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Ahh, the Chocolate Chip Cookie
February 20, 2007 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Ahh, the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. The classic stands as the benchmark: but are there better? Many think so: Sherry Yard, David Lebovitz, the folks at Cooking Illustrated, Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, beloved New York bakeries, intrepid webloggers. Alton Brown in an episode of Good Eats shows how to get them thin, puffy, or chewy. Cookbook after cookbook and competition after competition try to ferret out the best of this american icon. Web recipe sites have their own favorites. Some people swear by secret ingredients: cornstarch, pudding (which has cornstarch in it), oats, great chocolate. Two thirds of Americans prefer their chocolate chip cookies "nutless." Others find technique of greatest importance. Is there any end to this quest for one of baking's holy grails?
posted by shivohum (53 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite

 
Chocolate chip cookies and brownies are incomplete without nuts. Preferably of the wal variety.
posted by papercake at 9:53 AM on February 20, 2007


Nuts are for trailmix. If I bite into hard little nugget in a cookie, it better be made out of chocolate or heads will roll.
posted by DU at 10:01 AM on February 20, 2007


That's "Cook's Illustrated", and even theirs isn't better than the original Toll House.
posted by nicwolff at 10:02 AM on February 20, 2007


No discussion of chocolate chip cookies is complete without a reference to the Neiman Marcus cookie urban legend, which is referenced in the Mrs Fields recipe in the last link (the recipes look similar as well).

Here's what Neiman Marcus claims is the actual recipe, posted in response to the legend.
posted by flipper at 10:03 AM on February 20, 2007


The best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had, and I like mine thick and a bit cakey/chewy and with lots of nuts, are from Specialty's Coffee in San Francisco and elsewhere. I have a theory that they put a little cream cheese in the dough. And maybe some crack.
posted by tula at 10:05 AM on February 20, 2007


Great post.

In the day, I used to walk well out of my way for a fresh David's cookie. There are innumerable elaborate cookies out there under the honored name of CCC, all good in their own way, for what they are. I like the Cowgirl cookie a lot, which has coconut and pecans as well as the basic ingredients. But nothing, not nothing, compares to a hot-from-the-oven, crisp-on-the-outside, soft-and-salty-on-the-inside, melty-chip Toll House.
posted by Miko at 10:05 AM on February 20, 2007


Must quickly construct lead sheilding... too... late...

you ... have... found... my kryptonite...

weakening...

so... hungry... for cookies...

My favorite CCC use Mexican Chocolate mixed in with the standard Chips. Oh Lordy! If you try it you will thank me.
posted by tkchrist at 10:14 AM on February 20, 2007


Excellent post.

The chief problem with the idea of a "perfect" CCC recipe is, of course, that not everyone agrees on what constitutes a perfect CCC. I suppose it's the quest that's the fun part, even if it's by nature a never-ending quest.

If you're looking for an awesome, chocolaty, amazingly-good-even-when-no-longer-hot cookie recipe, you really must try Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:14 AM on February 20, 2007


My mom always used the Nestles recipe. They always turned-out almost paper-flat, yet chewy with a crispy bite. I never knew anyone else who made them like that. Boy, were they good!
posted by Thorzdad at 10:18 AM on February 20, 2007


The best recipe I've found is, mind boggingly, on the back of the package for Western Family chocolate chips. (You know, the generic brand that is found throughout the Pacific Northwest?) It involves an insane amout of butter and both brown and refined sugar. One of the few times that buying generic due to penny pinching has paid dividends.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 10:19 AM on February 20, 2007


These are my favorite (mouthwatering picture included), including the "secret ingredient" of New Hope Mills buckwheat pancake mix.
posted by stefnet at 10:19 AM on February 20, 2007


Kindly keep your peanut butter out of my chocolate.

What a smorgasbord of links! I'll be chewing on this for a while...
posted by owhydididoit at 10:20 AM on February 20, 2007


Vaguely on topic, I have long felt that I could die a happy man if I could hear a death metal cover of C is for Cookie. Any metalhead MeFites care to take a crack at it?
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:30 AM on February 20, 2007


When I was 9 years old, my Grandmother and one of my Aunts decided to open a cookie store in the local mall. All that Summer the grandchildren were recruited into trying batch after batch of recipes.

