Just Desserts: Chocolate chip cookies

ChocChipCookies The chocolate chip cookie is an icon – the icon? – of American food. We’ve all eaten them, we’ve all loved them, and we’ve all made them, even those of us who usually get a little skittish around measuring cups and baking soda.

The beauty of the classic recipe, found on the back of every bag of Toll House chips, is that it produces a darn good cookie. But my years of baking have taught me that this simple, tasty tradition can be made even better will a few tweaks of technique. So, here, to the best of my knowledge, are the keys to making a perfect chocolate chip cookie.

  • Ditch the chips: The formula that keeps chocolate chips in that adorable little drop shape also means that they just don’t taste quite as good as real bars of chocolate. It takes a little extra time, but chopping up some baking chocolate or high-quality chocolate bars makes for a noticeably more satisfying chocolate experience. Plus, the tiny shards and bits created by hand-chopping permeate the dough with delightful chocolate flavor.
  • Beat it: You know that first step in many cookie recipes, “beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy?” Take that instruction seriously. That means giving the step about five minutes if you’re using a stand mixer and close to 10 with handheld beaters. The resulting cookie will have a more tender texture.
  • Patience is a virtue: This is the hardest bit of advice to adhere to. After you combine all the ingredients, after you have that first tempting lick off the beaters and are eagerly awaiting your first bite of warm, fresh cookie, it’s time to … wait. Scrape that dough into a bowl, stick it in the fridge, and chill, ideally for about 24 hours. The delay gives the wet ingredients time to fully absorb into the dry, allowing the flavors to mature and ultimately creating a more consistent texture.

I fully admit that you can ignore all these hints and your cookies will still be delicious. But if you take the effort to make these slight tweaks, the cumulative result will be a cookie even better than those you recall. Enjoy.

Perfect Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Recipe inspired by the back of the Toll House bag, but tweaked and improved over the years.

2¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups coarsely chopped semisweet and/or milk chocolate

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl, beat together butter and sugars at medium speed until very well combine and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until combined. Add dry ingredients gradually, mixing on low speed. Fold in chopped chocolate.

Transfer dough to medium bowl, cover airtight, and refrigerate at least 12 and as many as 36 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Use a cookie scoop or measuring spoon to form 1-inch cookies. Place on sheet 2 inches apart. Bake until just golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

This column originally appeared in The Hippo on April 24, 2014. Click here to view the issue.