Monday, May 9, 2011

America's Test Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookie Challenge!

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that chocolate chip cookies remind me of growing up and being in the kitchen with my mom baking - a bit of Americana.  Most people have their own twist on traditional recipes passed down through their family.  Each of my friends would trade secrets that we learned: for example, my mom, who learned from HER mom, always used shortening (Crisco) rather than butter or a mixture of both, which created a puffier cookie.  I find it very difficult to break from the traditions I learned from my mom - to this day I still use Crisco when baking anything, from cookies and pies to frosting.  This may seem really odd to some, but its the way I grew up doing it.  The first time I made my chocolate chip cookies for Nick, I really hoped he liked them (even though they were different from what he may have learned growing up) because the little tweaks I learned are things I want to pass on to my children.

All that being said, I still love to try out new recipes to see if there are new techniques that would make me want to try to change my ways.  When I recently saw the America's Test Kitchen Boston blogger challenge to make Cooks Illustrated's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, I could not resist giving it a go.

The Necessities....
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

The Ingredients
To start, I combined the flour and the baking soda in a medium sized bowl and set it aside for later. 
Some of my friends never combined the dry ingredients separately, but I always thought it helped fully mix the different components throughout the cookie dough.  In my book, this is always worth doing.

Ready and waiting...
In a skillet (about 9-10 inches in diameter) over medium to high heat, I melted 10 tablespoons of the butter.  To help speed up the melting process (and to prevent burning the butter), be sure to slice up the butter stick into a number of pieces. 

Melting away
Once the butter was fully melted, I continued to cook the butter for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning.  The butter is "done" when it has a darker, golden brown color with a rich nutty smell.  I think using a metal skillet rather than a non-stick one helped me to see what was going on in the pan.

Golden with a nutty aroma
While it may sound like I am talking about the finer points of a nice bottle of wine, I really am talking about butter (Paula Deen would be proud!).

Once the butter was "done" I poured it into a large heat proof bowl and added the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter until everything was fully melted.  According to America's Test Kitchen, using the melted butter makes for a chewier cookie!

To the bowl of melted butter I added the brown and white sugars, and the vanilla...

Some butter and sugar
and whisked to combine.

The mixture took on a really rich brown color - this was definitely looking different than when I've made chocolate chip cookies in the past.

It didn't take much effort to mix it all up (the melted butter really helped.)  At this point I added the egg and the egg yolk. 

With some yolk
The eggs were whisked into the mixture until the sugars were fully incorporated and there were no lumps.  It was striking how much the color changed!  It turned a beautiful caramel color.

Wet Ingredients
Once combined, I let the batter to sit for 3 minutes, then whisked the batter for 30 seconds and allowed it to rest for another 3 minutes.  I repeated this process another two times until the batter was thicker and shiny.  The color also go a bit lighter.  There was a major difference in the batter after only one rotation!   

Thick and Creamy
At this point it was time to add the dry ingredients to the wet. 

Adding some flour...
I always do this a little at a time because otherwise I seem to get flour everywhere!

Almost ready!
Once it was all combined, the chocolate chips and the nuts went in.  While I typically do not use nuts in cookies, I figured I would go all out and really put the recipe to the test.  The recipe suggests walnuts or pecans, so I chose the pecans (our trip to Savannah really rubbed off on me!)

Cookie Dough
Using my trusty ice cream scooper to keep the cookie size the same, I put about 3 tablespoon-sized balls of the dough onto a cookie sheet.  While the recipe said to use parchment paper, I realized too late that we didn't have any in the house, so I used an ungreased non-stick cookie sheet.  

Ready for the oven
I placed a single cookie sheet at a time in a 375 degree oven for about 12 to 13 minutes until the cookies were golden brown and puffy, with browned edges and soft and chewy centers.  When the cookies were done baking the sheet came out of the oven went straight to a cooling rack. 

This cookie was really all it said it would be.  Using fewer egg whites, the higher brown-to-white sugar ratio, and the "whisk and wait" really allowed for a cookie that was crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  There was a great caramel toffee flavor to these that you don't normally get with the traditional chocolate chip cookie.

I thought these cookies might take bit longer to cook because of the "whisk and wait" method, as well as the fact that you needed to melt the butter rather than just room temperature sticks, but it was really a quick process.  In the end, these steps really did not add much more time at all and I think they really allowed the cookie dough to come together much better than with some of the other recipes I've tried.  I would definitely try this recipe again.

Isn't it amazing that after all these years we can still be learning to perfect the chocolate chip cookie?!


  1. nice to hear your take on the recipe! cookies look great!

  2. I added pecans too, and I think the nuts were really a valuable part of these cookies. I loved how chewy the cookies stayed even over the next couple of days.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...