BEST. SUMMER. EVER.

Personally, I make mine with the standard Toll House recipe, plus a cup of rolled oats. It gives them a nice crunch.
posted by Eddie Mars at 10:32 AM on February 20, 2007


You can have your chocolate chip cookies, as long as you leave the oatmeal raisin cookies for me.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:37 AM on February 20, 2007


I swear by the Practically Perfect Cookie recipe.
posted by Koko at 10:46 AM on February 20, 2007


Alton's chewy cookies. FTW.
posted by GuyZero at 10:46 AM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm hopelessly addicted to oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, particularly when they're very "oaty" and chewy - so you can just about see the individual oat flakes.

I have no idea how to bake them this way though. The one recipe I've got makes a nice cookie, but it doesn't have the same mouthfeel at all. Anyone know how to reproduce this?
posted by Zinger at 10:52 AM on February 20, 2007


Boy cookies have nuts. Girls don't. Which do you prefer to eat?
posted by mr_book at 10:54 AM on February 20, 2007


I love the oatmeal chocolate chip recipe I got from a box of Quaker oats, Zinger - you may want to check their site. They're amazing fresh and even awesome later, with a short zap in the microwave to warm and soften.
posted by luftmensch at 10:57 AM on February 20, 2007


For my vegan peeps: Unbeatable vegan chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipe.

Had to go to archive.org to get to it. The actual page seems to have gone down.
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:00 AM on February 20, 2007


Good idea luftmensch, thanks, I will.
posted by Zinger at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2007


What a smorgasbord of links!

Yum. Still warm from the oven pretty much all CCC are great.

Great post shivohum.
posted by three blind mice at 11:28 AM on February 20, 2007


Tangentially, donuts.
posted by owhydididoit at 11:33 AM on February 20, 2007


My all time favorite was a batch I made with Ghirardelli chocolate chips, using pot butter. Just say know. It was purely medicinal, as I was with a relative going through chemo and this helped her mood and appetite.
posted by alteredcarbon at 11:36 AM on February 20, 2007


For my vegan peeps: Unbeatable vegan chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipe.

They get mega-points for directing people to an actual vegan chocolate chip as opposed to filthy fucking carob (does anyone who has other options actually like carob?), and also for using vegetable oil as the fat rather than pureed prunes or apple butter or what have you that so many vegan baking recipes try to slip in. That stuff doesn't work.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2007


More than once I had people say they love my chocolate chip cookies. I just use the standard Tollhouse recipe, so I couldn't figure out why anyone would think my cookies were unusually good... until a friend asked "Do you use real butter?"

Yes, it's true. There are people out there -- not vegans, no excuse! -- who use margarine in cookies. So sad.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:46 AM on February 20, 2007


That's "Cook's Illustrated", and even theirs isn't better than the original Toll House.

The Cook's Illustrated recipe, featuring melted butter, is intended to produce cookies that remain fairly soft and chewy for an extended period after they've cooled. Alton Brown's "chewy" recipe uses the same trick.

It seems to me that the melted butter works, and that the resulting cookies feel fresher and softer than other recipes for a couple of days at least.

"Better than the original Toll House," of course, is a matter of opinion. The Cook's Illustrated recipe is my favorite.
posted by Western Infidels at 12:25 PM on February 20, 2007


Making real choc chip cookies from scratch is too damn hard. It seems like if you miss that 10 second window on pulling them out of the oven or mess up the mix even a little, they are either too doughy or burnt.

Of course, my skills as a cook are horrible, but still, it should'nt be _that_ hard.
posted by rsanheim at 12:30 PM on February 20, 2007


Two thirds prefer nutless?!? I find that just about as disturbing as the crazy congress-critters circus of fatuities linked earlier (and apparently deleted?)

I state with certainty - and a caveat* - that those who do not relish nuts in their chocolate chip cookies are dunderheads. Big smelly ones.

* - those that are allergic to nuts are NOT dunderheads. They are tragically afflicted victims of a very cruel fate.
posted by John Smallberries at 12:51 PM on February 20, 2007


It's technique + recipe. I make the Nestle kind and most people think mine have crack in them; I have had others' attempt at that recipe and well, I don't know what they are doing, but they are not making crack cookies. Or take this complaint,

It seems like if you miss that 10 second window on pulling them out of the oven or mess up the mix even a little, they are either too doughy or burnt.

