How 'bout them cookies?
Okay here's a challenge, go to all of your cookbooks (including magazines) and see how many different chocolate chip recipes you come up with. I know if I were to go through all of my magazines & cookbooks I would easily have 25-30 chocolate chip cookie recipes, all with some slight variations. This leaves me with that feeling of "where do I begin?," especially since they can't ALL be the best, or the most chewy, or the softest, or the...fill in the blank chocolate chip cookie.
Some people are fortunate enough to have a chocolate chip cookie recipe handed down to them from their mother or grandmother, but that's not the case for a huge chunk of us. I remember thinking as a young girl that chocolate chip cookies are just not that good, because they always had to be dry, hard, and slightly burnt on the bottom. Well, that's how my mom made them for the most part (she didn't always make them like that--sorry mom!). As a kid, you tend to think rather concretely with black and white glasses on, which makes it hard to think outside the box. It's like my sister-in-law thinking spaghetti was a disgusting food, until that is, she went to college and realized it was only the kind she ate as a kid wasn't the best. We have these ingrained tendencies that stay with us, even when we become abstract thinkers. That was my case with the chocolate chip cookie.
Luckily, I'm way beyond that stage of my life and know better. I know that a true chocolate chip cookie was destined for something grand & wonderful. It is meant to be crisp when you first bite in, then soft & slightly chewy on the inside. It should be buttery with complex notes of butterscotch & nutty aftertones. And definitely have a good ratio of chocolate chips & toasted pecans throughout. Well, my friends, I do believe I have found that cookie. It doesn't require a hand mixer or a kitchen aid, but simply your trusty arm strength. They will be gone quickly after baking. You'll easily have put on 2 pounds once you've devoured five in one sitting, but man they're addictive. So make them and let me know what you think.
**Disclaimer: I'm not going to say they are the BEST, because everyone claims that they've found the one recipe. However, I will say they are the best of all I've made and are definitely multi-dimensional when it comes to a chocolate chip cookie...so what are you waiting for?
Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookies (printable recipe)
This recipe is taken from Cooks Illustrated. I have not adapted anything and find it best to do exactly as the recipe says, as there is a science behind the whisking 30 seconds and letting it rest 3 minutes. As it rests the sugar rests in the liquid, causing more of it to dissolve; thus, a caramelizing effect takes place, creating a broader compass of flavor. Melting the butter, instead of creaming, lends the chewiness factor, along with the addition of one egg yolk.
Makes 16 large cookies
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed dark brown sugar (don't be tempted to use light brown sugar & make sure it's moist or your cookies will dry out)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18-by-12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet (don't use nonstick, because you need to gauge when your butter is browned) over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 ddough balls per sheet. (smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches).
Bake cookies one tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.