Is anything as iconic in the realm of hand-held American desserts as the chocolate chip cookie?
My friends, I think it might be time to rethink that.
Another New England culinary institution, Brookline’s own Cook’s Illustrated magazine, along with its public access television show America’s Test Kitchen, have come up with their own “perfect” chocolate chip cookie recipe. The Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen model is experiment, experiment, experiment. The home chef or baker can always be guaranteed delicious results with their recipes, because each dish is tested as many times as it takes by the ATK chefs to get the very best results.
As part of their recent Boston Blogger Cookie Challenge, I was delighted to have an excuse to make a batch of Cook’s Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies. The challenge timed perfectly with Mother’s Day, since I can think of no better person than my mom to receive a batch of cookies with the Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen seal of delicious.
Assembled ingredients include semi-sweet chocolate chunks, walnuts, and lots of butter.
The recipe differs from most right out of the gate when it calls for some of the butter to be browned first instead of the normal “cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy” method. Creaming makes cookies more “cakey”, while the browned butter keeps the texture chewy in addition to enhancing the flavor.
Once the butter is browned and smells nutty, it’s removed from the heat, and the remaining butter is added and mixed in until it melts. Then the sugars (both brown and white), vanilla, salt, and eggs are added and whisked into the melted butter.
In order to give the sugars time to dissolve and deepen the flavor of the dough, the mixture is allowed to rest for several moments between whisking, until it is smooth and shiny.
Finally, the dry ingredients are added…then the chocolate chunks and walnuts. A few turns with a rubber spatula gives you a wonderful, soft, heavenly-smelling dough that you must try very, very hard not to eat raw.
ATK recommends shaping balls of 3 tablespoons worth of dough. These are larger to allow for maximum ratio of crispy edges to chewy center in the finished cookie.
Remember how I said America’s Test Kitchen is all about experiment and perfection? It’s so nice when someone does all of the hard work for you!
After their trip to the oven, you will have exactly 16 cookies. You will know they are ready when you see crisp golden brown edges with still slightly soft centers.
The flavor and texture of ATK’s “perfect” chocolate chip cookies is remarkably different from the Toll House recipe. The melted browned butter upped the chewiness, while small adjustments to the egg and flour amounts allowed the flavor of the brown sugar to shine brighter. The larger size of the cookie, along with the higher baking temperature, resulted in cookies with perfectly crispy edges and soft centers.
In a word…delicious. I will be glad to wrap and mail them along to my mother so she can also enjoy them – while simultaneously removing the option for me to just throw in the dishtowel and have a plate of them for lunch.
You’re going to love these cookies…
Note: Because ATK does so much to ensure that their recipe wording serves an exact purpose in getting the best results, I am going to post their ingredients list and recipe instructions pretty much verbatim.
1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 ¾ ounces)
½ tsp. baking soda
14 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1 ¾ sticks)
½ cup granulated sugar (3 ½ ounces)
¾ cups packed dark brown sugar (5 ¼ ounces)
1 tsp. table salt
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the oven rack in the middle position. Line 2 large (18×12 inch) baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl and set aside.
- Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in 10-inch skillet (if possible, do not use nonstick) over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.
- Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
- Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to 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. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.
- Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
- Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.
- Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking.
- Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.