Every person who is love with the kitchen travels her own route to chocolate chip cookie perfection. Sometimes the road is easy; sometimes it twists, turns and is fraught with potholes and other such perils. The only certainty is that real food maniacs -- people who, for example, name their stoves, ahem -- are rarely satisfied with the recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip package.
I am aware of the bitterly divided camps of chocolate chip cookie aficionados: those that like their cookies thin and crisp, oozing with butter that has rendered the cookie a deep golden, almost nutty, brown; and those that prefer a thicker, weightier, cake-like cookie that holds its chocolate chips in a glorious suspension of moist crumb. If your reading comprehension skills are up to snuff, the sentence you just read might give away which type of chocolate chip cookie I favor. (Hint: In one clause I use the word "glorious," calling to mind a heavenly host of angels, all singing the praises of the chocolate chip cookie. In the other, I use the word "ooze," not a pleasant culinary descriptor in my book.) I suppose if you're desperate, either type of cookie will do. Say, for example, it is 3:00 on a Tuesday afternoon and you require a snack yet have nothing stashed in your desk drawer, but then someone from accounting comes around with chocolate chip cookies and even though the cookies' origin is somewhat unknown and they are brown and flat and crisp, and even though you prefer thicker cakey cookies, you take one anyway. And you eat it rapidly and then go searching for another, because you are desperate and people in offices will eat anything that's handed to them or presented on the table in the break room.
Following the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag is a good start; however, complying with it to the letter yields the aforementioned brown, crisp, buttery result that I consider to be Lesser Chocolate Chip Cookie. In high school, I started playing around with that recipe, cutting the amount of butter nearly in half and adding up to one extra cup of flour. I was able to devise something that better-suited my personal cookie expectations and as a bonus I earned the satisfaction that comes from creating your own recipe. I was thrilled and quite impressed with myself.
The adapted Toll House recipe fed my cravings for many years, until 2001 when my mother- and father-in-law gave me a book called In the Sweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley. On page 501 (501!) I spied a recipe for "The Ultimate Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies." Hot damn! A cakey chocolate chip cookie recipe! Then I read the narrative: "Crisp and crunchy have their place in the world of biscuits, but not, I believe, in the best and simplest chocolate chip cookie. If you like chewy, cakey and full to the brim with chocolate, these are for you."
The recipe doesn't disappoint. It is everything I hoped it would be. The large, chewy cookies are greatly enhanced by the coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate, whose angular shard-like edges somehow make them taste more like chocolate than the traditional kiss-shaped chocolate chip. The chocolate is "meatier" in these cookies. When you bite into them, you know you are eating chocolate, not some subtle, shy morsel. These cookies are not cloyingly sweet, even though they are chock full of chocolate. And I do mean chock full: with a full 16 ounces of the stuff, I do believe there is more chocolate than there is dough in this recipe. That, I can assure you, equals a winning chocolate chip cookie that more than earns the "chocolate" part of its moniker. And if you use kosher salt you will be rewarded with a subtle salt flavor in every fourth or so bite, which works and plays perfectly with the cookie's sweeter elements.
So, break free from the back of the bag. Though there's nothing inherently wrong with the Toll House recipe, you just might find that a different cookie better meets your stringent chocolate chip cookie requirements. That is what I have learned along my road to chocolate chip perfection -- a trip that's as much about the journey as it is about the destination.
ULTIMATE SOFT AND CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES
Adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. tightly-packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
3 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper, or lightly butter them, and set them aside. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl.
Place the room-temperature butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl if you're using a hand-held mixer. Cream the butter and sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
Bake 12 minutes, but not any longer! You want the cookies to be only slightly golden brown; if they are neither firm nor dark when they are removed from the oven they will cool chewy and soft. Which is, after all, the best feature of these cookies.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Store the cookies (well, the ones that are left after your friends and relatives descend upon the hot, melty batch) in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Makes about 40 delectable cookies.