03 October 2011

The best chocolate chip cookies I know how to make

Cookies! Photo by jby.
It's been ages since I posted a recipe, but I'm still doing lots of cooking. So, here's another staple in my personal recipe book: chocolate chip cookies. I found the recipe on AllRecipes.com, but I've incorporated a couple of stylistic quirks from the New York Times food section.

First, I refrigerate the dough at least overnight, or up to 48 hours, before baking. This lets the liquid (mainly eggs) integrate with the flour, for better texture. It also breaks up the work so it doesn't take a whole afternoon at once.

Second, I make them big. I form balls of dough a little less than the size of a golf ball, so the entire recipe makes exactly 24 cookies, at a rate of six to a cookie sheet-ful. Big cookies end up with a range of texture from a crisper edge to a chewy center, which you can't get if you make them too small. And I can tell you from personal experience that big cookies make a serious impression when you bring them to a lab meeting, or (as I did with these) your dissertation defense.

Follow the jump for the recipe!

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white, granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, tamped down
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (emphatically not optional)

Blend together the shortening, butter, white and brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. (Go ahead and soften up the butter and shortening in the microwave, if you're blending by hand.) Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt; mix this into the wet ingredients until they're well blended. Finally, mix in the nuts and chocolate chips—I find this is most easily done by hand. Cover the dough and stick it in the refrigerator at least overnight, or up to 48 hours.

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Pull the dough out of the refrigerator. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment, which makes cookie removal and cleanup much easier. Form the dough into not-quite-golf-ball-sized spheroids, and place about six on a single cookie sheet. Bake for about 14 minutes, or until the very edges of the cookies turn brown and dry.

I've come to feel strongly that you need nuts in your chocolate chip cookies, for crunchy contrast with the melted chocolate chips and chewy dough. Pecans are my preference, but go ahead and substitute walnuts if you must, or use no nuts at all. You Philistine.

You could also make the recipe vegan, just by substituting more shortening (and a little water) for the butter, and using vegan chocolate chips—but I haven't tried this, so I can't vouch for it. I do know that spelt flour works perfectly well with the recipe, in case you want to reduce gluten.

Finally, I like to use Ghiradelli's 60% cacao chocolate chips, which are a bit flatter than typical chocolate chips, and nicely bittersweet. They're pricey, but these cookies are an indulgence anyway. This kind of baking is absolutely part of a balanced, healthy diet, especially if you bake them to share. ◼

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