Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

The Quest for The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
Nine simple ingredients, maybe ten or eleven. That’s all you’ll find in the recipe that has become the standard for chocolate chip cookie making, published not only on the back of almost any bag of semisweet chocolate chips you can buy, but also on the Crisco container (which substitutes shortening instead for the butter, but the rest of the ingredients are the same).
This is a guest post from Megan Saben, my dear friend and colleague at both LiterariTea and RedeemedReader. She is going to be sharing her Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie with us at full tummies, and I'm delighted to welcome her! Note: the cookies pictured are from the Cook's Illustrated Cookbook and are for illustration purposes only, not necessarily as an example of the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie.

My grandmother was famous for her repurposed coffee cans full of chocolate chip cookies whenever we would come to visit. My mother remembers times that Grandma would emerge from her bedroom chewing, which meant that she had indulged in the stash hidden in her closet. All of the grandchildren were privileged to receive ultimate care packages containing chocolate chip cookies through our college years.
I also remember a lady from our church who turned out an abundance of those wonderful chocolate chip cookies, making her home the desired place for youth group events. That’s the kind of place I want my home to be—the place where my boys want to bring their friends because the cookie jar is always full.
But try as I might using the same recipe, I couldn’t duplicate those soft, perfect cookies! Hence, I declared myself a chocolate chip cookie test baker and went to work. I kept finding variations of those essential nine ingredients (ten, if you add nuts, and eleven if you use part oats or oat flour), all promising to be the ULTIMATE WORLD’S BEST chocolate chip cookie. I have been collecting recipes from cookbooks and online sources, and started wondering what happens when you reduce the salt, increase the flour, eliminate an egg, and vary just about every ingredient? (Never reduce the chocolate chips of course, but you can use part standard and part miniature or increase the quantity.) The brand of chocolate chips makes a difference, too. (I prefer Ghirardelli for eating out of the bag, but Nestle’s hold their shape better in the cookie.) Scoop the flour or sift it first? Bake the dough fresh, chilled or frozen?
How much does oven temperature impact the result? Which kind of pan? Letting them sit before removing them to a rack? All these factors make a difference! I doubt I’ll ever exhaust the variations, but I’m happy to keep trying as long as I have boys to eat cookies or places to take batches.
So there’s my manifesto, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress. My goal is to find the essential recipe and how variations make a difference so that I have freedom to play with it hereafter. I did this a number of years ago with brownies, and it has been such a relief not to have to wonder if I should try someone else’s version of the best-ever ultimate recipe.
I welcome input and suggestions!

(Note: America’s Test Kitchen has a very good variation, but theirs is quite different from the proportions on the chocolate chip packages, so I consider it almost a different cookie. I will compare their recipe with my tested favorite.)


Anonymous said...

I'm dying of suspense - what's the recipe??

Betsy said...

You'll have to join us for the adventure to find out! I'm not sure Megan has settled on the ultimate recipe yet. It will be a yummy journey!