Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World

One day, I loaded my 5 little kids in my mini-van and drove up to Salt Lake City to visit my friend, Teri.   She had just moved to a new place with a huge backyard.  Between the two of us we had 10 children under the age of 8.  I was looking forward to a chance to reconnect with my dear friend now that we lived about 45 minutes apart.

When we arrived she had fresh, homemade chocolate chip cookies for us.  I was amazed, I was about to double the amount of children in her home, and she took the time to make us a treat.  I should have been the one to bring a treat, except I don't make cookies.  

We grabbed a couple lawn chairs and positioned ourselves so that we could watch our children play together and visit.  I told her how amazing her cookies were.  

"I can give you the recipe if you want," she said.  

"Oh, thanks, but I'm not very good at making cookies," I said.  

"No, trust me, this recipe is really easy, no one can mess it up."

"Teri, trust ME.  I always manage to find a way to mess up a good cookie recipe."  

But Teri insisted that I would be able to make these delicious chocolate chip cookies.  Turns out I didn't need a good recipe, I just needed more detailed directions.  Thankfully, Teri was willing to take the time to patiently tell me HOW to make cookies, not just what ingredients go in them.

Because we were outside, I grabbed a piece of paper from a notebook I had and jotted down the ingredients.  That little piece of paper has survived 2 houses, multiple spills, and being inserted in different sheet protectors and recipe books.  


You'll notice I have two other recipes on it too.  These are the only three cookies I ever make, but Teri's Chocolate Chip cookie recipe is the one I probably make 90% of the time.  FYI, that oatmeal recipe is Teri's too.

You'll also notice the recipe has no directions, somehow I was able to remember what she told me and I've never forgotten what she said. I have never written them down.  

Until now.  

You see, Teri was tragically killed in a car accident last Saturday.  And as a tribute to her, I want to share what she told me on that beautiful sunny day in her backyard.

TERI'S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE


Before I begin the directions, I want to recommend that you use the mise en place techinque.  It really does make a difference, and is a great way to get your kids involved too.  For mise en place you need good prep bowls.  My favorite prep bowls are from Williams Sonoma.   Even if you aren't someone who likes to shop at Williams Sonoma, I recommend you get these bowls.  You'll be glad you did.  Now let's get cooking! 




2 cubes of butter 

Teri told me that the butter needs to be soft enough to whip it.  I use Costco salted butter, but I imagine any butter would be fine as long as it is real butter.  I have learned that microwaving the butter to soften it does NOT work.  What I do is set the butter out the night before so that it is room temperature when I'm ready to make the cookies.  


My favorite tool for making cookies is my Kitchen Aid, but I also have used a hand mixer.  What I have learned is that the butter needs to be whipped without any other ingredients before anything else is added to it.  This is critical.

2 eggs
I use large eggs at room temperature.  When I set out the butter the night before, I set out 2 eggs as well.  In fact, I like to have a small bowl of eggs next to my Kitchen Aid so that whenever I decide to bake, I have room temperature eggs waiting for me.


I add my eggs to the whipped butter one at a time, and make sure each is beaten really well.  I crack the egg in a separate small bowl so I don't get shells in the batter.

1 1/2 c. brown sugar 
Brown sugar and white sugar give you VERY different cookies.  Mixing brown and white sugar give you VERY different cookies.  I have tried them all, and I like how cookies with made with only brown sugar turn out.  Teri knows what she is doing here.

I store my brown sugar in an airtight container.  If my sugar is starting to harden up, I like to add either an apple slice, or a piece of white bread to keep it moist.  If you are pressed for time and have hard brown sugar, you can pop it in the microwave for a few seconds and it will soften right up.

Add the sugar after the eggs and continue to whip until it is smooth and creamy.  I don't know about you, but this is when raw batter tastes the best to me, I could eat it at this stage all day long.

2 tsp. vanilla
I have learned that real vanilla is best to use.  The absolute best vanilla I have ever added to my cookies came from Haiti.  So if you know anyone who is going to Haiti, ask them to pick up some vanilla at the Port Au Prince airport for you.  Otherwise, get real vanilla at Costco or on Amazon.  But most importantly, don't buy that imitation stuff--that is just nasty.

