Chocolate chip cookies

*hi* she says meekly.

It’s been a while, no?  Though it would seem perfectly plausible given my month-long (*gasp*) absence from this blog:
A. My kitchen has not been under lockdown.
B. I have not been feeding my family fast food (very often) or “dinners” from the freezer section.
C. I have not accidentally nipped my own fingers while wolfing down cookies.
It’s just, you know, April is such a busy month.

I know.  That’s not an excuse for a real blogger. 

But it works for me.  Because I’m not a real blogger, I just play one on this here Internet.

And about those cookies??

Well, there have been a good many cookies around my kitchen lately.  While I haven’t exactly been prolific in writing about them, my Kitchen Aid has been prolific in the production of these delicious bits of wonder over the past six weeks.

Why chocolate chip cookies?

(Really, why not?!)

Because, after a lifetime of searching, I have finally landed on the. perfect. recipe.  To me, the perfect chocolate chip cookie has a specific structure; it’s a full-bodied cookie with lumps of chips and valleys of buttery, brown sugary cookie .  It is most decidedly not a flat, textureless disc.  Oh no.

About the texture, it must be ever-so-slightly crispy on the outside edges, chewy in the middle but not so much so that it can’t hold its shape when you lift it off the pan. And they must be full of chips.

And taste.  Sweet—it’s a cookie, after all—but not too sweet.  These  chips are my favorite; they make for the best, most balanced cookie.  But semisweet chips do just fine, too, and are what I use most often because they’re so readily available in my regular stores.

So, about the rest of the ingredients:  I’m a huge proponent of butter in baking.  The taste is far superior to anything made with margarine or shortening.  Though, I’ll admit, I have experimented with margarine in baking in attempts to create that perfectly structured cookie.  While margarine produces a good-looking cookie, the taste comes nowhere close to cookies made with butter.

Many of the recipes that call for butter direct you to cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, add the rest of the wet ingredients, then stir in the dry.  You know, the back-of-the-bag standard.  So that’s what I’d do, and then I’d bake them at 375° and they’d spread all over and resemble more of a spill than a cookie. 

I suspected that the spreading was due to the butter melting during its spell in the oven, but I was at a loss for how to incorporate the butter in a way that would result in a better-structured cookie.  I tried sturdier flours; I tried hand-mixing (thinking it would incorporate less air so there wouldn’t be that rise-and-fall result); I tried a combo of butter and margarine; I tried applesauce (yeah…).

And, after all those attempts, I landed on this gem in which you melt the butter first.  Until now, I assumed it counterintuitive to melt the butter because surely melted butter will give you a softer batter that will spread even more readily in the oven, right?  Wrong.  Melted butter = fat + water, so when you melt the butter at the outset, the water in the melted butter combines with proteins in the flour, which then, if I understand correctly, become gluten.  The gluten provides the chewy factor and gives the cookie that just-right structure.  Aha!  (After reading Alton Brown’s explanation and figuring that out, I feel all food scientist-y!)

Two other important differences in this recipe vs. the standard: 

The brown-to-white sugar ratio.  Brown sugar contains more moisture than white and lends to a moister, chewier cookie.  This recipe has a 2:1 brown-to-white sugar ratio.

As Alton Brown notes, egg whites draw moisture from baked goods.  So in his “chewy” recipe and in this one, the standard two eggs is replaced with one whole egg and one egg yolk.

So, enough preaching and explaining already?  Ah, yes, the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
from smitten kitchen, with my eternal gratitude

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.

Whisk (I’m usually too lazy, er…hungry for cookies, to sift) together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the dry ingredients until just blended.

Stir in the chocolate chips. Scoop dough into balls (about 2 T. each) and place onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are lightly toasted. The cookies are best when removed at the first sign of toasting.  They’ll set up nicely after a few minutes on the still-hot baking sheet.  Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.