The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, pt. II

      Here it is; I promised the next installation of The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, according to, well, me. Part of the problem here is that cookie eaters have different preferences in a cookie, so it’s hard to say there’s one “best” cookie. But I am close to the best one, for the typical food appreciator’s palate. There are so many things that can be done differently in a CC cookie, so I plan to slowly break down the options and results. The first thing I wrote about was the chocolate in a cookie. I should also be referring to these cookies as chocolate chunk cookies. I have since read somewhere that chunks are better anyway, especially since a lot of chocolate chips have things other than chocolate/milk/sugar. BOO! So take it from the professionals: chunks > chips. A lot of other chocolate-related things were discussed in the first part of this post, check it out here. Otherwise, prepare for some technique talk.

     Today is about butter. If you’ve ever browned butter before, you’re familiar with the aroma and taste that comes with it: caramely, butterscotchy, awesome. It can be tricky at first to not burn it, but once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t take too long, and it’s worth the elevated flavor that comes with it.

     Today is also about time. Time is of the essence as much as that vanilla extract is.

     A friend in San Francisco showed me a chocolate chip cookie recipe from a well-known baker in the city, Josey Baker (yeah, his last name is Baker). He’s famous for his breads and $4 toasts in the hip SF cafés, but his chocolate chip cookie recipe also knows what’s up. His calls for all the butter to be browned. This gives the whole cookie a new web of flavor. At first, it hits you in the face. But once you’re used to it, you only notice when the brown butter is missing. This is how cookies should be: brown-buttery to perfection.

     If your butter looks like this on the stove, you’re close, but not quite to browning. Make sure you keep stirring. Melt the butter on medium heat, and this bright yellow color will come after much foaming has subsided. Not long after, the color will begin to change and the little bits of milk solids that have appeared will go from white to brown. As soon as this happens, move the butter to a new vessel so it stops cooking. There you go, brown butter. I’ve read some recipes that say to discard the milk solids – don’t do it!! That’s where all the caramely goodness is. It won’t poison you!

Once all is done, it should look something like this.

     When I say time, I’m talking about baking time. Josey Baker said something pretty interesting:
     “You should probably take the cookies out before you think they’re done.”
He was on to something. Read on.
     “You’ll know they’re done when they’re a beautiful light brown; the middles will still look a little gooey, but the outsides will push back ever so slightly when you poke them with your finger.”
     Now, I’ve found that this is kinda dependent on when you plan on eating the cookies. If you’re curing a cookie fix and are planning to finish half the batch right away, you can probably keep the cookies in the oven a little longer. When you use Josey’s technique, the cookies take a long time to properly set; i.e be able to pick up without the whole cookie falling apart onto the counter. On the other hand, if you have time, the “undercooking” is great for assuring chewy cookies in days to come. I put “undercooking” in quotes because the cookies aren’t really undercooked. Once you take them out of the oven to cool, they’re still cooking slightly from the hot baking sheets, anyway. Moral of the paragraph: take the cookies out about 2 minutes before you normally would. If you’re squirming in your apron, go ahead and put them back in for a minute.

     Okay enough science, here’s an updated chocolate chunk cookie recipe for you! I’ve been making small batches recently so that 1. We don’t eat as many in the same amount of time, and 2. I have more opportunities to play around with different versions. So feel free to double this recipe.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes about 25 cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, browned
1/4 cup white/cane sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
     ~combine these ingredients after the butter has cooled slightly.
1 egg
     ~mix into above ingredients

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
     ~gradually sift these into the wet mixture, mixing until smooth

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1/2 cup milk chocolate
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs (optional)
     ~incorporate into dough

Chill for at least two hours in the fridge. Then place teaspoonfulls on baking sheets and place in an oven at 375 degrees for 6-7 minutes, or longer for larger cookies. When the edges have rounded out but the centers still look shiny, take the cookies out and breathe. Wait for some time for the cookies to set. This won’t be when the cookies have cooled, but after. Feel free to transfer to a different flat surface. Enjoy!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, pt. I

     My culinary quest for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe started long ago, when my chocolate chip cookies started coming out differently. So I sought after the reasons that different things were happening. I started softening butter instead of microwaving it, intentionally melting butter, substituting baking soda for baking powder, and many other things. Since eating my way around San Francisco, the quest has got real: More to experiment with, more frequent testing, more tweaking. Thanks to Goody Goodie and Megan, I am now experimenting with cocoa nibs! What an excellent idea. Cocoa nibs and two other general concepts, all relating the the chocolate of the cookie, will be presented hither. Prepare for casual serious food talk.

