. This recipe is mostly derived from Jacques Torres’ bakery chocolate chip cookie. You will note that it uses both bread flour (more gluten and protein) and cake flour (less gluten and protein). Why use both in equal amounts, if unbleached all-purpose flour has a middle amount of gluten and protein. I suspect the recipe calls for both flours, because Torres’ bakery may have bread flour and cake flour in large amounts due to the needs of the bakery, but might not have all-purpose flour. I made the recipe using 17 ounces of King Arthur all-purpose flour, and the results were spectacular. Now, having said that, it is possible that there is a difference that can be tasted by using the bread and cake flour mix, as there are differences in protein content of bleached and unbleached cake flours. Protein content of the Softasilk bleached cake 6.9%, King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend 9.4%, Unbleached Self-Rising 8.5%, Unbleached Pastry 8%, KAF Unbleached All-Purpose 11.7% KAF Unbleached Bread Flour 12.7%. No matter what flours are used, I strongly recommend that ingredients are weighted, not dry measured, for increased accuracy. Since the time of the original posting of this article, I tried making the cookies with the bread and cake flour combination, and I find no real difference to the one made with the King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour. I do think there are variations in the commercial varieties of flour, and I have switched to using King Arthur flours in all my cooking and baking.
Also, as the article details, let the cookie dough rest and hydrate thoroughly for 12 to 36 hours (the longer the better). It definitely makes a difference in the end result. I did tests at 1 hour, 3 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, and 36 hours. At 36 hours, the cookies are much more complex, with caramel and toffee notes in the taste that is extremely pleasant without being overwhelming. I used 60% Ghirardelli cocoa chips, and did not bother to get the fancy fèves. The 3 ½ ounce size of each cookie make a monster five inch cookie, with the 3 rings of flavor that Mr. Rubin talks about in the article, but in my oven, it cooks in 14 to 15 minutes. A 1 ½ ounce size produced a 3 inch cookie, and took 11 minutes to cook. This is less of a monster, but with similar taste, but with a less pronounced 3 ring effect. Update note–I now use a combination of Ghirardelli chips and Callebaut 60% cocoa. I buy a 5 kilogram “bar” and slice off the needed amount with a knife, and then use the knife to create small chunks of chocolate (with the added benefit of tiny residual chocolate bits and powder which gets thrown in as well). The combination creates a very interesting mix of texture and enhanced chocolate intensity.
Despite what Dorie Greenspan says, I think this cookie is fine without the addition of a sprinkle of sea salt. There is enough salt in the dough and I think the salt counterpoint on the top of the cookie is overkill. Timing is everything with this recipe, from the resting of the dough in the refrigerator to the exact cooking time (just a light color to the top of the cookie without the edges getting too well done) to the resting on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before the transfer to the wire rack. It pays off to do a small test batch to get the timing right for your oven and the size of your cookie. The 10 minute rest on the cookie sheet finishes the cooking process, so don’t forget or prolong the time.
As usual, nothing but the best ingredients gives the best results, and this is particularly true concerning the chocolate. The cookie will taste very different if made with Nestle’s semi-sweet morsels, or horrors, with milk chocolate chips. Nuts can be added if desired (I use 1 cup of raw pecans into a recipe). Update 5/8/17–I ordered the Belcolade 60% cocoa discs that Jacques Torres mentions in the NY Times article from Amazon (it is not the custom made quarter size discs that Torres has specially made for his use). Torres sells the quarter size chocolate feves on his website for $17.00 for 2 pounds (plus $16.50 shipping to the Chicago area), and the picture on the bag of 2 pound feves says made in Brooklyn! So maybe Torres is not using Belcolade discs any longer. The Belcolade discs from Amazon are about the size of a nickel and taste great! I now will use a combination of the Belcolade discs and chunks from the Callebaut bar.
This is not a recipe for instant gratification, but it is worth the extra effort and time. For all you cookie lovers out there, this is a must! Don’t be impatient! The best results come from resting the batter for 36 hours in the refrigerator. Using the brown butter technique of America’s Test Kitchen could be applied to this recipe but it did not make a notable increase in the taste of the end result.
There is one more thing that will make cookie making much easier. Making the cookie balls from the refrigerated dough is a bit of a pain to do, and I’ve come up with a better solution. Once the cookie batter is done, form your cookie balls with the help of an ice cream scoop. I weigh each ball to get a consistent and equal cookie (whether the 1½ ounce or the 3 to 3½ monster cookie). I have been making the 1½ ounce size and it is easy to combine 2 cookies to make a monster cookie prior to baking. I put the 1½ ounce balls in a ziploc bag for the 36 hours rest. It is also easy to freeze the cookies after the 36 hour rest, and for those with instant gratification issues, having a supply of cookie dough in the freezer makes baking on a whim much easier. Wait 20 minutes after removing from the freezer and press the ball to flatten the disc prior to baking. Cooking on a silpat or parchment paper with the baking sheet is a must for good results.