The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

During the year I was working on my Master’s degree, I went on a quest. A quest to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

You think it would be easy. Google “the best chocolate chip cookie recipe”, and you get about 1,820,000 results. No, I didn’t go through all of them, but I might as well have.

Let me first say, I have a really hard time pleasing myself with my own baked goods. There is always room for improvement. So from the beginning, I think I was setting myself up for failure in looking for the “perfect” chocolate chip cookie. What is the perfect cookie anyway? Everyone I’ve talked to has a different idea of what it’d be–chewy, crunchy, puffy, flat, lots of chocolate, nuts, etc., etc. But this wasn’t about anyone else. This was about me, and what I wanted. I wanted a recipe that was reproducible, a recipe that would give distinct cookies that people would  know I made. I wanted cookies that were chewy, that had height, and that had the perfect chocolate-to-cookie ratio.

I tried a lot of recipes that year. All three of Alton Brown’s cookies. The New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe. Jesse’s grandmother’s recipe (although, mine never came out like his grandmother’s). Recipe after recipe after recipe after recipe. All of them good, none of them perfect. While my roommates, lab mates, and co-workers didn’t complain, I was getting frustrated. Something was missing.

And then I found it.

Brown butter.

Brown butter is magical. It gives the chocolate chip cookies a unique nuttiness. They melt in your mouth, remain chewy even after sitting out on the counter for a few days, and smell awesome while cooking. Yes, there is extra time and waiting  involved (I KNOW, it’s hard), but trust me, it’s worth it. I’ve brought these cookies to work and had them devoured before lunch was over. I brought them to a birthday party last night, and Jesse’s friends were eating them one after another after another (dipped in Riot Milk, but I’ll save that for another time).

Perfecting this recipe has had its ups and downs, literally. Dead baking soda killed one batch. In another, I was in a rush to finish the cookies (probably procrastinating on studying for some test or another) and forgot an entire cup of flour. Recently, I switched to weighing ingredients instead of using measuring cups (do it! It’s so much better!), and used the wrong conversion in one batch. Even with all of the stupid mistakes I’ve made with this recipe, the cookies have always tasted awesome. Using less flour makes the cookies thinner, but they retain their chewiness. But, as you can see, using the correct amount of flour gives perfect, chewy, adorable cookies. Yes, I think looks matter for these.

These may not be your perfect chocolate chip cookies, but they are most certainly mine.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from And Now From Something Completely Delicious, barely.
Brought to you by: Robo Cop 2 (Jesse’s choice, not mine)

The brown butter is absolutely necessary in this recipe, do NOT try and save time by just using regular, boring butter. It took me a long time to perfect browning butter, not because it is difficult, but because I am impatient. And scared of burning it. Take it from me: Do. Not. Be. Impatient. Heat the butter over low heat. Wait for the butter solids to brown. Use your nose–the nutty smell is a good indicator that you’re getting close, but it starts to smell nutty before the butter is fully browned. Simply recipes has good instructions here, if you’ve never browned butter before.

Also, in the batch of cookies in the pictures, I had no dark brown sugar, only light. I substituted 219 g (1 c) light brown sugar and 20 g (1 tbsp)  molasses for the dark brown sugar, and I think it made the cookies come out better than ever. If you don’t have molasses, 239 g (1 c) dark brown sugar works fine.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

226 g (1 cup) unsalted butter
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
219 g (1 cup) light brown sugar
20 g (1 tbsp) molasses
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
350 (2 1/2 cup) all purpose flour
5 g (1 teaspoon) baking soda
3.5 g (1/2) teaspoon salt
12 oz (1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Once melted, continue to cook until it turns golden brown. Stir occasionally to keep butter from burning. When the color has turned from yellow to golden brown, small flecks speckle the butter, and it has a nutty aroma, remove from heat and poor into a shallow dish. Let the butter come to room temperature, then place in the fridge or freezer until the butter solidifies. I put the bowl into the freezer for 15 min to start. Use a spoon to break the solidified butter on the surface and mixed in the liquid butter underneath. I placed the bowl back in the freezer for another 5 min to get the butter to a solid but soft consistency–sort of like room-temperature butter.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper (I used a pizza stone).

Beat the brown butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium high speed with an electric mixer until light and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add in portions to the liquid ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and mix until incorporated.

Spoon 2 tbsp portions onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches in between each cookie. Bake until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Here We Go…

I know.

Everyone and their mother has a food blog. Or a food collective. Or some sort of food-related writing thing where they compile all sorts of recipes and awesome things into one place.

Sorry guys, this isn’t going to be any different.

Honestly, I’m not really going for different. I’m not going for big. I’m not looking for a book deal (although, if anyone, at any point, wants to publish anything here, I’ll gladly hand everything over for the low price of paying off my student loans). I’m not looking for a million people to read and post hundreds of comments. I’m not looking for pins on Pinterest or praise or anything.

What I am looking for is a sort of food self-improvement.

Yes, that is doable without a blog. But having someplace to write my failures and successes down, having an open forum for suggestions and helpful comments, and having some sort of outlet for all of the shit that goes down in my kitchen seems like a good idea. A lab notebook of cooking, if you will.

I am a scientist by trade–a chemist to be exact–so lab notebooks are pretty much second nature. Documentation is key in science. Cooking is a science. So why shouldn’t a lab notebook (kitchen notebook?) be key in cooking? Up until now, that is what I found to be daunting about cooking. There are all of these recipes. I am bad at writing things down. How am I going to remember what worked and what didn’t? How am I going to reproduce this exactly?

This lab notebook idea evolved along with the idea that, as a scientist, I feel like I am responsible for knowing how cooking works, baking especially. I should know what is going on inside of that bowl. I should know why certain ingredients work together, or why you add baking soda, or why over-mixing ingredients can have one effect or another. But I didn’t know this. I didn’t know this until I started doing some hefty (science-based) research on my (long) commutes to and from work. I also came across Punk Domestics, which blew my mind. Now I want to make EVERYTHING from scratch.

It’ll probably take a while for this blog to evolve into what I think it could be. I have a list of ideas a mile long, but I often have a hard time with the follow-through. Maybe I’ll start with my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I worked tirelessly to find one that I thought to be almost perfect. But it isn’t perfect. It needs some work. Some experimentation. Some science.

I’ll be back.