Cooking is all about making meals that taste the way that you like them, right? Add a little more garlic, a little less salt, swap a little butter for olive oil. Whatever it may be, cooking is flexible. Baking on the other hand, is a science. What’s the difference between baking soda and baking powder? Why do some recipes call for one and not the other, while some recipes call for both?!
I realized this dilemma when I was on the search for the ultimate oatmeal chocolate chip recipe. Of course when I searched for a recipe on Google, I came up with hundreds of recipes that were everyone’s “ultimate” cookie recipes. But how do I know if these recipes are the way I like to eat chocolate chip cookies?
So if I didn’t think I was enough of a nerd before, I definitely outdid myself this time. I just spent an hour on The Food Lab blog reading about the science behind baking chocolate chip cookies. No joke. J. Kenji Lopex-Alt is the man when it comes to cookies. I mean he tested everything from chocolate temperature to creamed vs. melted butter to brown vs. white sugar. I mean 100 experiments, 32 pounds of flour, and 1,563 cookies later – he’s covered everything.
I did a little (and much simpler) experiment myself and here are the results! So, a little disclaimer, my favorite cookie is the one on the far right. You can see that not chilling the dough makes a little flatter and crisper cookie.
Servings: Makes 2-3 dozen cookies
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 ice cube
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- About 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped with a knife into chunks
- Coarse sea salt for garnish
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, gently swirling pan constantly, until particles begin to turn golden brown and butter smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and continue swirling the pan until the butter is a rich brown, about 15 seconds longer. Transfer to a medium bowl, whisk in the ice cube, transfer to the refrigerator, and allow to cool completely, about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. (Alternatively, whisk over an ice bath to hasten process).
Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Place granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high speed until mixture is pale brownish-yellow and falls off the whisk in thick ribbons when lifted, about 5 minutes.
Fit the paddle attachment onto the mixer. When brown butter mixture has cooled (it should be just starting to turn opaque again and firm around the edges), Add brown sugar and cooled brown butter to egg mixture in the stand mixer. Mix on medium speed to combine, about 15 seconds. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until just barely combined but some dry flour still remains, about 15 seconds. Add chocolate and mix on low until dough comes together, about 15 seconds longer.
**If you prefer softer, chewier cookies, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate dough at least an hour or up to three days.**
When ready to bake, adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 325°F. Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop or a spoon, place scoops of cookie dough onto a non-stick or parchment-lined baking sheet. Each ball should measure approximately 3 tablespoons in volume and you should be able to fit 6 to 8 balls on each sheet. Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown around edges but still soft, 13 to 16 minutes, rotating pans 180 degrees half way through baking.
Remove baking sheets from oven. While cookies are still hot, sprinkle very lightly with coarse salt and gently press it down to embed. Let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 for remaining cookie dough. Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container, plastic bag, or cookie jar at room temperature for up to 5 days.