Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Perfect chocolate chip cookies, at last! (edited 3/26)


It's been almost two weeks of non-stop chocolate chip cookie baking at this house, despite the lack of a real oven (I've been using a toaster oven with a convection option.) And I've got the belly to prove it!

Ever since a friend baked some excellent chocolate chip cookies for me (a nutty, cakey version), I've been on the quest to find the perfect, classic chocolate chip cookie. Everyone's got their own opinion on what's perfect and what's classic. My take on perfection for a classic chocolate chip cookie is not the Tollhouse version which is more of a crispy cookie through and through. Soft and cakey is sometimes nice (which many people like -- check out the one from the Best Recipe cookbook put out by the Cook's Illustrated magazine), but it wasn't what I was looking for this time. Chewy towards the middle, crispy towards the edges. There has to be some give when you bite into it, so not too soft unless it's right out of the oven. Also, visually, I wanted a cookie that didn't thin out towards the edges, with just the right amount of spread. Lastly, I wanted a semi-healthy cookie -- meaning a need for some whole wheat flour.

After trying four "classic" recipes, I have settled on a slightly altered version of the famous Neiman Marcus cookie. There's some urban legend that accompanies it, but I won't bore you with it here (you can google it if you like). There are several different versions online of the famous cookie recipe, but the one I used is directly from the Neiman Marcus website.

I didn't really change it too much. Just substituted 3/4 cup whole wheat flour for 3/4 cup all purpose flour and ommitted the espresso powder because I didn't have it. Be sure not to overbake. My little convection oven cut the baking time by more than half. 9 minutes instead of 20 minutes.

I believe the cookies don't overspread because they're baked at a lower temperature than in most other recipes. 300 degrees vs. 350 or 375 degrees is a big difference. It gives the cookie time to spread evenly (middle and edge at almost same rate).

Try the unaltered recipe. It's really great, too. It'd also be more convenient for those of you who don't have whole wheat flour on hand but REALLY NEED to make chocolate chip cookies RIGHT AWAY. Enjoy!

By the way, I used a one-tablespoon cookie scoop (the recipe specifies two tablespoons). Makes it really quick. Be sure to flatten them down to about a 1/3-inch high disk. I do that by hand, and touch up the rough edges with my fingers as well. These little cookies are quite cute and are great when you're concerned about portion control. If you want gorgeous, pro-sized cookies, stack three tablespoon scoops on top of each other and squash them down to a 3-inch diameter disk. Beautiful. Bake-sale or bakery-worthy.

[Addendum:
Well, the next day, the larger cookies held up better than the 1-tablespoon little guys. The small cookies came out kind of hard after storage in a cookie tin. The 2-tablespoon and 3-tablespoon cookies were nice and soft still. Just be sure to not overbake. Just when the bottom edge starts to turn brown on some of the cookies, it's time to take them out! By the way, my friend Meg recommends using whole wheat pastry flour. I will definitely give that a try. Just bought some today!]

1 comment:

megc said...

Hi Caroline! One trick I've learned is to use whole wheat pastry flour (as opposed to whole wheat flour) in place of all-purpose. It works great! I am baking a lot these days and making things that are more healthy - whole grain flours, natural sugars, and the like.

I'll give your cookies a try! They sound delicious. Hope you are well. :)