When Ruth Graves Wakefield mixed bits of semi-sweet chocolate into a vat of cookie dough back in the 1930’s, she unwittingly created what is arguably the most popular recipe of all time – the chocolate chip cookie. By some accounts, it was an accident. Others claim that Wakefield intentionally added the semi-sweet chocolate when she ran out of regular baking chocolate. Whichever version is true, cookie lovers everywhere are thankful.
Since then, professional chefs and home cooks alike have been on a quest to find the Holy Grail of chocolate chip cookie recipes. A quick Google search turned up almost 2,500,000 entries. That’s a lot of cookies, folks! Of course, every chocolate chip cookie aficionado has their own criteria for what makes a cookie “the one”. Some love them thin and crispy, while others seek out the thick and chewy. Most people consider the ultimate chocolate cookie to be somewhere in between – thin and shatteringly crisp on the outside, while soft, gooey and chewy on the inside. I’m an equal opportunity cookie eater. I can definitely appreciate the joys of both the crispy and the chewy. How about you?
To further confuse the issue are the numerous chocolate chip cookie mutations that have evolved over the years, including those containing various kinds of nuts, fruits, toffee chips and oh yes, even bacon. It’s enough to make one’s head swim, preferably in a sea of melted chocolate!
A few years ago, on a mission for the New York Times, David Leite set out to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie. In his search, he left no chip unturned. One of his most interesting revelations was that letting the dough “rest” in the fridge for at least twenty-four hours before baking makes for a much better cookie. The chilling process is said to allow the dough to “dry out”, which bakes to a better consistency. Leite also discovered that Ruth Wakefield’s original recipe for the Toll House cookie did, in fact, call for letting the cookie dough chill in the fridge overnight. Somewhere along the way, that little nugget of information got lost in the translation, and has never been included in the official recipe. How do you like that? For over seventy years, we’ve been doing it all wrong!
And apparently, size does matter when it comes to chocolate chip cookies as it does with other things in life. On his journey to cookie enlightenment, Leite learned that the bigger the cookie, the greater the delineation of texture, from crisp to chewy to soft. Among the gurus that he interviewed, the consensus was that the ideal chocolate chip cookie should bake up to a whopping five to six inches in diameter. Now, this is where I draw the line. If I got into the habit of eating six-inch chocolate chip cookies, or any cookie that big, I’d have to climb into my closet and dig out the “fat pants”. And, I ain’t willing to dig them out again for anything – not even the most perfect chocolate chip cookie on the planet! Besides, if I shoved a six-inch cookie in Mini SGCC’s face, she’d probably run screaming into the night, never to be heard from again!
What I was willing to do, however, was try this recipe making smaller cookies. Instead of monster cookies, I made three inchers. I still let them rest for thirty-six hours before I baked them. I also still used a good quality bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled them with sea salt. And, I added some nuts, just because that’s how I roll. I have to say, they were pretty damn fabulous! They had a thin edge of crispy that splintered upon contact with my teeth, which then yielded to a soft, chewy, chocolatey center. There were toffee and brown sugar undertones too - just like there was supposed to be – that were beautifully enhanced by the little flakes of salt on top. All in all, an amazing cookie. Were they worthy of being dubbed the perfect chocolate chip cookie? I don’t know. I think I’ll let you decide.
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from the New York Times
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
- 1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate chips (at least 60% cacao content)
- 1 cup toasted pecans (optional)
- Kosher or sea salt
- Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
- Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips and pecans, if using. Gently press plastic wrap against the surface of the dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. The dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
- Scoop mounds of dough, about 3 tablespoons each, onto the baking sheet 3 inches apart. Sprinkle each with a few flakes of salt, and bake until golden brown but still soft, between 16-18 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough in the refrigerator, for baking remaining batches the next day.
- Eat warm, with a big napkin.
Makes approximately 30 3-inch cookies.