Monday, March 7, 2011

My favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes

Do I make you drool, baby?

Ok, so I'm like most Americans when it comes to my love affair with chocolate chip cookies (and cookie dough!).  It has had many stages, my love affair, starting with the super-easy kid's version cookbook I got for Christmas as a child.  You know, the one with the color coded measuring spoons that went with it.  That book began my foray into baking.  And plus-sized clothes, but that's another lament...

Now, as an adult, I've returned to my love of baking tasty treats, for the same reasons I loved them as a kid-- licking the bowl and how yummy it makes the house smell.  Now as a pregnant lady-- I want sweet treats all the time.  Perhaps I should amend that statement to say "Now, as a pregnant lady, I ALLOW myself to have sweet treats often-- in moderation and after I've had something good for me."  I feel this is a trend that will continue post-baby, as I'm not any good at self-deprivation.  (Plus, I'm not currently drinking wine and beer, so I have those calories I'm not using... its got to even out, right?)

At any rate, I have two chocolate chip cookie recipes that I've absolutely fallen in love with.  The first, I found while at a recent visit to my mom's house.  Searching for "The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever", I hit upon the America's Test Kitchen Website (it will ask you for your email address, but not any obligation).  I don't know if you've ever watched that show or not (I highly recommend it, its very interesting!!) but they literally do make the BEST of whatever they make.  Because they test and test and test all the different options, and give you the one they and their general public tasters like the best.  They do all the research for you!  LOVE IT!  Only...

... what they make is often several steps harder than anyone else's recipe.  Its often better because they pay so much attention and spend so much time making adjustments, it can feel like 15 steps too many.  I will admit, I was put off initially by their idea of "browning the butter" first, rather than just creaming it like every other recipe on the planet.  But if you go to their website, they explain, step by step, how to do everything (include properly brown the butter) and WHY they chose each of their ingredients and amounts.  Its like a little culinary lesson just because you want to make a delicious cookie!  It becomes pretty user friendly, actually, because you start to learn what effect ingredients have on your recipe (super important in baking!) and can be fun, so as you find recipes in the future, you know how your alterations are going to effect them before you do it.

And boy howdy, are these cookies delicious.  Everyone who I've ever shared them with wants this recipe.  I've gone to friends houses to show them HOW to make them, because they're so delicious.  They're crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and have butterscotch hints I didn't know were possible in cookies without butterscotch chips.  Even the dough is heavenly.  They're big cookies though, and they DO take a couple of extra steps, so recently, I've been on a hunt for a "I'm having a craving, and I need those cookies NOW!!" super simple chocolate chip cookie recipe.

And I've landed on this one.  I've told you before about The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.  She's kind of my blogging hero, and she makes THE BEST food.  So I went to her website, and came up with her 30 min or less recipe.  Now, they're not as fancy as the first recipe.  They're more of the Everyday Chocolate Chip Cookie, which is perfectly fine, thank you very much.  But she has made some delicious alterations to her recipe, my favorite of which is whole flax seed.  Going back to the whole idea of making my favorite foods better for me... this concept just takes them to a new level while keeping them nice and easy to make.  They're still cookies-- they're full of butter and sugar and eggs... oh man, I think I need a minute...

...Ok, I'm better.  They're still full of all that "bad" stuff that makes them so yummy, but with a little extra added crunch that makes them extra special.

The basic differences between the two recipes are these: the Americas Test Kitchen recipe is a very exact recipe.  I would follow it exactly.  You've never had cookies like this before.  Or if you have, you've bought them at a professional bakery.  They're AMAZING.  Like change your world I can never make Toll-House cookies again kind of life altering.  And they're not really that hard, just be exact.  The second recipe is more of whatever you have in your pantry, a little easier.  She calls for half margarine/half butter.  I use all butter because I don't have margarine in the house; feel free to use what you have.  Same with the milk chocolate/semi-sweet chocolate chips.  They're of course different if you change the recipe around a bit, but they're still rich and delicious.  She calls for flax seeds, but I didn't have any the first go-around, so I made it with flax seed meal (ground up seeds).  It doesn't really alter the texture or taste in any way... but I like the whole flax seeds better because of the crunch.  Its a personal choice.

And we should have choices when it comes to cookies.  I feel very strongly about that!
America's Test Kitchen Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
I've just included their recipe here, but check out the link for the best tips and ideas on how to make these cookies really supreme!

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

Preparation Instructions
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Pioneer Woman's Good Ol' Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies
When you just need a yummy cookie NOW!  The thing I love about her website is that she shows step by step pictures along the way, and then has the complete recipe at the end, so you get exactly what you need.  :)

½ cups Margarine
½ cups Butter, Softened
1 cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
½ cups White Sugar
2 whole Eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2-¼ cups Plus 2 Tablespoons, All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon (heaping) Instant Coffee Granules
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1-½ teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Flax Seed, Slightly Crushed With Rolling Pin
¾ cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup (heaping) Milk Chocolate Chips

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, stir together butter, margarine, brown sugar, and white sugar until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and stir together.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, instant coffee, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients in batches, stirring gently after each addition. Stir in flax seed if desired.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop balls of dough on a cookie sheet and bake for 11 to 13 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and eat warm.

Die from guilty pleasure.

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