Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Loaded chocolate chip cookies

Loaded chocolate chip cookies

It seems strange to say this but I'm not a huge chocolate chip cookie fan. My mother never made them when I was growing up. When I was given a warm gooey chocolate chip cookie right out the oven, I was satisfied but never blown away by it. Several years ago I read an article in the New York Times about baking the best chocolate chip cookies from scratch. They key was to let the dough sit for over 24 hours to allow the sugars time to dissolve into the butter. I was intrigued. Perhaps this would yield a chocolate chip cookie I would love. Though curious, I never tried the NY Times recipe.

Years later I stumbled upon the "perfect" chocolate chip recipe in Cooks Illustrated and couldn't say no. I followed the recipe exactly and got rave reviews. The cookies were crisp on the outside but moist and chewy on the outside. During one prep, I realized I didn't have enough semi-sweet chocolate chips and rather than make a trip to the store, decided to add things I had in the pantry. White chocolate, dark chocolate, toffee bits, walnuts went in instead of the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Top with coarsely ground sea salt and some addictive cookies were born.

I love Cooks illustrated as they explain why certain steps and ingredients result in differences in the final results like using more brown sugar that granulated sugar gives the cookie a chewier texture than using equal amounts of both sugars and browning the butter enhances the flavor. The recipe from Cooks Illustrated with my comments and modifications in blue is below.

1-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda (confirm it's not expired)
14 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (light brown sugar is ok. If your sugar is )
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1-1/4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I basically use 1-1/4 cups total of whatever chips I want to add to the cookies with relatively equal amounts of each)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)
coarse sea salt

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and head to 375°. Line 2 large (18" x 12") baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Heat 10 tbsp butter in a 10" skillet over medium-high until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly until butter is dark brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to a large heatproof bowl. Stir the remaining 4 tbsp of butter until completely melted.
Browned butter - if you use a nonstick skillet, you can't really tell when it starts to brown
3. Add both sugars, salt, vanilla to the bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Repeat the process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is think, smooth and shiny, Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about one minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if using, giving the dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
Sugar, vanilla, salt, and butter mixture

Initial whisk with egg and egg yolk
Final whisk with egg and egg yolk. It is slightly shinier than the initial whisk but the key thing to note is it's much smoother
Dough prior to chocolate chip addition
4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tbsp (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2" apart on prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle some coarse sea salt on top - don't go too crazy. 

A 3 tbsp cookie is a nice sized cookie. If you're looking for a nice balance of both, I'd stick with the recommended 3 tbsp portion. I've tried decreasing the portions to 1 and 2 tsbp sizes to maximize the number of cookies. Sometimes 16 cookies just isn't enough for a gathering. Keeping the same temperature and reducing the baking time by 1 - 2 minutes gave me a more crisp cookie while decreasing the oven temp to 350ยบ and making until slightly golden brown gave a more chewy cookie. 
I usually sprinkle a bit of coarse sea salt on top 
5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.
Fresh out of the oven
The edges are slightly crispy but the center is soft and chewy

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