How do you mess up the mix? It is a recipe: you just put in the designated amount and mix it well. And I don't have a 10s window: they are good no matter what, as long as they aren't totally charred. Or,

he resulting cookies feel fresher and softer than other recipes for a couple of days at least

What is wrong with your cookies that they last more than a day and a half? Are you selfish? Nuts?

In conclusion, no nuts, oats are for raisins, and my cookies are better than yours. Fab post.
posted by dame at 12:51 PM on February 20, 2007


Faint of Butt, sorry, no death metal, but Cookie Mongoloid does a speed metal cover of "C is for Cookie".

youtube
posted by fings at 1:08 PM on February 20, 2007


What is wrong with your cookies that they last more than a day and a half? Are you selfish? Nuts?

I usually make a very large batch and give about half of them away. The rest I eat slowly. If that's nuts, I don't want to be selfish. Or something.
posted by Western Infidels at 1:25 PM on February 20, 2007


it should'nt be _that_ hard.

It isn't that hard! It's just that it's baking. Once upon a time most American cooks had the basic skills to produce a decent cookie.

You need to follow the instructions exactly. Baking is not like cooking on the stovetop, where a little bit more or less of anything (heat, time, ingredients) this way or that way won't make a big difference. There's about a two-minute window (10-12 minutes, if I remember the Nestle recipe right; my grandmother used to have it memorized and would just recite it to me while I mixed).

Other factors: your cookie sheets. I like my CCCs when cooked on a flat sheet or jelly-roll style pan. Those 'airbake' sheets result in a cookie that feels not-done to me.

Your oven. Check to see if it's true to temp. Too high a heat and your cookies will spread too much and be rocklike on the bottom. Too low and they will not brown nicely.

Your mixing. When you cream the butter and sugar, don't rush that step. You're not just blending the butter and sugar, you're creating the base for the whole cookie, small globules of air encased in fat. More creaming makes a lighter smoother cookie.

I know they don't stay chewy for days, but I don't mind. I mostly eat them the same day or the next, and if I want really chewy CCCs I just get that Entenmann's box. I kind of like the toughness of a cooled CCC, anyway.

To have them always be hot and fresh, I make the batch of dough, then divide the dough in fourths and wrap each separately and put the other 3 in the freezer. They can hang for a long time in there, and then you can pull them out whenever you're ready for more cookies. You can even treat them like those Pillsbury slice'n'bake tubes, making just a few at a time, only they're better because they're homemade. Each chunk makes a full pan of cookies.

I only do this because if I made the whole batch, I would, er, eat the whole batch. It's a self-control mechanism.
posted by Miko at 1:56 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid my mother bought me a copy of a Children's Cookbook (I forget which one now). The chocolate chip cookies from that book were plain and easy. I entered a batch in the annual Grape Festival cooking competition and, due to an administrative error, they were put in the adult's category. They won first prize.

I've been using that recipe ever since, with a slight secret-ingredient adjustment: in place of vanilla I use vanilla-infused rum (just drop a couple vanilla beans in a small bottle of rum and let sit for a few weeks).
posted by booth at 1:58 PM on February 20, 2007


This is a question that has been on my mind before. Great post! Must follow up later. And do some baking.

FWIW, I vote for "no nuts" in chocolate chip cookies.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 2:00 PM on February 20, 2007


And I throw a stale piece of bread (leave it out overnight) in the tin with them to keep them moist. Not a fresh piece of bread, or the cookies will go mushy.
posted by booth at 2:02 PM on February 20, 2007


Nuts in choc chip cookies? What is this world coming to?

booth, I've heard of the bread method when making chewy cookies before. Never tried it myself though.
posted by kosher_jenny at 3:08 PM on February 20, 2007


Nestle Toll-House, made w/ double the butter = my vote for best recipe.
posted by ericbop at 5:00 PM on February 20, 2007


There are only two good reasons for living in the USA:

Toll House Chocolate Chips
Coffee Haagen Dazs

Why can't these multinational companies sell their best products here in the UK?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:49 PM on February 20, 2007


