Subject #9: Cook’s Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
It’s been a while since I had some nice homemade chocolate chip cookies. Too preoccupied with my other baking pursuits, I guess. And I still have to try the Vertigo cookies Andrei recommended in the comments to my last cookie post— I promise I’ll treat myself to those soon, maybe after my 14.5 km (9-mile!) training run next week. But a week ago I wanted to make my own and I wanted to try a new recipe. After browsing through several, I selected the Cook’s Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. I know many people swear by Cook’s Illustrated recipes because they do extensive testing and then provide explanations as to why the final recipe is the way it is. This is the first time I’ve tried one of their recipes, and I was intrigued by some of the techniques.
First of all, the butter (well, most of it) was to be melted in a skillet and browned. I’ve never browned butter before, so I was nervous about burning it, which led me to be too timid with the heat. After several minutes of swirling, I figured it was done (they tell you not to use a non-stick pan because then you can’t see the color of the butter, but that’s the only kind of pan we have). And, indeed, I misjudged the color of the butter, because when I poured it into my mixing bowl it was still quite yellow. Oh well. The second interesting technique is that the sugars (white and brown), eggs and vanilla are whisked into the butter, then the mixture is allowed to sit for 3 minutes, then it gets whisked again. This is repeated 2 or 3 times until the mixture is “thick, smooth and shiny”. It really was quite beautiful.
I made the cookies smaller than stated in the recipe and also reduced the baking time slightly. My first impression was good– the cookies looked lovely and full-bodied with a nice texture on top.
The first taste was not successful. Here’s a tip– even if you like your cookies warm and soft, like I do, don’t taste these fresh out of the oven. My first taste was oddly bland and disappointing. I did get a shot to show how nice and thick these cookies baked up, though.
But then– after they’d been cooling for quite some time, maybe over an hour– I tasted again and WOW. These cookies win major points in the texture department, with the brown edges caramelized and crispy and the center thick and chewy, even after it was fully cooled. The taste was robust from the higher proportion of brown sugar, which I loved. If I had properly browned the butter, the taste would’ve been deeper and nuttier. I really have to try again.
This is a seriously good cookie recipe, but not without its flaws. I could have used more salt. I’d intended to sprinkle sea salt on them like with this recipe, but I didn’t remember until I was on the last batch. Also, the fresh cookies were strangely greasy. Most cookie recipes contain plenty of butter, but I can’t remember any other cookies I’ve made leaving my fingers as shiny as these did. Even though I know very well how much butter went into the cookies, I don’t need to be reminded every time I pick one up. It was kind of gross. However, the cookies that I ate a day or two later no longer had that problem.
I’ll most likely use this recipe again. While the New York Times cookies are still my favorite, the Cook’s Illustrated recipe has the advantage of not having to wait for 36 hours to bake the dough but still producing a richly flavored cookie with good texture.