chocolate chip cookie study

A Cookie Study

I‘m quite sure that cookies are my most favorite thing to bake, and it’s because I don’t think there’s anything not to love about them. Well, other than the fact that, you know, enjoying too many would most likely make you a bit queasy.

Amidst all the cakes and pies and ice cream you can find in the blog archives, I’ve always believed cookies win at being the easiest recipe for the most pay off. There have been many times I’ve spent the entire day baking and collapse onto my bed. Spent, with tired feet and pruny dishwasher hands. When it comes to a solid chocolate chip cookie, the hardest part is letting the dough rest in the fridge and not sneaking too many bites (more on this method and the importance of it later).

I am never tired after baking cookies. Whipping up a batch of cookie dough takes virtually no time at all. It’s simple and no fuss. You’re not painstakingly measuring out every ingredient with a scale because a few grams off and you risk sudden doom. They are not delicate and when made right, are always delicious regardless of your eggs being at room temperature or your butter a tad too soft.

There are thousands of cookie recipes, hundreds from all different cultures around the world, from different decades and different traditions. My favorite of these are the good old classic, the tried and true, chocolate chip cookie. I have made many different versions and tried a handful of different recipes, all claiming to make the best cookie. This time around, I’m settling this debate for myself and attempting to figure out what really makes the best chocolate chip cookie.


Table of Contents
i. Introduction
ii. Ingredients
• Flour: all-purpose, bread, rye, toasted?
• Butter: melted, browned, or creamed
• The Best Damn Chocolate
iii. Method
• Getting the Perfect Circle Cookie Shape
• Baking Times + Temperature
iv. Conclusion

Introduction

As a bit of a science nerd, chocolate chip cookies fascinate me. For a long time, I was convinced I’d found my go-to recipe, only to later try another highly recommended one that would also convince me of deserving a space in the “reserved for best chocolate chip cookie” section of my heart.

Most, if not all, of these recipes contain all-purpose flour, granulated white and brown sugar, vanilla extract, egg, and a decent amount of butter for a higher fat ratio. I’ve also frequently noted the key to a good chocolate chip cookie utilizes these three components: (1) good quality dark chocolate, (2) sprinkling chunky flakes of salt on top, (3) resting your dough for at least 24 hours before baking.

How can two recipes with basically the same ingredients and methods ultimately change the composition and taste of a cookie? What makes one method superior over the other, or is there even really much of a different after all? Though had on good authority, there were so many questions I needed to answer for myself before truly believing in. It was only a matter of time before I caved and started my own cookie study.

I am so excited to begin this little cookie experiment and take you all along with me! So please, grab a glass of milk and follow along as I uncover the steps to the perfect cookie 🙂

Some notes: After reading this Buzzfeed article, I’ve decided on starting with Tara O’Brady’s recipe as my base. Cookies will be taste-tested between myself, friends, and most likely the staff in my apartment building. As time permits, I’ll be adding new articles to this post once a week, focusing on each step outlined in the Table of Contents above.

This study has also been inspired by the beautiful chocolate chip cookies of Serious Eats and NYT Cooking.

fork to belly ultimate chocolate chip cookie

Baking Times + Temperature

Initially, I wasn’t planning on skipping around while tackling each category. However, I realized early on that figuring out an optimal baking time and temperature would allow me to keep the cookies consistent and give more accurate results in the taste-testing stage.

Do yourself a favor and GET AN OVEN THERMOMETER. I have a fairly good oven and even at that it is at its best still 15-20 degrees off.

Use the regular bake setting, not convection. Though convection is designed to create a more even amount of heat, I found that my results were unpredictable. The cookies came out lopsided, others not cooked evenly. Though I had to rotate my baking trays halfway through, the regular bake setting gave me much better results.

360°F is in fact the best temperature for these cookies. Baking at a lower temperature resulted in either a cookie that was underbaked (completely soft) or overbaked (not soft enough in the center) when trying to accommodate the temperature change with a few extra minutes of baking time. 360°F created a cookie that was soft in the middle and crispy on the outside, and a very incredible oomph of caramel/buttery flavor that none of the cookies baked at a lower temp had.

fork to belly ultimate chocolate chip cookie

Now that we’ve determined our best temperature for cookies, let’s talk about baking time! As you can see in the photo above, there’s a pretty significant difference between 1-2 minutes. The very best cookie spent approximately 10 minutes in the oven at 360°F. There is a slight caveat here. 10 minutes yielded that perfect soft middle and crispy shell consistency after cooling on the counter for a few minutes. However, by the next day the cookie was not nearly as soft anymore. The 9 minute cookie retained a little more of that softness but did slightly lack the same flavor as the 10 minute cookie and also appeared much too soft when first removed from the oven. If you’re not planning on enjoying your cookies the day of, I recommend letting them cool to room temperature (enjoying one right then) and freezing until ready to eat. The cookies defrost pretty quickly and still taste wonderful/retain their texture.

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About Courtney C.

  • COURTNEY! I am also a chocolate chip cookie nutbar fanatic … I’ve made so many different recipes and I agree, how can something seemingly so simple be SO different based on varying ratios and methodologies?? WTF, cookie! Anyway my latest favourite cookie is by Sarah Kieffer, from her cookbook. It involves slamming the cookie pans in between baking, an unorthodox but sneakily clever method of getting these delicious ridges, and flatness, to a cookie. I made those, baked a few right away but also froze balls of it and baked those off too – both so good, sprinkled with fleur de sel. I also just made a chocolate chip cookie by a gal called Rage Bake which was featured on Bon Appetit – they were effing good too. I can tell if a cookie will be to my liking based on the recipe ingredients – 3 cups of flour and I can usually tell it’s too floury and puffy for me. I like lower amounts of flour personally … flat and crispy/chewy … I am very excited about your experiments!!! xo

    • Same same same! I just bookmarked those two recipe and am definitely making some more cookies this weekend to add my findings to this post! I’ve seen Sarah’s version around and have been totally drooling just looking at those beautiful crisp ridges….. Thank you so much for passing all the info along, Lyndsay!! :3

  • Rebecca@ Figs and Pigs

    So excited for this Coutney such a great idea cant wait to follow along. xx