Everyone and his mother (and grandmother) has a chocolate chip cookie recipe that he swears is the absolute best recipe, guaranteed to produce a chocolate chip cookie so good it will make you weep with joy. The problem with that is that everyone—relatives included—has a different idea of exactly what constitutes a perfect chocolate chip cookie.
Let's face it—these sorts of preferences are a matter of taste, and we're not going to be able to solve the Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Debate any time soon. But we can offer some tips and tricks about how to get the best overall result in making and baking your chocolate chip cookies, After that, it's up to you to pick and choose the variations that produce your ideal sweet snacking treat.
Virtually every chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for the addition of some salt, but that little bit of extra salt that is in salted butter heightens the sweetness of the cookies. The science behind the role salt plays with sugar would make even Bill Nye drop his jaw in amazement: we have intestinal cells in our taste buds, and when sodium is present, it triggers the cell to register sweetness.
If you do choose to use salted butter, be sure to leave out the amount of salt the recipe calls for (as most recipes are written using unsalted butter). A little bit of salt goes a long way, but a lot of salt is just... salty.
The first step in almost every chocolate chip cookie recipe is to cream the butter and the sugars. The softer the butter, the more fully the fat and the sweeteners will combine. If you won't take my word for it, even Alton Brown recommends melting the butter first to produce a chewier cookie.
(If you're looking for some great tips on bringing butter, eggs, and milk to room temperature, we've got a handy guide you can check out.)
The ultimate source for all things egg-related, The American Egg Board, states that using cold eggs in a high-fat batter (such as cookie dough) can re-harden the fat and cause a lumpier dough. They suggest removing your eggs from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you begin baking.
The original Tollhouse recipe, the center of many of our earliest baking memories, calls for equal parts brown and white sugar. According to Serious Eats, if you increase the amount of white sugar and decrease the amount of brown sugar, you get a crispier cookie. Doing the opposite will achieve a denser, chewier cookie.
Additionally, brown sugar is made with molasses; the darker the brown sugar, the more molasses it contains. So if you want a cookie with a richer, more toffee-like flavor, go for a 2-to-1 dark-brown-to-white ratio.
Chocolate chips are generally smaller, and you can pack more of them into the given space of one cookie. Chocolate chunks tend to melt more and will produce a gooier chocolate aspect in your cookies.
To complicate matters further, the one and only David Lebovitz swears by hand-chopping chocolate straight from the bar; he reasons that you get not just the chunks but the magical chocolate dust produced as a by-product as well.
In the end, however, this is a matter of preference. Whichever you like most is going to be the perfect cookie for your tastes.
You may be excited about eating your cookies as soon as possible—and honestly, who isn't giddy about fresh cookies?—but patience pays off in a big way. Chilling your dough is an essential part of making chocolate chip cookies; not only does it encourage the flavors to meld and "marinate" together, it also improves the texture and rise of the cookies themselves.
Either place the dough in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, or, if you can't wait, pop them into the freezer for 15-30 minutes. You'll definitely see (and taste) a big difference in the quality of your cookies.
The easiest way to make sure your cookies come out the same size is to use a small, designated ice cream scoop to portion them out onto the cookie sheets. And make sure to leave some space in between your mounds of dough; the rule of thumb is two inches between each cookie-to-be.
When you remove your cookie sheets from the oven, leave the cookies on the hot sheets for about two minutes so that they can finish baking. And make sure to leave the cookie sheets on the counter or on cooling racks: if you leave them on top of the hot stove, your cookies will get over-baked and won't have a lovely, chewy center.
My Grandma Jennie taught me to always cool my cookies on the brown paper bags we brought home from the grocery store; for her, recycling was a practical matter rather than an environmental one. The paper bag cooling method serve two purposes: it keeps air from circulating fully around the cookie, which removes moisture and produces a crispier cookie; it also absorbs a little of the extra grease produced as the cookies cool.
Nowadays, most home cooks prefer to use a cooling or wire rack instead—but the ultimate choice of what to use is up to you.
Once you've gone to all the trouble of making your perfect chocolate chip cookies, make sure you store them correctly so that they don't get stale. Now go pour yourself a nice glass of cold milk to go along with your sweet treat, put your feet up, and have a cookie or two. You've earned it!