I haven't really found a wrong time to add the vanilla flavoring, except before whipping the butter.  I like to add my mine after whipping the eggs and sugar.  This picture shows me adding it after the brown sugar.

2 1/2 c. flour 
Okay folks, let's talk flour.  Flour makes a huge difference in your cookies.

I don't use wheat flour.  I love to make wheat bread, but not wheat cookies.  They are just aren't the same.  I use Lehi Roller Mills turkey flour.  It's my favorite.

Measuring flour by volume is not very accurate.  The temperature and the humidity of where you are, will determine how much flour fits inside 2 1/2 c.  And if you are measuring it in a half cup 5 times, you'll be way more off than if you measure it in one cup twice and a half cup. 

So my advice is to start with 2 c. flour and then slowly add the last 1/2 c. but stopping once it "looks right."  But when does it look right?  That's why Teri made such amazing cookies, I believe she had an instinct for when it looked just right.  I don't know how to accurately describe what that looks like but I can say this.  Make cookies over and over.  After you have added the flour, make a mental note of how it looks, even take a taste.  Then make a mental note of how your cookies turned out.  If you do this enough times, you'll develop your own instinct for how much flour to add.

Another trick with the flour is you don't want to over mix.  Once I add my flour I give myself a "stir allowance."  Once the flour is mixed in, I'm only allowed to stir it a few more times.  If I overbeat it, the cookies won't be chewy.  Note, if you are using a Kitchen Aid, when mixing in the final half cup, slow the motor way down.  

1 tsp. soda 

This is referring of course to baking soda, and not carbonated water.  Baking soda and baking powder are not the same thing.  I have seen several recipes that call for baking powder.  They make a different cookie.  Additionally, baking powder can lose it's rising agent over time, but I've never seem to have "stale" baking soda.  I'm a huge fan of only using baking soda, and because that's what Teri told me to do.  

The trick with adding the baking soda, is that you don't want to add it to the wet ingredients, and you don't want to add it after the flour and blow your "stir allowance."  

So this is what I do.  I add my 2 cups of flour, and before I mix it in, I add the teaspoon of baking soda on top.  That way it doesn't touch the wet ingredients but can get mixed in with the rest of the flour.

2 cups chocolate chips 

You didn't think the last step is as simple as throwing in 2 cups of chocolate chips, did you?  Of course not!

First of all, don't use milk chocolate chips, and don't use dark chocolate chips.  You want the good ole semi-sweet.  It's the perfect mix of flavor and what I call "meltiness."  While I don't like to eat semi-sweet chips out of the bag, once it is baked into a cookie it has a different flavor that makes a cookie taste great.  

My favorite brand is Nestle Toll House.  I know that sounds cliched, and maybe you have a brand you like better.  But after trying all the fancy brands, I came back to Nestle.  They know what they are doing over there.  

Now remember the "stir allowance?"  These chips are going in after you have mixed in the flour.  I used to try to really mix the batter to get an even distribution of chips for each cookie.  But I don't do that any more.  Now I sprinkle in the chips and stir it maybe once or twice to coat the chips.  It's true, some cookies get more chips than others, but that's called life.


I say, "Let the chips fall where they may!"  

Life is too short to worry about an even distribution of chips.  


Bake at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet

Every oven is different.  Some ovens run hotter and colder than others.  You can try to calibrate your oven, but keep in mind altitude affects how your cookies bake as well.  I used to live at almost 5000 sq. ft, and now I'm at sea level.  So even if I am at a true 350 degrees, my cookies are going to bake differently.  

Not only does temperature vary, but so does the type of heat.  I have three ovens in my home in Utah.  When making cookies, I always choose the one that has the convection feature.  I like how the little fan in the back evenly distributes the heat.  Here in New York City, I have a gas oven.  It changes which rack I'm willing to put the cookie sheet on and whether I'm willing to cook more than one sheet at once.  

In Utah, I just use my old beat up jelly roll pans I got as a wedding gift 25 years ago.  I bake my cookies on a silicone mat so that I don't have to grease the pan.  Before, I would use the wrapper of the butter to grease my pans.