Western Infidels, that was mostly a joke. I mean, I eat all cookies in two days, but I am aware other people don't.
posted by dame at 5:55 PM on February 20, 2007


I will commit heresy by declaring that chocolate chip cookies are completely overrated. Give me a good homemade peanut butter cookie, oatmeal cookie (or even better —Oatmeal Scotchie) any day.
posted by spock at 5:59 PM on February 20, 2007


And while I'm at it, what the hell is shortening? Something like lard, perhaps? I know that momma's little baby loves it, but even the least health-conscious person in the UK wouldn't feed it's child raw lard.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:02 PM on February 20, 2007


Our favorite CCCs are now Laura Bush's Oatmeal-Chocolate Chunk Cookies (with dried cherries!) from The great Bush-Kerry bake-off. You better have a kick-ass mixer or strong forearms, cuz that's some serious cookie batter.

PeterMcDermott: shortening is typically partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. I suspect it's about the same consistency as lard.
posted by DakotaPaul at 6:21 PM on February 20, 2007


Shortening is usually hydrogenated vegetable fat in the USA. It is similar to lard, but does not taste as good, and produces a crunchier, less flaky pastry/cookie. It is probably worse for you than lard, but it also cheaper and has a longer shelf life.
posted by owhydididoit at 6:23 PM on February 20, 2007


I use fresh ground Vietnamese cinnamon and Madagascar Vanilla bourbon. They are the best cookies, eva. Yum.
posted by dejah420 at 6:27 PM on February 20, 2007


shortening is typically partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. I suspect it's about the same consistency as lard.

Thanks, DakotaPaul. After Googling 'partially hydrogenated vegetable oil' to try and find a useable British substitute, I see that the stuff is so vile there's a serious campaign to ban it here in the UK -- and many major producers no longer use it.

I wonder if it's still safe to use for fisting?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:39 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Most people ruin chocolate chip cookies by putting them in the oven. They're best eaten with a spoon.
posted by dilettante at 6:41 PM on February 20, 2007


The Robin Hood site has lots of great cookie recipes. The best of them is the Toffee Chocolate Almond Crunchies which adds Skor toffee bits to the recipe for a wonderful chewy/sweet addition. Yum.
posted by nelvana at 6:59 PM on February 20, 2007


What's so hard about it? you break the little squares and you bake them!
/ducks...

I know, I know. What's really sad is when I was young,
my Mom would bake batches of 6 dozen at a crack and freeze 3 or four of them.

I can'tb begin to tell you how wrong, and yet how damn good, thin, crispy frozen ccc's can be.
posted by exparrot at 7:31 PM on February 20, 2007


in place of vanilla I use vanilla-infused rum (just drop a couple vanilla beans in a small bottle of rum and let sit for a few weeks).

Beat me to it, but quite right. Chez Jones, we slice lengthwise up to eight fresh vanilla beans, slip into a pint of bourbon, let infuse for a month. Unbelievable results. (I've also heard of vodka as a medium, but I have serious doubts.)

BTW, see here for vanilla.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:32 PM on February 20, 2007


My mom always used the Nestles recipe. They always turned-out almost paper-flat, yet chewy with a crispy bite. I never knew anyone else who made them like that. Boy, were they good!
posted by Thorzdad at 1:18 PM EST on February 20

Yeah, my mom too. But then she never used anything but butter and that makes a huge difference.

I usually make the Jeffrey Steingarten version of the Toll House recipe found in It Must've Been Something I Ate: More butter, less flour and egg. It makes a very buttery, thin but chewy cookie. My husband takes them to work every day and he likes to zap them in the microwave for 10 secs or so.

Several pointers I picked up from reading The Cookie Bible:

1. Make sure the oven is preheated
2. Use parchment paper instead of cooking spray on the pans
3. Sticks of butter should be room temp--just soft enough to bend
4. Cream butter and sugar by hand preferably or on low

As to mix-ins, I love dried cherries with pecans and white chocolate chips but my husband is a purist, only semi-sweet morsels for him.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:10 AM on February 21, 2007


I have never hated my wheat allergy as much as I do after reading this thread. Sigh.
posted by ktoad at 3:11 PM on February 21, 2007


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