Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I cut this article out of the New York Times Magazine in January of 2006 and it hung on my fridge for about two months before we decided to make the plunge and actually bake some chocolate chip cookies. The reason we didn't make them right away? The author, Amanda Hesser, listed three different recipes for three different types of chocolate chip cookies, and we couldn't decide which ones we liked best: thin and crisp, flat and chewy, or thick and gooey. They all sound really good, but I'm not really sure which type of cookie I actually prefer. Could I have one that is crisp on the edges but also gooey and thick in the center? Not with these recipes, I couldn't.
We picked the flat and chewy, I think because I like the word "chewy," and they turned out quite well. The salt content is very high for a cookie -- one whole tablespoon of kosher salt -- and I'm not the only one who thinks this. Michellepedia and The Wednesday Chef have also commented on the ridiculous amount of salt (links go directly to the cookie posts.) The Wednesday Chef wisely cut the amount of salt in half, and I think it was a smart move. The problem isn't really the amount of salt, it's the fact that it calls for kosher salt. Kosher salt has big, irregular grains that don't really work well in most baked goods, in my experience. The grains don't dissolve regularly, leaving pockets of salt within the cookies after they're baked. Yuck. We chose to use table salt and corrected the amount so that it was equal to the kosher variety: one tablespoon of kosher salt is roughly equivalent to 1/2 a tablespoon of table salt. Now that I think about it, I'm fairly certain that the problem is the kosher salt itself and its too-big grains.
This article (you will need access to Times Select to view) starts off with a disclaimer: there are many types of chocolate chip cookies, and to prefer one over the other is natural. But preference can cause debates, "the kind of tense debate usually reserved for topics like religion and politics," she claims. I don't know if it's that serious, but it is an important issue: what type of chocolate chip cookie do you prefer? If we don't see eye to eye, I might have to cut off all communication with you. The silent treatment is better than the bombing treatment, in my book. I'm not about to start a war over cookies, but somebody might, so watch out.
These cookies turned out well, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they were the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever eaten in my life. I have another recipe for those -- one I might be under oath not to divulge. That one is a secret recipe and involves toffee chips and chocolate chips. Anyhow, this one makes a very good cookie, but the recipe probably needs some tweaking to be perfect. I just don't want to make that many cookies, so I'll offer the original, non-tweaked version here.

Flat-And-Chewy Chocolate-Chip Cookies
A side note: all those hyphens? They kind of annoy me. Are they really necessary?
Preheat your oven to 325º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1-1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon table salt.
In a mixer "fitted with a paddle" (I get to use my KitchenAid!) cream together 1 cup of softened butter, 1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar, and 1/4 cup white sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. This should take about three minutes. Crack in two eggs -- one at a time -- and beat until combined. Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract.
Now you should add your sifted flour mixture. Just throw it in there, all at once! That's always fun. Let mix until it forms a dough. Fold in (this part I like to do by hand; otherwise, the mixer breaks up the chocolate too much) 2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate. You can use chocolate chips if you want, but I prefer chopping it myself. I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again: I like chopping chocolate because you end up with irregular sized chunks, which makes for a more interesting cookie. I also might prefer this method because you get a lot of chocolate on your hands; it's tasty.
The recipe mentions something about folding in 2 cups chopped toasted walnuts in addition to the chocolate, but that makes them chocolate-nut cookies. I do not want chocolate nut cookies. I want chocolate chip cookies.
Chill the dough, and clean the kitchen while you chill. At least that's what I would do: maybe you're lucky and you have a robot that does that for you (or a super-nice friend. Sometimes D cleans as I work, lucky for me!) Or you can chill while you chill and forget about cleaning, whatever. I certainly don't get to decide.
When the dough is cold, roll balls from about 2 tablespoons of dough. Arrange on your baking sheet and flatten (I use the bottom of a glass to do this, but you can just use your palms if you're feeling crazy) so they are about 1/2 inch thick discs. They should be about 2 inches apart on the sheet after flattening. Make sure you chill the dough between batches so that it's easy to work with and it cooks properly!
Bake in the preheated oven (325º for all of you who skipped that step) until the edges are brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. There's a really important trick here and it applies to all cookies (and probably extends to the majority of baked goods.) Your cookies will not look done when it's time to take them out of the oven. The edges will be slightly browned, but the cookies themselves should appear slightly underdone. They continue to cook after you've removed them from the oven, and the last thing you want is a fresh cookie that has the texture of a stale cookie. So just watch them during the last few minutes of baking, and the moment you think that they need another minute or two? They're ready.
Allow them to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Or you can eat them hot, like I like to do. Hot and fresh chocolate chip cookies? How could you possibly resist?

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