Jul 3, 2009

Chewey, Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies

On the eve of our most American of holidays, I thought I'd share a most American cookie recipe with you. Even people who don't ever cook have made chocolate chip cookies. We all started out as kids making the recipe on the back of the Nestle's chocolate chip bag, right?

This recipe I've been making for years and years. I've made hundreds of batches of these cookies and had plenty of time to experiment with them. I started with Alton Brown's chewy cookie recipe. He did a show demonstrating the techniques for making thin, chewy and puffy chocolate chip cookies. Like there are hot dog people and hamburger people, I suppose there are different kinds of cookie people. It's all about the chewy for me and I'll tell you why: the chewy cookie is, of course, amazing right out the oven. What cookie isn't? But this cookie holds it's integrity the next day and the next, if it lasts that long. Because the dough is allowed to chill, or better yet, freeze, before baking, instead of spreading out all over the place and turning into a thin disc that dries out, it keeps its shape while baking and slowly sort of falls in on itself instead of spreading. This makes for a puddle of cookie in the middle. The photo below shows a cookie on the left that was only chilled (not frozen) before baking. It still spreads out too much. The cookie on the right was frozen before baking and it holds it's shape better to form a puddle of goodness in the center.

The cookie I want will have creases and overlapping folds, kind of like a floppy puppy with too much fur. While baking, you want them to look like the photo below. See how they are still holding their shape in the center instead of just spreading out?

Before we married, my husband lived 1,000 miles away and I would travel to visit him usually once a month or so. Most of his friends lived in his neighborhood, within a few blocks of each other, and were always hanging out together. These cookies became so popular with them that they would come through the door and ask "Did you make the cookies?" THE cookies. Because these are the kind of cookies you could commit to for life, forsaking all others. My hubby likes them too. (There's a reason his dad nicknamed him "Batch" as a kid.) Couldn't have hurt in helping persuade him to move here.

I have to warn you, these cookies are more trouble than the average chocolate chip cookie. But once you've had them, there's no going back. And all the credit goes to Mr. Brown, the Bill Nye of the food world. His technique really works. I just took it one step further by freezing the dough balls, to ensure the perfect cookie every time. Otherwise, if you just chill the dough before baking, it sometimes spreads a bit too much. If the dough is scooped out with a small ice cream scoop (a #40 size) and frozen completely, then baked, it will hold it's shape initially and then fall down in a puddle just like it should, without excessive spreading. That's the secret.

The recipe also calls for a few departures from the traditional -- all in the name of chewy... the use of bread flour instead of all-purpose; melting the butter instead of just softening it; a little milk; more brown sugar than white sugar; an extra egg yolk; and a baking temperature of 375 degrees instead of 350.

Note: I'm giving you the single batch amounts here, but I rarely make these without making a double batch. Since you're going to freeze the dough balls anyway, they are very easy to bake off as needed for hot cookies anytime. The only problem here is that this is also the finest cookie dough you will ever taste. And when you open the freezer and see those little dough balls peeking out at you through their freezer bag, you'll be seduced into eating them straight from the freezer, as I must confess, I just did while typing this. (As I was taking the bag from the freezer, I noted that earlier in the day there were two freezer bags of cookie dough balls, and now there is just one. Hmm. My hubby was alone in the house this afternoon. Suspicious.)

Be sure to buy some quality dark chocolate chips, not semisweet, which is too sweet in an already sweet cookie. These are my favorites and they're easily accessible in the grocery store these days: Ghiradelli's 60% chip and Scharffen Berger's 70% bittersweet chunk.

Last tip: get a #40 ice cream scoop at a restaurant supply store. I went through several before finding one (cheaper) in a restaurant supply that has endured long past the others, even an Oxo one. You want the kind with a little arm that sweeps the inside of the scoop to release the dough.

While they are humble in appearance, these make wonderful gifts and elicit moans of pleasure.

Chewy, Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk (I use whole milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chunks
vegetable oil spray

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Set aside.

Melt the butter (I usually do it in the microwave in 20-30 second rounds at 50% power until melted.) Add the sugars and mix together until well combined.

Add the egg mixture and mix again until well combined.

About a third at a time, add the flour and mix in.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a spatula, scrape around the edges and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well incorporated.

At this point, you can cover the dough and chill it for later scooping, or jump right into the scooping...

Take your #40 ice cream scoop and hold it over the sink while spraying it inside and out with vegetable oil spray. You can shake off the excess. If it gets sticky part way through, just rinse it off and spray and start again.

Scoop the dough out and place on a silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheet or half sheet pan. Be sure it will fit inside your freezer. You can line up your dough wads pretty close together to make the most of the space. You won't be baking them on this, just freezing. When the dough is all scooped out, place the pan in the freezer until frozen through (I've never timed this, but it happens pretty quickly, less than an hour.)

When the dough balls are frozen through, place them in an airtight freezer bag to store until baking. Store in freezer.

To bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place 6-8 balls of dough on a half sheet-sized pan. You don't want them bumping into each other. Bake for approximately 12 minutes. You might set your timer for 10-11 minutes and start watching them continuously from there. This is very important!! You want to pull them out when they still look slightly underdone in the center, but golden brown around the edges. You'll have to learn how they bake in your oven to decide on the perfect baking time. Also, watch to see if you need to rotate them halfway through for even baking.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack until completely cool. If you're baking more, use another sheet or wait on this one. Do not rush them out of their pan. They need to cool completely to set up and come off the pan without falling apart. They will continue cooking in the pan while cooling. Your patience will be rewarded!

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies. Recipes easily doubles.

Adapted from Alton Brown.


Janet MacKay said...

Hi,How much is one stick of butter in metric terms please? Thanks!

Lauren said...

One stick of butter equals 113 grams. (Or 4 ounces, 8 tablespoons, 1/2 cup.)