I have a theory that chocolate chip cookies are the gateway drug to cooking. The recipe is easy, no special equipment is required, and at the end, you get warm, fresh-from-the-oven cookies that are simply irresistible. It's how I got hooked on baking and cooking, and anecdotal evidence (i.e. me asking my other kitchen-obsessed friends and a few culinary students) supports me.
Alas, making great chocolate chip cookies is not foolproof. Too often, the cookies come out flat, burned, or greasy. We've already showed you one key rule for making great cookies, which is to let the batter rest before you put the dough in the oven, but there's one more super-easy trick you should be doing to take your chocolate chip cookies to the next level.
Turns out your refrigerator is a key tool in perfecting chocolate chip cookies, or rather, the dough. Many cookie recipes recommend chilling the dough, but most of us skip this part because, well, we want cookies and we want 'em now—but you should not skip this step.
First, it gives the dough time to age and lets the ingredients meld thoroughly, which increases flavor. Shirley O. Corriher, author of CookWise: the Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking, states that the process lets the dry ingredients soak up the egg, which takes longer to absorb since its texture is gelatinous rather than liquid.
Second, it makes the fat (usually butter, sometimes oil or cream) ingredient in the dough solidify and gives the dough a drier, firmer consistency. This means your cookies will hold their shape and become tender when baked, instead of turning into a greasy blob.
According to Norman Van Aken, chef and cookbook author, putting dough in the fridge gives extra time for the leavening to do its job, which makes the cookies rise and give them texture. If you slip them into the oven too early, the fat inside the dough will melt and spread before the leaving has time to work.
Most recipes recommend chilling cookie dough for several hours in the refrigerator, but the good news is that you can use your freezer in a pinch. Better Homes and Gardens says that you can freeze cookie dough for one-fourth of the recommended refrigeration time with good results. In a pinch, I've put cookies in the freezer for as little as fifteen minutes and it's improved the end product immensely.
Just be sure not to completely freeze the dough until it's hard. At that point, ice crystals can form inside the dough and change the structure and shape of your cookies if you take them straight from the freezer to the oven.
If you inadvertently freeze your dough, that's not a problem—just put it in the fridge and let it thaw until it becomes soft, then bake them. The taste and texture won't be harmed at all, and in fact, most doughs, from pie crust to cookies of all kinds, freeze quite well.
If you've got the time and are really determined to make the best cookie ever, you should combine techniques and let the batter rest while it's chilling inside the fridge. A test by the New York Times revealed that keeping chocolate chip cookie dough inside the fridge for 36 hours produced superior results.
In fact, chilling the dough overnight was recommended by Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of chocolate chip cookies (she's the one responsible for the Nestle Toll House cookie recipe we've all used at one time or another).
And if for some reason your cookies still aren't up to snuff, you can try one last trick—serve your cookies straight from the oven or put them back in the oven until the chocolate chips are gooey. Maury Rubin, the owner of the famed City Bakery in New York, calls it The Warm Rule. According to him, even a bad chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven still has its appeal.
Once you've mastered the art of chocolate chip cookies, you can expand to more creative recipes, like chocolate chip cookie cups, shot glasses, and bowls, made famous by cronut inventor Dominique Ansel.