     So cocoa nibs are chocolate before the chocolate gets processed with cocoa butter, milk and sugar into a bar. At nib form, the chocolate process has reached fermentation and drying. You can get them in their husks, which are technically edible but not tasty, or you can get them already shelled. To be honest, I wouldn’t say the nib itself is all that tasty itself either, but it sure does a great thing for cookies. The nibs are nutty, fruity, and quite bitter. You may not decide to pop a whole nib in your mouth like a cashew or raisin. BUT, the floral taste that sticks around in your mouth (not as well after further processing), does a big thing to a cookie. Too big, however, if you decide to omit any other chocolate-ness. Even so, both the flavor and texture are improved with the cocoa nibs. The crunch definitely confuses people when they can’t see or taste a walnut, and it makes things a little more exciting for your mouth.

      I’ve also sworn off and abandoned chocolate chips. Strange, seeing as I’m trying to make cookies of the chocolate chip variety. So when I say chocolate chips, think more chips in the sense of fragments, bits, chipped. I’ve found chocolate chunks to be so much more appealing. I think it’s a combination of size and psychology. Chocolate chunks are usually big, so you’re sure to get a mouthful of melty chocolate always. You may be wondering if the chunks above are indeed bigger than chocolate chips, and the answer is generally yes – but variety is also good: Some small, some big.
     I also suddenly think chocolate chips are child’s play: How many single chocolate chips have you purchased with chocolate chips and not chunks? Not many, in San Francisco at least. They remind me of 5th grade life skills class in the kitchen at ELMS. But we’re in the big leagues, which calls for big chocolate. Plus, I feel way more credentialed when I’m crushing bars of chocolate. “There are chocolate bars in the cookies”. Don’t tell me that doesn’t sound special.

     Did anyone ask himself/herself why we’re always using semi-sweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate in their cookies? Probably not, since the answer sounds something like “too sweet/mild”. Well, to that I say, everything in moderation. Why not throw all different percentages of chocolate in a batter? This idea I also took from Goody Goodie. If you have milk and dark chocolate in a cookie, you’re pretty much pleasing all chocolate lovers! More for your mouth to do. So now you’ve got cocoa nibs, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate in your cookie. Isn’t that a ton of chocolate?

      YES!! Yes it is a ton of chocolate, and that’s definitely the (last) idea here. This picture is actually a representation of what cookie batter would usually look like, so if your batter looks like this, add more chocolate! You should be questioning the integrity of the final cookie with the amount of batter that seems to be missing. But trust me – there’s enough of everything. If you do nothing else from this post, add twice as much chocolate into your cookie batter and watch the magic unfold…melt.

So to summarize, improve your chocolate “chip” cookies with
1. Cocoa nibs (found at your local co-op, or, uh, on the interwebs? Still investigating Wegs)
2. Chocolate chunks
3. Milk chocolate
4. MUCH chocolate. Wow-worthy.

     Thank you Megan for the cocoa beans (nibs inside) from Dandelion Chocolate, also in fact featured on Unique Sweets.

(Click on photos for a better look)

     Nibs, shelled and broken up. They kind of look like brains from the fold-like cracks that make the nibs come apart easily. I would, however, recommend chopping a little after that to make the bits even smaller. Some of my bites were a little too nibby.

     These make up for less than half the total chocolate going into the cookies. But they pack a big punch.

…not to mention the pretty colors! That batter though.
Cutting up chocolate also makes for cool-looking brown flakes in the cookies.
Next experiments are including but not limited to the shape of dough before hitting the oven, oven temperatures, butter beating techniques, chilling variations, and finding out what parchment paper actually does.
Chocolate Chunk Cookies (by me!)
Makes 45 small cookies
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 natural/evaporated cane sugar
~Cream these ingredients together until smooth.
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
~Cream with butter and sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

~Sift these together in a separate bowl, then gradually add by hand to butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

16 oz semi-sweet chocolate chunks
3 oz milk chocolate chunks
1/2 cup chopped cocoa nibs
~Fold this into dough. Don’t panic.

Let chill in the fridge for a few hours, or in the freezer for fewer. Drop tablespoonfulls of dough onto a baking sheet with parchment paper, if you don’t want to wash your sheet later. Place in the oven at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until the middle doesn’t look like a puddle of melted batter. Cool slightly before eating.

How’s that recipe layout? Seems a little more efficient…feel free to comment if you think otherwise. Look out for updated recipes soonish! Happy tweaking!