The thing about baking (and baking cookies) it’s not cooking. Cooking, in most cases, allows you to fiddle drastically with the recipe. You can make substitutions, handle your ingredients all willy nilly, do a little more of this and a little less of that depending on your tastes. You can basically do whatever you want and still come up with a delicious dish that people will rave about.
You don’t really get to do that with baking. Baking is chemistry. You have to pay attention to what you’re doing and follow the steps to get the finished product that you’re hoping for. That doesn’t mean that it has to be boring, or scary, or tedious. Once you’ve got a few basics down, you can improvise within certain boundaries and make amazing things.
Let’s start with the Chocolate Chip Cookie. It’s a classic, beloved by the masses. I like them thick and tender, firm and slightly crispy on the outside, just a tad undercooked near the middle. My mom always started with the Toll House recipe on the bag. It’s a good one. But…they always seemed to bake up FLAT with the chocolate chips looking like mounds under a thin cookie blanket. They were slightly greasy, unless you baked them too long and then they were crunchy and HARD. So we fiddled with it…just a little.
Here’s our version of chocolate chip cookies. I’ll give some tips after the recipe to help you along, but in the end, when you are baking they are YOUR cookies. Put as much or as little chocolate as you want. Forget the nuts if you don’t want them. Add in some dried fruit. Just don’t mess with the butter…you’ll thank me.
Michele’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie
2 3/4 cups of All Purpose Flour*
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened*
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 tsp of the best vanilla extract you can get*
2 large eggs
1 cup of the best chocolate pieces you can get*
1 cup chopped nuts
Turn the oven on and set to 375.
Prepare your pans.* I prefer to use parchment paper to line the pan to make a non-stick surface and reduce clean up later. Silicone mats work also. Or you can put your cookies on a naked pan.
Mix your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt, in a bowl. I like to use a whisk to stir them together.
In a stand mixer, or with a hand held mixer, or with a potato masher (yes, at one point I was reduced to using a potato masher) cream together the butter, white and brown sugar. Set your mixer to medium high speed. You want to mix it until it looks “fluffy” – the mixture should stick to the sides of the bowl, the butter completely incorporated into the sugar, and have the consistency of slightly loose mashed potatoes.
Turn off your machine and scrape the sides of the bowl. Turn it back on medium and add your vanilla, and eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to be mixed in completely before adding the next. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture a heaping cup at a time to the butter mixture, just until combined. Use a large spoon and stir in your chocolate, nuts, and other add-ins you like. The final batter should be VERY stiff, use a sturdy spoon.
I use a small ice cream scoop to make uniformly sized cookies, but you can grab a tablespoon (or use your fingers) and go at it. Make the cookies big or small, whatever makes you happy. Put them on the pan with about two inches of space between the cookies, so they don’t bake into each other. Put your pan in the oven and set a timer to 9 – 11 minutes. 9 for smaller cookies, 11 (or more) for larger cookies. If you are nit-picky like me, you can set another timer to go off half way through so that you can turn the pan 180 degrees to allow for even browning. Yeah…I’m a dork like that.
About 2 – 3 minutes before your timer goes off, turn on the oven light and have a look at them. They are perfect for me when the top of the cookie doesn’t have a shiny look any more, the edges are just turning golden and the middle is still pale. You can keep them in longer for the entire cookie to become golden, or even slightly darker. But the key is to learn how how long to keep them in the oven to achieve what YOU want. And that means you have to keep an eye on them until you know your oven like the back of your hand.
Take the pan out when you have reached cookie perfection and allow them to cool on the pan for at least 5 minutes. This allows them to set before moving. Then eat straight from the pan…ahhh… I mean, put them on a cooling rack to finish cooling. Store in an air tight container, or large ziploc bag. Using my medium sized cookie scoop, I get around 45 cookies out of a batch.
I bet you were wondering what all those *’s were about. I wanted to give some pointers and explanations without having to clog up the recipe. I hope these tidbits help you out!
Flour: I use King Arthur All Purpose Flour or other high quality milled flour. To measure the flour: I use a whisk and stir up the flour in my canister to lighten it up. Then I use a big spoon and spoon it into my measuring cup. Once it’s heaping over the top of the cup, I use the flat edge of a butter knife to rake along the top of the cup, pushing the excess flour back into the canister. If you just put your cup into the canister and scoop, your going to pack it in and get too much flour. That equals dry cookies.
Butter: Your butter is “room temperature” when you push it with your finger and it gives slightly and is still cool. If you can’t make a dent, or your finger goes straight through the stick without any effort, it’s not right. You can set the butter out about 30 minutes before you plan on baking to come to temp. I’m not that patient though. I put 2 sticks of butter in the microwave for 20 seconds at 40% power to get it perfect. You can try this, but beware, there isn’t much time between perfect and a melted pool of butter. You have to get to know your microwave just like your oven.
Butter: Yes, butter gets two notes. If you didn’t know, manufacturers add salt to butter as a preservative, so it can sit on the shelf longer. They also don’t put much effort into putting consistent amounts of salt in the butter. SO. Use the unsalted butter. It’s fresher, and you can control the amount of salt in your recipe. Don’t even THINK about using margarine. Eww. Vegetable shortening can be used, but the recipe would require adjustment for the different fat. Same thing with other butter substitutes. But say it with me: In moderation, Butter = Best.
Vanilla: These two ingredients are available with a HUGE range of quality. Everything from imitation vanilla to vanilla beans and cheap chocolate coating to fine Belgian chocolate. For vanilla, I prefer Vanilla Bean Paste. It’s a syrupy mixture of vanilla beans and good vanilla extract. Just make sure its Pure Vanilla Extract.
Chocolate: I order Belgian chocolate chips by Callebaut online, when I’ve got the extra cash. If you don’t want to order your chocolate, you can buy the good stuff in chocolate bars and cut them into chunks. *tip* Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bars of chocolate are Belgian, affordably priced and comes in milk and dark varieties. It’s a little extra effort to chop it up, but definitely a good deal. At the end of the day, buy the best that you can afford. It makes a difference, I promise.
Pans: I use commercial grade half sheet pans. Again, you can find them online or Homegoods often carries them. I like aluminum. The lighter metal gives a nice tender crust, not too thin or too thick. A darker metal will give a darker, thicker crust and often requires that you reduce the temperature of your oven so that you don’t burn the bottoms of your cookies. If you own dark pans (this applies to glass pans too) reduce the temp of your oven by 25-50 degrees to avoid burning the cookies you worked so hard on.
A good rule of thumb: if you shake your pan side to side like a piece of paper, it shouldn’t wibble-wobble. I avoid the non-stick pans and use parchment paper to create a non-stick surface and if I’m careful I don’t have to wash my pan when I’m done. I just throw away the paper.
I know that was a ton of info just to make “simple” chocolate chip cookies. I’m hoping that some of it helps you to make chocolate chippers that everyone says are “The Best.”
Need help in the baking department, like me? Ask away! Michele will be glad to answer any questions you have about this recipe or take suggestions for future baking blog posts! Oh, and don’t forget to pin this fab cookie recipe! Your family will thank you!