The perfect chocolate chip cookie

Thick and chewy or thin and crispy? How to get the chocolate chip cookie you really want

The perfect chocolate chip cookie

Slightly adjusting your recipe, baking time, and temperature will give you the cookie you're looking for.

James Carrier

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More:  58 favorite cookie recipes 

Why are chocolate chip cookies soft and chewy one time, thin and crisp another? Why do soft cookies get hard, and crisp cookies get soft?

Perfection in a cookie is a matter of individual preference. And no cookie is judged more closely and more frequently than the chocolate chip.

The burning issue is how to make the cookie turn out the way you want, every time. Curiously, most cooks who asked for help use the same chocolate chip cookie recipe—the one on the back of the Nestlé chocolate chip bag. It's a reliable recipe, but subtle changes produce surprising differences.

To determine which factors influence the final cookie, we used the wrapper recipe and baked more than 25 variations. Each batch was slightly different, and changes in proportions, mixing methods, and baking were carefully controlled.

The goal: to learn how to make the chocolate chip cookie that matches your favorite adjectives.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes:

What makes cookies soft and chewy?

High moisture content does; so the recipe, baking time, and temperature must be adjusted to retain moisture. Binding the water in butter, eggs, and brown sugar (it contains molasses, which is 10 percent water) with flour slows its evaporation. The dough needs a little extra flour, which makes it stiffer. The stiff dough spreads less, less liquid evaporates, and the cookies are thicker.

Mass also helps cookies stay moist--big dollops of dough make softer and chewier cookies than tiny spoonfuls of dough. Bake these thick cookies for a shorter time at a high temperature to firm them quickly and minimize spreading. Most important, don't bake them too long--remove from the oven when the cookie rim is brown and at least 1/3 of the center top remains pale. The cooked centers will be soft.

Why are some cookies cakelike instead of chewy?

A little extra liquid in the cookie dough from water, egg, or milk makes the dough more elastic and adds steam as the cookies bake, making them puff more.

Next: What makes a cookie crisp or crunchy?

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