Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Back in my earlier years at my current job, I had the great fortune to work with a really wonderful couple, Andy and Jen. They've since moved across the country, but luckily they live near Laurie's family and we get to visit with them almost every year. They were one of my first culinary inspirations--they even helped me plan the menu for the meal I made the night that I proposed to Laurie! They'd always bring in tasty snacks for everyone in the office, especially around Christmas. Tons of different cookies and treats. But by far, the best were always their chewy chocolate chip cookies. These were perfect cookies that stayed nice and chewy no matter how long they sat around.

One of Andy and Jen's gifts to me was the recipe for the cookies--it's Alton Brown's perfect chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe with some additional pointers and suggestions from them. While I freely admit that I have never made a batch as incredible as the ones that they would bring to the office, I am pretty proud of just how good these cookies are. Even Laurie admits that they are pretty darn good. When Laurie decided this year that she was only going to make a smaller variety of Christmas cookies, and that variety didn't include a chocolate chip cookie, I offered to bake up a batch of mine. Maybe it's a few weeks past Christmas now that I'm getting around to posting this, but c'mon, there's never a bad time for a chocolate chip cookie!

I do generally stick with Alton's recipe, so if you want the full recipe, just go check out the link I posted. But there are a few changes I make and some specifics Andy and Jen taught me that I think really help take them to the next level.

Dan's (and Jen's and Andy's) Lessons Learned:
1. Alton calls for bread flour. I actually chose to use All-Purpose flour. I'm not sure why, but we've made them both ways, and we both think they come out better with All-Purpose. Your mileage may vary. A lot of the recipe reviewers on foodnetwork.com said the same thing. With bread flour, you get an overly cakey cookie.
2. Do make sure you sift the flour, salt, and baking soda. Yes, sifting is a pain. But if makes for a much smoother batter and I think it really helps give you that smooth, chewy texture you're shooting for. And use kosher salt like Alton says. It makes a difference, you definitely get that salty-sweet taste with these cookies. And full disclaimer here--Laurie disagrees and says we should use regular salt. So next time I'll give that a try and see how it differs.
3. Use good vanilla. Andy and Jen turned me on to Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. Some supermarkets will carry this. I think Whole Foods carries it. I've even seen it at some well stocked Giants. We've also found it at Williams-Sonoma. No, it's not cheap, but using it instead of yucky imitation vanilla makes a huge difference.
4. Use good chocolate. While I haven't yet done what Andy and Jen do and actually import chocolate from Belgium, we buy Ghirardelli chips instead of Nestle or a store brand. As you can see from the pictures these cookies go heavy on the chocolate chips, so make sure you're using good chocolate.
5. Don't skip chilling the dough. I usually give it 30-45 minutes in the fridge, then maybe 5 minutes out of the fridge before I start scooping. That's because I'm impatient. Ideally, they should chill for a few hours or even overnight. You want them nice and cold when they go into the oven.
6. They can get kinda "poofy" when they bake so if you like a flatter cookie, once you scoop them onto the parchment paper, flatten them a little bit with a spatula.
6. The last point I'll note is about how long you bake them. If you want them to be super chewy and almost a little doughy, go with 10-11 minutes. If you want them to be crispy outside with a chewy middle, 13-14 minutes. Don't go beyond 14. Even if they look a little underdone, let them finish on a baking rack. You won't regret it. I usually pull mine around 11-12 minutes.

It's really a pretty easy recipe and I've never had a better homemade chocolate chip cookie. So thank you Alton, Jen, and Andy!


  1. Thank you, Dan! I'm going to try these. :)

  2. I made a batch of these tonight for the Super Bowl and tried Laurie's suggestion of using regular salt instead of kosher. I gotta say it definitely gives a different, smoother flavor profile. Personally, I love the salty-sweet combo, and you still get some of that. But using regular salt gives it more "balance" and I'd say less salt taste in general. With the kosher salt, sometimes you'll hit a big chunk of salt in one bite but have a different bite without any salt.

    So, just some perspective for anyone who is trying these out!