Chocolate chip cookies, the quintessential baked good anyone with a sweet tooth desires. Don't believe me? Try Googling "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" and you will be inundated with images, and blogs, recipes, and stolen content rebranded by different people. What makes it all confusing is we all have a personal definition of a "Perfect" cookie. You see there is no international standard for perfection when it comes to anything baked. Its a wonderful combination of science and art coupled with the ability to please our customers that help us really define perfection in baking.
I decided to start my blog with this one because honestly, its my "white unicorn" of baking. When I started to teach myself to bake, I was always perplexed by how differently the recipe on the back of the Tollhouse bag could be and never really understood WHY sometimes my cookies would look like this:
And sometimes they would look like this:
And honestly, it was infuriating! I'm sure many of you out there find yourself in a similar situation, and if you are anything like me, you get frustrated and blame yourself. How could you not? You are Googling these amazing pictures of "perfect" cookies that are labeled as "no fail" and tricked into believing they are "the easiest." You look into your oven and see something from an episode of "Nailed it," or even worse, you have a straight up cookie nightmare.
Well fail no more! I have an answer to this problem IF you are seeking to make a cookie that's slightly crispy on the outside with a nice gooey (but not raw) inside. If you prefer a crispy cookie, you can bake the recipe below slightly longer until the cookie is golden brown or search for a recipe with a measurement of granulated sugar slightly higher than the brown sugar (more on this later).
With all of my posts, I may get scientific or technical. Try not to breeze through because understanding some of the basics can help you when you are filtering through dozens of recipes for your next project. I will warn you, many bloggers, celebrity chefs, and restaurants will give you the "almost as good" versions of their recipes. When I say this, I mean that even if all of the ingredients may be correct, something is either measured slightly off, something unnecessary is added, or a step is omitted. This is typically done to either make sure the writer has an edge or to make you feel like you can't do it. I promise you everything on this page are my own tried and tested theories and recipes that I use regularly in my business. These are the for real, down and dirty, bakes.
So, there are 4 elements to a chewy cookie:
If you wander down a baking isle, it can be overwhelming mostly because there are now SO MANY sugar substitutes. For most of my recipes you are going to stick to regular old light brown sugar and granulated sugar. If a recipe has a greater portion of brown sugar to the granulated sugar it will produce a chewy cookie. Brown sugar is blended with molasses. Molasses is a thick syrup that is produced during the refinement of raw sugar. Although Turbinado sugar or "Sugar in the Raw" is brown and raw, it is NOT the brown sugar I am referring to. Your brown sugar needs to be fresh and not dried out. If you are pulling the block out and looking online about how to save it, give up now, throw it away and do yourself a favor and just buy a new bag of sugar. Attempting to blend dried up brown sugar will produce actual brick hard rocks nestled into your batter that will bake to be inedible. Both sugars need to be creamed with the butter ALL the way and for a significant amount of time, make sure your butter is soft but not melted.
It should look something like this:
Please, I beg of you, follow the directions in a recipe. There are no shortcuts. There is no backroad or better way. Baking is very much about the technique. You will be using the Creaming method. In this method, you absolutely must cream the butters and sugars first, add the eggs, beat them for a few minutes, mix your dry ingredients on the side, and fold the dry ingredients into the dough. Do not over-mix once the flour is in. Flour has gluten which is like baking glue and provides structure to dough. If you mix too much after the flour is in you will get brick hard, dried out, and funky cookies.
None! Listen I know butter is expensive and you can certainly bake with the cheaper butter but it must be unsalted (In almost all baking unsalted is best I'll let you know when its OK to sub it out). Salt changes the baking chemistry tremendously and is probably why many people have problems with their bakes). Do not use Butter flavored shortening, margarine, coconut oil, or anything else. This not only affects the flavor, but if you substitute a different fat into this recipe you will have flat cookie flavored, crunchy, discs that will taste like burnt butterscotch. Although butterscotch is delicious, it is far from a fresh gooey chocolate chip cookie. Vanilla is another ingredient that makes a world of difference. Please use Pure Vanilla (I'll post more on this later) the higher the quality, the better it will taste. And finally, make sure you are aware of the difference in your pantry from baking soda and baking powder. The leaven differently, they react to the pH levels in your bakes, and can turn a cookie on its head if they are reversed.
Here it is....the big one. The absolute reason Gooey Cookies are gooey:
You know and I know that when the craving hits, and you want those cookies, you do NOT want to sit around and wait for them to chill, but the cookies you buy at your local bakery or grocery store all have this one thing in common: they actually bake the pucks of dough from a frozen state. I worked in many of them, and I now understand why this is so necessary. Some bakeries do use stabilizers and a person with a good cookie palate will probably taste them in a side by side test of fresh versus commercially processed. The preservatives aren't added to keep the cookie soft, but they make a gooey cookie stay gooey longer.
Ideally, your cookies need to chill for about 24 hours (Note: the recipe says an hour, this is also OK as long as the dough is VERY cold and VERY firm). If I were to be honest, I often freeze the dough just until firm in Pyrex container like this and scoop it onto sheet pans once its like a brick.
The colder and more relaxed the dough is, the more the outside will bake before the inside giving you that perfect crispy border around a really soft cookie.
I should also note that baking them to perfection is a skill. I recommend setting a timer the first few times you bake cookies for about 3/4 of the amount of baking time. Your oven may run hotter or you may be at a different elevation than me which would drastically change the outcome and baking time. By rule, bake these cookies until the outside edge has a slight ring of golden brown and the inside is still shiny but not mushy/raw. If you pull a pan out that is still raw, your cookies will stick to the pan or fall apart. This is your cue to bake the next batch longer. If your cookies are golden brown all throughout, they will be slightly crispy and overdone (to this recipes standards).
Of course in my house, it is our ritual to nab a few off the cooling rack less than 10 minutes after the come out of the oven and enjoy with a nice cold glass of milk.
So, give it a try and stop wasting money on buckets of cookie dough and ruined batches of cookies. Don't look for the most obscure or strange ingredients, and avoid anything that says "Hack." You just need one standard recipe you can turn to that you trust.
That recipe is at the bottom of this post.
If your cookies turn out amazing, leave a picture below and share the recipe with your friends. If they don't come out and you still don't understand why, feel free to reach out to me with pictures of your bake. I would love to help you out.