Two days ago, Christopher Kimball (@cpkimball), founder of America’s Test Kitchen, tweeted this:
The “Best” Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe? You try it and let me know!
So I did.
Having a son perennially hungry for cookies, it’s never a question of what kind of cookies to make—it’s more like, how fast can I bake them? An entire batch can go in a matter of two or three days, and since chocolate chip cookies are his favorite kind, I couldn’t resist the call. Especially not when the call came from Christopher Kimball, who is just about the only male television personality I look forward to watching more than Hugh Laurie of House, M.D. Come to think of it, I haven’t watched House, M.D. in a while, but continue to watch America’s Test Kitchen every chance I get. So I guess Mr. Kimball’s pulling ahead in the polls.
Uh-huh. We can have polls in our house. It could happen.
I read the recipe and immediately wanted to try it out. Two things intrigued me the most: the use of browned butter, and the whisk-rest-whisk-rest way of mixing the wet ingredients before combining with the dry. Here was something that was fundamentally different, instead of simply modifying ingredient amounts. It satisfied the geek and the chocoholic in me.
The recipe calls for browning the butter in a stainless steel skillet, which makes it easier to judge just how brown the butter is.
Note that the original recipe calls for butter that’s a deep golden brown, darker than my photo above. I was being a wimp and was scared I might burn the butter, so I pulled it out early. What I’m saying is, don’t worry if your butter looks much darker! That’s actually how it’s supposed to be.
Then you add the sugars and the eggs, repeatedly whisking and then letting the mixture rest a while before whisking it again. Look Ma, no mixer! Plus, I get to use the resting periods to clean up after myself and feel super efficient and productive and all.
It doesn’t take much, I know.
These puppies were BIG. I usually make smaller cookies and can fit about 12 to 15 in one of my sheets. For this, I only had room for about 8 cookies.
Another thing I loved about this recipe is that you just let them set on the baking sheet, which you leave on a wiring rack. No need to transfer the cookies out. Which is great for me, since I tend to forget about them and leave them on the sheets too long.
So, moment of truth. These cookies?
They were some of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve had. The edges were slightly crisp, the center moist, chewy and oh-so-chocolaty. I knew these would be discernibly different as soon as I mixed the sugars with the browned butter. The resulting sugary sludge smelled so nutty, and after mixing in the eggs, the thick goo had a lovely caramel taste and aroma. I think it produced a unique depth of flavor, and I’m trying to hold myself back from taking a break right now and grabbing another one.
Ah, Mr. Kimball. You’re so good, and yet so bad for me. Thank you. I think.
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 sticks butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour and baking soda in a bowl. Whisk and set aside.
Melt 1 1/4 sticks butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Keep swirling until butter has a dark golden brown color and a nutty aroma, about 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer it to a bowl and mix in the remaining butter until melted.
Add the sugars, salt, and vanilla to the butter and mix well. Add the egg and the extra yolk; whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds. Let it rest for 3 minutes, then whisk again for about 30 seconds, before letting it rest again. You’ll want to whisk this about 4 times, until you have a thick, glossy, and smooth mixture.
Gently stir in the flour and baking soda just until combined. Stir in the chocolate and nuts.
Form dough balls about 3 tablespoons in size, and place them on a lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-14 minutes (mine took 10 minutes), then put the baking sheet on a cooling rack and let the cookies cool on the sheets.
So, was this indeed the “best” chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve tried? Pretty much. And if not, then they’re awfully, awfully close. But I’d say most likely yes. Although … hmmm …
I think another taste-test is in order, just to be sure. You know me. I’m all about responsible reporting.