woah, september! not sure how you got here but welcome!
it’s funny, now that i don’t have to brace myself for the start of another school year each september, i’ve realized how much i like this month. not only do we have apples, crisp evenings, and maybe even our first chance to pull on a cozy sweater (outdoors, rather than in an over-air conditioned restaurant), but also we get to turn the oven back on!
oh yes. turning the oven back on is definitely cause for celebration around here. all summer long, as we’re roasting like the veggies we toss on the grill, i don’t even consider turning on the oven. if i can’t make it on the grill or the stove top (with our relatively new exhaust fan cranked up – woot!), forget it: we’re not eating it (we do make an exception for birthday cake – but that’s it!).
so by the time september rolls around, i can’t wait to make homemade bread, scones, muffins, cakes, brownies, and, of course, cookies! oh, and maybe some roasted vegetables or something, somewhere in there (since i just noticed that my list was basically all various combinations of sugar and fat…).
right, as i was saying, cookies! in honor of september and oven season (yes, that’s a thing), we’re making chocolate chip cookies. and not just any chocolate chip cookies: really, really good (not toooo fussy) chocolate chip cookies.
you’ll be happy to hear that for once i have actually un-fussed a recipe! for years, i have been a loyal follower of the much-acclaimed (and quite persnickety, if i may say) chocolate chip cookie recipe that david leite popularized via the ny times. i think that was probably what got me to buy both bread flour and cake flour in the first place. and while i keep them both stocked now for other things (e.g. breads and cakes), i wondered if we needed them here, for cookies, or if our first step towards simplification might be to use all-purpose flour.
(fascinating aside on flour coming up. my feelings won’t be hurt if you skip ahead to “tips and techniques”.) i recently received a copy of shirley o. corriher’s excellent bakewise cookbook/handbook and i’ve been loving it. she includes recipes, which i’m eager to try, but more importantly to me, she explains the why behind the ingredients and the techniques, so i can cut down the number of trials i run that yield mediocre results.
anyway, she talks in depth about flour and basically, my takeaway is that there is a reason that many of the legit bakers, both with and without blogs, love king arthur brand flour. they blend their all-purpose flour to ensure that the amount of protein is always 11.7%. other national brands of all-purpose flour range from 9.5 – 12%, which may not sound like a huge deal, until you consider that the entire percentage range of protein content, from low protein cake flour to high protein bread flour, is just 7 – 14%. in other words, generic all purpose flour falls anywhere over half of the spectrum.
chocolate chip cookie tips and techniques
flour science aside, it was the side-by-side taste test that confirmed that we actually prefer the (king arthur) all-purpose flour to the cake and bread flour blend. simplicity for the win!
resting the dough (aka waiting for cookies)
next up on my quest to simplify was that pesky rest the batter for days. days. as in, open the fridge repeatedly, see cookie dough, don’t eat it or bake it. (incidentally, i recommend storing the dough in an airtight container, rather than under plastic wrap, so you might want to pick a container with an opaque lid. just saying…) this step turns out to be a bit of good news/bad news:
good news: this cookie dough is amazing and yields delicious cookies when you bake it right away
bad news: the cookies are even more delicious (noticeably so) when you let the dough rest. ::sigh:: they develop a more complex, caramel/toffee flavor, rather than just being sweet (which is how they are right after you mix the dough). the rested cookies are also both chewier and crisper, as compared to the fluffy newborn cookies.
here’s what i do: make the dough, bake just the cookies we are going to eat right then, let the remaining dough rest in the fridge and bake it later, as desired. cookies now and even more delicious cookies later = winning. the dough also freezes beautifully so i usually portion out the dough once it’s rested for about 48 hours (ish) and then freeze the remaining dough balls to bake later (i take them out of the freezer and put them on a cookie sheet at the same time that i start preheating the oven but i don’t make any other adjustments).
the lighter dough is freshly made and the more caramel colored dough has rested for 48 hours
the original leite recipe calls for really fancy (read: expensive and likely mail ordered) chocolate. we’re not doing that. we’re buying a) what we like and b) the nicest stuff the grocery store has. i’ve settled on a blend of 170 g. / 6 oz. ghiradelli 60% cacao chocolate chips and 113 g. / 4 oz. of guittard 63% cacao chocolate chips.
every grocery store i’ve been in has the ghiradelli; i grab a few extra bags to stock up whenever i find the guittard, as they can be trickier to come by. also? this is what i like. you could absolutely use all one type of chocolate. i prefer bittersweet to semi-sweet and find ghiradelli to be a little bit too strong when i use 10 oz. of it, so that’s why i complicate things and cut it with guittard. (i had to make things complicated for myself somewhere, right?)
i know. i know. 1/3 cup cookies seem ridiculous. and they are. in theory, you could just eat half of one, if that’s too much cookie at one time. but it’s important that they be on the gigantic side so that there is enough surface area for the center to be gooey and delicious while the edges are a little bit crispy/crunchy (but not in a dry way).
oven time and temperature
please, figure out your oven so that you don’t bake these for more than 15 minutes. if your oven runs cool and you have to keep the cookies in for longer, they start to get dry and sad. much better to raise the temperature of the oven on the next batch and watch them as they approach the 15 minute mark.
one of the places we lived, i would set the oven to 360° F because that’s how i could consistently get them to be cooked perfectly in 15 minutes. another place i had to set the oven to 400° F (yes, it was a rental apartment) to get the cookies to bake properly. if your oven is finicky, just bake two cookies as a trial and see how they look after 15 minutes then adjust the oven from there.
these cookies will continue to bake and darken in color as they sit on the cookie sheet, so take them out when they are 1 or 2 shades too pale. once they’ve cooled for 5 minutes, they will be a gorgeous golden brown color.
in the end, this recipe is actually pretty straightforward. regular flour + nice chocolate –> big cookie portions –> bake for 15 minutes = really, truly outstanding cookies. let the dough rest if you have time/don’t plan to eat all of the cookies right away but don’t pass over this recipe if you need/want cookies now. because these are delicious, always.