Here in NYC, I splurged and got the Williams Sonoma gold cookie sheets.  I really like them and will probably buy some for my Utah home too.  They are insulated and have a lip that makes it easy to get them in and out of the oven, but the lack of edges makes it easy to get the cookies on and off the sheet.

This is my favorite size of cookie.  I try to make it the size of the inner circle on the silicon mat.  I added this penny to give it some perspective.


for 8 minutes 

Okay, this where I really failed as a cookie maker.  I was baking them for way too long.  

This is the secret that Teri taught me that changed my cookies forever.  Are you listening?  

Take the cookies out of the oven before they are done cooking.  

That's right, BEFORE.  

Teri told me that you want to watch your cookies and wait until they are cooked on the outside and bottom, but not in the middle.  Then she said I should take out the cookies and let them rest for 2 more minutes on the cookies sheet.  The residual heat will cook the inside of the cookie without burning the outside of the cookie.  

"But what if the batter on the inside doesn't get cooked all the way through?"  I asked Teri. 

"It doesn't get cooked all the way through, that's what keeps the cookies chewy." 

"But then my kids will be eating raw dough in their cookies!"

That's when Teri looked at me like, "Oh give me a break, like you don't eat let them raw dough already?"

And that's why Teri's cookies are so good.  They aren't cooked to a crisp, it's more like eating baked cookie dough.

There is a restaurant in Orem, Utah called The Chocolate that pretty much does the same thing.  They sell what's called a Cazookie.  It's chocolate chip cookie dough baked in a cake pan, but only for 15 minutes.  The outside is cooked, but the inside is delicious gooey cookie dough.  They serve it with a scoop of ice cream on top.






Again, this is something that will take lots of practice to get your oven temperature and cooking time just right.  But the trick is to take them out sooner rather than later and let them keep cooking on the stove top for 2 more minutes.  


After the 2 minutes is up, place them on a wire cooling rack to cool.  If they aren't going to be eaten right away, seal them in a ziploc bag or else they will dry out.




Here's the bottom of the cookie.  This is the very darkest I would be comfortable with.  

Other Tips 

Here are some other tips I have learned after making Teri's recipe multiple times.  

  • Don't double the batch.  For some reason it seems to mess everything up.  If you need to make lots of cookies, make one batch at a time.  
  • Don't refrigerate the dough.  Even if you take the dough back to room temperature, they just aren't the same.  I think it might have something to do with the whipped butter.  
  • Don't go crazy with the chocolate chips.  I buy my chocolate chips in large bags from Costco, and I rarely use a full 2 cups, which would be equal to one 12 oz bag.  Too many chips affects the baking time and texture of the cookies.  
  • Don't put cookie dough on a hot cookie sheet.  This messes up the cooking time.  Wait for the sheet to cool before you bake more cookies.  I find that 5 to 6 minutes is enough.  
  • Don't bake angry.  I'm not kidding, whenever I begrudgingly make a batch of cookies, they never turn out.  I think that is also why Teri's cookies were so good.  They were always baked with love. Every single time.  Love really is one of the ingredients, but you can't buy it at the store.  
Here's Teri's Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe so that you can copy and print it.

Teri's Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c. butter (2 cubes) whipped at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. real vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Whip the butter, then add eggs one at a time and continue whipping.  Add brown sugar and whip until thoroughly mixed.  Add vanilla.  Mix in flour and baking soda and stir until combined.  Add chocolate chips.  Divide into 24 portions.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes and let rest on the cookie sheet for an additional 2 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight bag or container. 


Note: Product endorsements are my own.  I did not receive compensation from Kitchen Aid, Costco, Nestle, Lehi Roller Mills or Williams Sonoma.  (But I should!) 

To learn more about my horrible attempts to make cookies and Teri's willingness to teach me, click on the story below.

How I Learned to Make Chocolate Chip Cookies at the Age of 33. 

To learn more about my beautiful friend Teri, click on the story below.

Teri Taylor -- Master Chocolate Chip Cookie Maker


To help with Teri's funeral expenses donate here.