August 5, 2019

Chocolate Chip Cookies, currently

My lifelong favorite cookie and recipe, chocolate chip cookies feature regularly on the treat rotation around here. Although they act like an easy going staple, I find them to be slightly fussy and very changeable. I prefer my cookies to be soft and slightly chewy, with semisweet chips and plenty of salt. I only use real butter (I prefer Costco's) and "good vanilla and chocolate". If that sounds like Ina Garten, so be it. She's still my favorite human being I've never met.

Friends always ask me exactly how I make my chocolate chip cookies so I'll do my best to lay out the ingredients and techniques, because even a little change makes a big difference.

Brown Sugar- I use dark brown exclusively and prefer the Target or Safeway brand

White Sugar- C & H (I get the 10 lb bags at Costco- they perfectly fill my canister as shown above)

Butter- I exclusively use regular salted butter from Costco except when I can get Land o' Lakes or Challenge inexpensively  over the holiday baking season

Vanilla- I always buy Costco's pure vanilla extract. I love the flavor and they finally added a pour spout (I never measure and always dump in extra). This stuff is expensive and delicious. I always mean to make my own but haven't gotten to it yet. My friend gave me a bottle of homemade vanilla for Christmas a while back and I just store it in my pantry and admire it whenever I see it. I love good vanilla. This bottle costs $29.99 at my Costco right now which is a significant improvement from when it reached $38 last year but still a lot more than when I paid $17 a bottle a few years ago. It's expensive but I don't know of a decent substitute. Please leave a comment if you have a source or suggestion. I live in Arizona but Mexican vanilla isn't really my jam due to it's inconsistency, although some varieties are great.

Salt- I use Diamond Kosher Salt for everything at my house except making homemade playdoh (I break out the Morton from the back of the pantry for that!). It's really inexpensive at my local Kroger store.

Kosher and sea salts have a different shaped crystal and softer taste than iodized salt so recipes usually call for varied amounts. For me it works fine to interchange kosher or sea salt but not regular iodized salt. I use 2 teaspoons of kosher salt in this recipe but if you use regular salt you'd want to reduce to probably 1.5, according to taste. I used to use several kinds of salt in my cabinet but space is at a premium and Diamond Kosher tastes great and works well. So I use that for almost everything now. I do have a jar of Maldon I sometimes sprinkle baked goods with. Again, if it's good enough for Ina Garten it's good enough for me.

Baking soda- I buy Arm and Hammer and keep it in this functional and attractive air tight container I found on clearance at the grocery store years ago. When I dropped mine on the tile a few years ago and broke it, I replaced it full price on Amazon right away.

Flour- I use Gold Medal all purpose flour. I like to use freshly ground whole wheat flour for pancakes, waffles, rolls, etc, but for cookies I stick to the classic. I'm not pretending it's healthy magical white flour. Makes a good cookie though. I keep several bags in my spare fridge so I never run out. I buy the standard 5 pound bag and it fits in the same canister I use for my sugar (as seen above). I like using the smaller bags and storing them airtight so my flour is always fresh.

Chocolate chips- I like to use semisweet chocolate for at least half of the add ins. Sometimes I'll add some mint chips, M&Ms (I get the big canister of plain ones at Costco and store it hidden away in the corner of my pantry with the baking stuff), toffee chips, milk chocolate chips (my kids favorite), etc. My personal favorite combo lately is semisweet chocolate chips and M&Ms. That's probably the most common cookie in my Instagram feed. I prefer Ghirardelli, Guittard, Trader Joe's, or Costco (Kirkland) brand chocolate chips (only available in fall/winter at my Costco so I stock up) and don't generally buy Nestle. Everyone has a favorite and it will effect the taste of your final product. My favorite is Kirkland, or TJ's when it's off season.

All that to say- there's a million ways to make a chocolate chip cookie. They're generally delicious regardless of how you make them. This is my (current) method and it will probably continue to evolve. Leave a comment if you have a special tip or favorite kind of chocolate I should try.

One last thing about method- a lot of recipes call for chilling the dough and I appreciate that. However, I usually have lots of kids clamoring for cookies so I generally skip that step.

Anne's (Current Favorite) Chocolate Chip Cookies
by Anne Strawberry
(Printable version)

1.5 cups packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
3 sticks barely softened butter (1.5 cups)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3.5-4 cups flour
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups of chocolate chips or M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cream sugars and butter until light and fluffy (takes 1-2 minutes in my stand mixer depending on the temperature of the butter). Mix in eggs and vanilla for another minute. Scrape down sides of bowl to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.

Add in the flour (reserving a half cup or so), baking soda, and salt. Pulse mixer slowly until combined. Add the rest of the flour if the dough seems too tender. I usually use all 4 cups but your measuring style, temperature, etc will impact the amount needed. The dough should be pretty strong and able to hold its own, otherwise the cookies will be too fragile and a little greasy. Mix in chocolate chips gently, just enough to incorporate.

Scoop cookies on to Silpat lined baking sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes, until they look just about done and are starting to barely golden on the edges. Enjoy. Cookies freeze beautifully in airtight packages. I think they also taste best on the second day.

A note about scooping cookies- it's quite easy and worth it for the uniformity alone. I usually put 12 cookies on a regular tray but if I'm in a hurry (or trying to minimize oven on time) and the cookies aren't too "spready" I'll put 15 on a tray (3 by 5 pattern instead of the usual 3 by 4). I always use my Pampered Chef Medium Scoop to portion out the cookie dough into "regular" size cookies. I got this scoop in 2003 and have made approximately three million cookies with it and it's still going strong. Big advocate for the real deal here, if you know someone. I do have several other sizes of scoops I've bought in person, on Amazon, etc. Some hold up well and some don't. My nearly 20 year old Pampered Chef scoop is still trucking. Little cookies are fun for kids or for parties when people want to try lots of things or not look like they're eating big dessert (looking at you, bridal and baby showers). Big cookies feel extra special for big day- I just bought the large Pampered Chef scoop to replace mine from the local big box store.

If I have any leftover cookie dough I scoop it with my small scoop and freeze the balls on a plate or in a flat plastic food container. Once they set I transfer them to baggies and store them in the tiny nonsensical shelf on the top of my side by side freezer. My 4 year old calls these "ball cookies" and prefers them to the finished product. I regularly see my hungry 12 year old walking by to snitch them. He doesn't think I know. I know. I also know he's happier when he's not hungry and I don't mind him sneaking a little cookie dough occasionally.

Thanks for sticking with me on this ridiculously long cookie treatise. Leave a comment with your big feelings about chocolate chip cookies. We all have them.

Affiliate links used and theoretically support my expensive vanilla habit, although you should definitely post more than once every two years if you're looking to successfully monetize a blog. Now that I think about it I don't think the affiliate links even pay the hosting bills around here. So let's say "used affiliate links kind of keep this neglected food blog running."

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