January 16, 2009

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies


Chocolate chip cookies may be the most basic of the basics (in fact, I think this might have been the first thing many of us ever cooked, standing on a chair and stirring at the counter). To me, they are possibly one of the ultimate comfort foods, delightfully uncomplicated, and the perfect afternoon pick-me-up with a strong cup of coffee. But finding the recipe that is your most perfect version is, well, a bit of a challenge.

I like my chocolate chip cookies flat, all butter and dark chocolate with just a faint hint of salt now and then, crisp on the outside, chewy in the middle. It is the chocolate chip cookie reduced to its most basic elements and then amplified, and it is an elusive combination found perfectly embodied in The City Bakery‘s chocolate chip cookie.

I found this recipe on Chowhound posted by hounds who said it was most like City Bakery’s. This cookie is very, very good. In the hunt for my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, this one is close. But not quite there. I want mine even butterier, even chocolatey-er. Next on the to-try list is this one and this one. Any other suggestions?

Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Words to Eat By
makes about 2 dozen cookies

To be totally fair, in Debbie’s directions at Word to Eat By, she calls for refrigerating the dough. Does anyone know what that would do? I didn’t have an hour to spare and was in a mad dash to make these and ship them off in a care package, but possibly the refrigeration is the one missing step in getting me to my perfect cookie.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2 inch chunks

Preheat oven to 350 F. Adjust racks to lower and upper thirds of the oven.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars on low speed until it is smooth and creamy. Mix in the vanilla and egg and beat on low speed until fully incorporated. On low speed, add the flour mixture. Beat until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the chocolate chunks.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Spoon dough onto baking sheets by heaping tablespoons, leaving a few inches between cookies. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges, turning the sheets front to back and switching racks halfway through.

Remove the sheet from the oven and carefully slide the parchment or Silpats directly onto a work surface. When cookies are set, remove them to a cooling rack. Wait at least 5 minutes before serving or 20 minutes before storing in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.

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  • Pooja: Sarah – first of all, I am loving that I can read new POP posts every day! Secondly, chocolate chip cookies are only my most favorite food so I figured it was about time I left you a little comment. Read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/09chip.html
    Letting the dough sit for 36 hours is part of the magic of City Bakery – maybe that explains the refrigeration. Good luck on your next batch, hope they are perfect!
    7 years ago

  • Adrienne: Do you remember that “perfect chocolate chip cookie” article in the NY Times last year? It actually suggested refrigerating the dough for up to 36 hours, and at least 12, to allow the flavors to comingle or something. I find that refrigerated dough doesn’t spread quite as much, so you’re more likely to get the chewy center with the crispy edges… but if time is pressing I skip it.
    7 years ago

  • Sarah: Pooja and Adrienne, You two are geniuses. Okay, guess that is the magic ingredient. Clearly I will need to do another batch and compare the results.
    7 years ago

  • Jecca: The refrigeration keeps the dough from spreading as much when it bakes. It also makes it less messy to drop the dough onto the pans (silpats, whatever), but that’s a process thing, not an affect on the final result.

    Last time I made dough, it never got to the cookie form. I just ate it out of the bowl in the fridge all week!
    7 years ago

  • Bridget: Yum, I’m going to have to try this. I’ve always been really afraid of making cookies, but maybe it’s not so bad.
    7 years ago

  • jill: There is a recipe in the River Cottage Family Cookbook for chocolate cookies that is so good. It makes a cookie just like you describe and is super simple.
    7 years ago

  • Sarah: jecca, been there!

    bridget, there is so nothing to be afraid of with baking cookies. go boldly! it’s just sugar! :)

    jill, you know, people just RAVE about that cookbook and i am dying to look at it. now i have one more reason to check it out from the library.
    7 years ago

  • Kate: Ooh, chocolate chip cookies … I might have to go on a cookie hunt now you’ve put the idea in my head!

    Also, to echo Pooja, it is great to have you posting so often, it brightens up my day (and hopefully yours too)!
    7 years ago

  • Lisa: Alton Brown has great tips for altering chocolate chip cookie recipes to get your perfect batch. A little google-fu should lead you to it! (The best part about perfecting your chocolate chip cookie recipe is that then you can customize it with add-ins til you get the ultimate cookie. My favorite’s chocolate chip with orange zest stirred in.)
    7 years ago

  • Sarah: Kate, Yes, I love posting more. Can’t wait till I’m really in a groove.

    Lisa, That Alton! He has all the answers, huh? And I LOVE LOVE LOVE orange zest in my chocolate chip cookies. Yum.
    7 years ago

  • Susan: I’ve tried a LOT of chocolate chip cookie recipes and the only one that I feel is truly perfect, is the good old classic recipe in Joy of Cooking.
    7 years ago

  • sarah: Susan, would you believe that I don’t even own a copy of the Joy of Cooking? Crazy, I know. :)
    7 years ago

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