When my husband and I were dating, I worked in the pastry kitchen of a luxury hotel. I’d bring him leftover chocolate chip cookies and other treats. His friends at work quickly grew to like me. (I think the pastries helped.) When I eventually met his friends, they’d all say “Oh you’re the one that makes all the desserts?!” I have to admit, I felt a little famous.
But then, I quit the culinary business. It turns out, it’s hard to make rent in Los Angeles, pay $50k in culinary school loans, and stay sane. This meant one thing: a severe pastry shortage. It wasn’t long before he was clamoring for some treats. Chocolate chip cookies to be exact. Now, I had only known “real” cooking in an industrial kitchen. To say I was spoiled would be an understatement. We had convection ovens with rotating baking racks, huge bins of ingredients at my disposal, large flat baking sheets, silicone baking mats out the wazoo, and, of course, giant industrial mixers. Lots of them.
Make chocolate chip cookies? In my apartment? It just wasn’t right! I felt like I was an artist being asked to paint a masterpiece with finger paint. And fingers. My oven was probably one step above an Easy Bake Oven, my baking sheets were all wrong, and most importantly, I didn’t have a mixer. He asked a number of times if I could just mix it by hand. Cream sugar and butter by hand?! Good god man. It’s like you’re asking for a disaster.
You can only tell a man “No” so many times before he starts fixing things. For Christmas I got the biggest baddest Kitchen aid mixer sold in local stores. It had to be the biggest capacity sold for non-commercial use. It had to have a bowl that lifted up instead of the top that dropped down. I had requirements people. He even gave it to me early so I could be coaxed into cookies for the holidays.
So then I made chocolate chip cookies. And? He wasn’t a fan. What?!
It’s the oven! It’s the baking sheets! Eventually, I gave in and got some good baking sheets. I cut my full sheet pan sized silicone baking mat down to fit. I watched the oven like a hawk.
I made more chocolate chip cookies. He wasn’t a fan. Too hard! Too cakey! Why can’t you just make them like Subway does? What kind of professionally trained cook, much less an awesome wife, can’t make their husband chocolate chip cookies that they loved? (I may have a few issues, I’m not disagreeing). This bothered me. My coworkers, who got the “rejects”, didn’t seem to mind. He was right though, they weren’t amazing.
I tried black market Subway cookie recipes. I tried recipes off the backs of chocolate chip bags, out of old cookbooks, out of new cookbooks, and all the “soft chewy and amazing chocolate chip cookie” recipes I could find online. He wasn’t a fan.
One night, we were at a friends house. She made chocolate chip cookies and he raved about them!! I stared in disbelief! Four years of trial and error, professional pastry shop experience, and culinary worth went up in a cloud of smoke. I hung my head, asked for the recipe, and went home to try it myself.
It worked. We had found “it”. Turns out, I was going to get asked to make chocolate chip cookies a LOT more now. Late at night. 10 minutes before our dinner party was about to come over. The night before a friends going-away party at work. Let’s just say (1) I shop at Costco for all of these ingredients and (2) now I know that 25 pounds of brown sugar fits into five 1-gallon sized zip lock bags.
The Four Years of Trial and Error Soft Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Winner
- 3/4 c Unsalted Butter
- 2 C + 2 T All Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 c Sugar
- 1 c (packed) Brown Sugar
- 1 Egg + 1 Egg Yolk
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 1/2 c Semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 3/4 c Chocolate Chips and 3/4 c Walnut pieces)
Melt the butter in a sauce pot. Take off the stove and let it start cooling once it’s melted. (If the butter is too hot, the sugar will melt instead of cream with the butter.)
While you’re waiting for the butter to melt and cool, gather the following dry ingredients and stir with a fork or whisk. (You don’t want to rely on the mixer dispersing the baking powder and salt. By then, the dough will be overworked and the cookies will be too tough.)
- 2 c 2 T all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
Set your mixer up with the paddle attachment. Mix 1/2 c cane sugar and 1 c packed of brown sugar (golden) until combined.
Once the butter has cooled, mix the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl until smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom with a spatula and paddle again briefly.
Combine the whole egg and egg yolk in a small bowl. While the mixer is running (medium to low is fine), drop in one egg. Mix until combined, scrape down the sides and bottom and paddle again to insure it’s mixed. Repeat with remaining egg/yolk.
Add 2 tsp of vanilla extract and mix until combined. Make sure you don’t see any signs of sugar or melted butter.
With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until it’s almost combined. You don’t want to over mix the dough but the flour should at least be mostly mixed in.
Dump the semi sweet chocolate chips and walnut pieces (optional). Paddle on low for a couple seconds then stop the mixer. Use a spoon or spatula to finish folding in the chocolate chips and walnuts into the dough. If you see any really soft and liquidy dough or pockets of flour or sugar, it’s not mixed yet.
The best way to portion out cookies is with an ice cream scoop. Restaurant supply stores sell them for ~$6 ea. These are amazing because they very quickly measure out equal sized cookie dough balls. This means your cookies will be round, cook evenly, and satisfy your obsessive compulsive side. No more “rounded teaspoons” when scooping cookies. Please. No more.
You also want to use thick baking sheets, not flimsy ones, lined with silicone baking mats. Go ahead and try it without them, but you’ll end up with overcooked cookie bottoms and undercooked tops. Your cookies will probably stick to the pan too. Silicone mats will solve all of these issues. Trust me, I’ve tried every which way around them: parchment paper, lower oven temperatures, varying the level in the oven, etc et . Silicone mats are the best way to go.
Lastly, you want to use the palm of your hand to evenly flatten each cookie to about 1/4″ thick. If it makes a jagged edged cookie, use your fingers to quickly and gently round it out. Jagged edges and cracks increase surface area, which may affect cooking time and ultimately, the quality of the cookie. A few seconds here may save the poor thing.
Bake for 6 minutes at 325 F spaced out in the oven. The top tray shouldn’t be too high and the bottom tray shouldn’t be too low in the oven. After 7 minutes is up, switch the trays so that one doesn’t cook more than the other. Bake for 6 more minutes (for chewy almost-underdone cookies) or 8 more minutes (for crispy but still a little soft) then take them out to cool. Leave the cookies on the silicone mat to cool. They may look a little underdone and that’s OK. They will continue to cook while they’re out of the oven. Once they’ve cooled to room temperature, they’re ready to go!
If you skip on any of these tips, you will certainly have tasty cookies but they may not live up to their full potential. I hope you consider making a few investments to get some amazing soft chocolate chip cookies!