Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies. They are just so delicious. They are my standby dessert, and they are really my favorite cookie. You might like a little variety, say maybe a peanut butter cookie, or an oatmeal raisin, but the one I always come back to is dear old chocolate chip.

I always keep the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies in my pantry, so that I can whip them up at a moments notice. No dessert in the house? Make chocolate chip cookies. Cousins coming to visit tonight? Make chocolate chip cookies. Everyone's grumpy at work? Make chocolate chip cookies. They can say a lot of hellos, thank yous, welcomes, and even sorrys for you.

There are some tricks to making chocolate chip cookies, though. I am sure you've noticed that even though most people use the classic Tollhouse recipe (keep reading), they always come out differently, depending on who makes them, right? Sometimes they don't spread out, and practically remain in the balls they were put onto the cookie sheet as. Sometimes they spread out way too much. Sometimes they are too chewy, sometimes very crunchy, sometimes even taste more like cake than cookie.

Well let's start with the recipe.

* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
* 3/4 cup granulated sugar
* 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 large eggs
* 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Seems pretty easy right?

Well here's some things you might want to know about how to make your chocolate chip cookies so good that people will ask you to make them even when you've already made a different dessert.

The first thing is creaming the butter, sugars, and vanilla before the eggs. This step is crucial. Why? If you don't incorporate the butter into the sugar before it gets in with the eggs, the consistency will never be right, and your cookies will spread. (see photo).

This picture is an example of what will occur if you cream the butter, and then throw all the sugars and the eggs in there, and then mix. Or even if you just mix the sugars with the butter for 10 seconds, and then do the eggs.

I think that this is the most important thing that they don't really accentuate in the recipe. So you get past that spot. What else can make your cookies taste a little better?

My trick? Add just a bit more salt than you think. Maybe a quarter tsp more than it says, but I just eyeball it. Salt is very important in chocolate chip cookies, because it really brings out the contrasting flavors. Some people like to half it in the recipe, and then sprinkle some on top, but I feel it is a little unpredictable when you bite into the cookie; you never know how much salt you're going to get.

How about the chocolate chips? I would suggest that you don't use milk chocolate chips. Not only does this make the cookies taste bad (in my opinion they don't give enough contrast of flavor) but more often than not, they won't melt before the cookies are ready to take out of the oven, and thus, it is not a very appetizing cookie. Everyone likes those melty chips in there.

Now, let me get back to the "taking them out of the oven." I feel like this is the part where a lot of people make their mistakes. One thing to know is that the cookies continue to bake on the sheet after they are taken out of the oven. Therefore, you must take them out of the oven at the slightest browning on the top of the cookie. It might not look cooked through, but I promise you that by the time they are ready to be taken off of the cookie sheet, they will be perfect.

This is a picture of the cookies right when they get out of the oven, so you can get an idea of what to look for.

And here is a picture of a cookie that is cooled. Looks much better, right?

They really don't take long to cook; I would certainly check your cookies at 8 minutes and see how they look, especially if you have a convection oven.

So, to wrap up
1. Make sure to cream the butter, then add the sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and beat well before adding any eggs to ensure a good texture.
2. Add a little extra salt into the recipe.
3. Use semi-sweet chips.
4. Watch your cookies closely, and take them out at the first sign of browning at the tops (the edges will brown first, so don't concentrate on them).

Now you can make the perfect cookie, and enjoy them with just 20 minutes notice.