Saturday, April 23, 2011
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
What is it about a chocolate chip cookie that is so enticing? With hundreds of varieties of cookies out there, chocolate chip has to be the most talked about cookie (you know this is based on my extensive research...or...my best guess). The chocolate chip cookie is an American classic. I've relied on the Nestle Tollhouse recipe as my standby cookie for years. It's still a favorite, but I'm looking for something more...the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. A few recipes that have received a lot of acclaim from food bloggers are The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie from Cook's Illustrated, The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie from David Leite and Jacques Torres and the Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie from Alton Brown.
I decided to embark on an official quest, and started my research off with this cookie, which is a variation on Melissa Murphy's Chocolate Chip Cookie with Toasted Almonds that my friend Crystal accidentally put a wonderful twist on. What better way to get perspective on a chocolate chip cookie then to put two up against each other in a side by side taste test? I decided the challenger cookie would be Alton Brown's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.
These are two very different cookies. Crystal's Oops cookies are smaller in diameter (3 inches) but thick (3/4 inch), with a tender bite and sweet milk chocolate and crunchy toasted almonds. The Alton Brown cookie is large (4 inches) and on the thin side (just under 1/2 inch) with semi-sweet chocolate chips. But I thought since these cookies were so different I would get a good barometer of people's cookie preferences.
I had a very unbiased group of folks take the cookie taste test...my co-workers (and one random vendor who happened to drop by the office that day and the husband of one my co-workers). Ok, so this probably isn't the most unbiased, objective group since I feed them regularly with treats (some good, some that are only so-so). But I put together a cookie survey and told them I really needed their HONEST opinions to help me in my quest for the ultimate cookie.
How did these two stack up cookie to cookie? The results were close....less than one point apart. The guinea pigs, I mean my co-workers/taste testers, were asked to rate various components of the cookie, including texture, taste, appearance, color, size and overall satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10.
Crystal's Chocolate Chip Chip Cookie received.....8.0!
Alton Brown's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie received.....8.6!
The Chewy Chocolate Chip came out just ahead on overall scoring. 75% of the group selected the Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie when asked which cookie they preferred. Some factors that came into play on people's preferences were the nut/no nut factor, either you like them or you don't. Also there is a debate on milk chocolate versus semi-sweet. I think the Chewy Chocolate Chip cookie fared slightly better because it more closely resembles a "classic" chocolate chip cookie.
I want to extend my sincere thanks to all taste testers that helped me in this very important quest! I even got one person to participate who normally refrains from all treats brought into the office. He said he had to do it in the name of science! Word.
A couple of baking notes about the Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie. I thought the cookie had a nice color but was a hair too large at just over 4 inches round...using a full size ice cream scoop (4 tablespoon size). When I attempted to make a smaller cookie, they turned out darker than I hoped. I attempted to adjust baking time and temp, but wasn't successful in getting a smaller version with the right color and doneness. I loved the Alton Brown cookie on day one...it had that slight crunch on the outer edges, yet chewy inside. The crisp/chewy ratio is key for me in a good chocolate chip cookie. On day 2, these cookies lose the crisp factor. I thought Crystal's Chocolate Chip Oops Cookie held up better on days 2 and 3, maintaining the same texture as the day it was baked. The test group ate both cookies on day 2.
I really liked both cookies, each offering different elements of a great cookie. Alton Brown's cookie is more along the lines of a traditional chocolate chip cookie and Crystal's cookie puts a different twist on the classic. What I want to do is come up with a cookie that incorporates a combination of milk and semi-sweet chocolates. I love the contrast of sweet milk next to deep dark chocolate. Put that together with a crisp chewy texture and I envision getting a step or two closer the ultimate chocolate chip cookie!
Alas, the quest continues. What would your ultimate chocolate chip cookie be like?
Next up on the test roster is the Perfect Chocolate Cookie from Cook's Illustrated.
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
by Alton Brown
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a separate bowl sift the bread flour, salt and baking soda and set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan on low heat or you can melt it in the microwave heating for 1 minute and then 30 second intervals until melted.
Cream the butter and both sugars in a stand mixer on medium speed. Add the egg, the yolk, milk and vanilla and mix until well combined. Turn your mixer to low and add the flour mixture in 3 batches until just incorporated. Don't over mix. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Chill the dough for about an hour. Using a 3-4 tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop 6 cookies onto each baking sheet. Bake for about 14 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate baking sheets in the oven after 7 minutes of cooking. Cool on the baking sheets for 15 minutes and remove to wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored for up to 3 days in an airtight container.