Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies + Fool Proof Tips for Making Perfect Cookies

For several years, I was on the hunt for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I've always wanted to be the mom with the best chocolate chip cookies and to me, that means a cookie that is buttery with crunchy edges and a soft middle that doesn't fall apart.  To be completely honest, while I do love chocolate, I prefer for the actual cookie to take center stage.  In my opinion, if the cookie itself is so delicious that it doesn't need the chocolate to taste good, then you know your recipe is a winner.  Finally, after several failed attempts to find the recipe I was looking for, I decided to try to create it on my own.  I've tweaked this recipe many times, at one point even including whole wheat flour, which didn't help and only made the cookies hard and somewhat bland.  I love whole wheat, but it just wasn't working out and, frankly, I don't want my chocolate chip cookies to be "healthier."

After making lots and lots of batches of chocolate chip cookies, I also learned some tips to making them turn out perfect.  With food, it's not just about the actual ingredients you use, it's also about how you incorporate them with each other.  There's a whole science behind it and figuring it out can be kind of tricky, so I'll spare you the time and guess work and just let you in on all the things I've learned and that work for me.  I do these every time I make these cookies and you know what?  They turn out perfect every time too.

First, the recipe.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour, spooned and leveled
2 tsp. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2-2 cups chocolate chips

The method:

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Place butter and sugars in the bowl of a mixer.  Cream together on medium speed, scraping down the sides once or twice, until light and fluffy; it should resemble frosting.  While your butter and sugar are mixing, combine your dry ingredients together in a small bowl.  Once your butter and sugar are light and fluffy, scrape down the sides and add the egg and vanilla.  Mix until just combined and then slowly add in the flour mixture.  Mix until combined and then fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon about two tablespoons of rounded dough (it doesn't have to be a perfect sphere) onto an ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet.  The cookies don't spread a ton but keep about a two inch space between them for room.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden.  Do not overbake because they will continue to cook on the cookie sheet when you pull them out.  Wait a couple minutes and then carefully scoop them up and place them on a cooling rack to cool down.

OK, now here are my tips, the things that I do every time I make these cookies.

1. Start with room temperature butter.  If you're in a hurry and your microwave has a butter softening setting, go ahead and use it.  I do it all the time for other recipes and I have used it for this one and everything turns out great.

2.  Cream your butter and sugars before you add any other ingredients.  With your mixer on a medium setting, this should take anywhere from 5-10 minutes.  If you're interested in more information as to why creaming is so important, read this post.  It's very informative.

3.  You can make cookies using a cold egg, but your ingredients will blend together easier if your egg is at room temperature.  Info on that right here.

4.  On the topic of eggs, don't over beat them!

5.  Spoon and level the flour, DO NOT just scoop it up.  No matter how tempting it may be or how pressed for time you are, too much flour will make your cookies dry and hard.  My friend Carrian blogged about the importance of spooning and leveling flour right here on her blog.  (And yes, I really do know her.  I've known her for many years now, so I'm not just calling her a "friend" for the heck of it.  And while I'm at it, read her blog because she is awesome!)

6.  Whisk together your dry ingredients just for a minute or two to incorporate air and make them lighter.  I started doing this awhile back whenever I make pancakes from scratch and the difference is very noticeable.  The pancakes come out thicker, fluffier and softer.  Doing this has the same effect on these chocolate chip cookies too.

7.  If you have it, bake in a convection oven.  Convection ovens are so great because the big fan in the back helps to circulate the heat and everything bakes evenly (and quicker!).  Since we have a convection oven, these cookies take exactly 8 minutes to bake.  On Monday I had to bake 6 dozen cookies for a family get together and it took me only 48 minutes to bake them all!  Also, all of the cookies were gone and we only had about 20-25 people come, so take from that what you will...Anyway, if you don't have a convection oven, a conventional oven works great too, just make sure that you rotate the pan 180 degrees halfway through the baking time.

8.  Do not overbake!  Remember, they will continue to cook when you take them out of the oven.  I like to let my cookies sit on the cookie sheet for about 2-3 minutes and by then they are firm enough to be moved to a cooling rack.

These cookies store really well too, as long as they are covered with plastic wrap.  They'll stay soft and delicious (the magic of cornstarch, folks!) and you'll be able to enjoy them for days.  The dough stores well in the refrigerator or freezer also, but just make sure you allow the dough to warm back up to room temperature.  I've baked them cold before and the results just aren't the same.  They're good, but I prefer them much more when the dough is room temperature first.

Enjoy these warm with some milk and share, if you must.  I'd love to hear how you like these and if you find my tips helpful.  Also, if you have any tips you'd like to share, please do!