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My Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate chip cookies with a deeply complex, rich flavor and a great contrast of crispy edge and chewy interior, elevated by the best salt trick ever.

Discovering your perfect chocolate chip cookie is a deeply personal and subjective journey. It requires an understanding of yourself and your deepest desires, a level of self-awareness that we don’t often apply to the things we eat on the couch at 11 at night. There’s a reason why the title of this post is My Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies, not The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’ve read countless recipes, and thought, “nope.” I’ve tried dozens, and said, “not quite there.” Some of you are going to read this one and decide that this is not the cookie of your dreams. That’s okay. If you like your cookies to be light and cakey, this isn’t for you. If that’s your jam, Food Network has a great recipe for cakey cookies here. Maybe your ideal thin and crispy cookie is in a Tate’s bag, then Serious Eats has you covered with this recipe.

My ultimate chocolate chip cookie is chewy with a crispy edge, but not thick. Chocolatey, but with a flavor profile in the cookie that can stand up and be heard. I want a cookie that’s complex in flavor, with nutty, caramelly, buttery, toffee notes that don’t get lost in just chocolate and sweet. And I want it all with a hit of salt that balances the sugar and elevates the overall cookie. Getting to this recipe has been a long process. I started, like everybody does, with the back of the chocolate chips bag. I liked them (who doesn’t?) but I wanted more flavor. So I messed around with the ratio of sugar to brown sugar. And I liked it. That sugar change was the gateway step to my search for cookie perfection. If I could change that one thing, what else could I change? What could I add? It opened up a world of possibilities, and what turned into years of experimentation to make my ultimate cookie. It was only about 2 weeks ago that the last key in the lock turned, and I knew I was there. But more on that later.

This isn’t a low-time/low-effort cookie. It’s just not. If you’re after a quick batch, use the back of the bag, but do yourself a favor: shift the sugars. 1 cup brown, 1/2 cup white. It’ll change your cookies and make you happy.

Still with me? Good. Prepare yourself, this cookie recipe needs a 24 hour chill. So you’re not having any cookies till tomorrow. It’ll be worth it, I promise. And then you’ll learn to freeze some dough for cookie craving emergencies and all will be right with the world.

Ingredient Notes

  • Butter – Unsalted please. Every brand of commercial butter has a different salt content, and it’s nearly impossible to know how much salt is in your salted butter. This means you can’t adjust your recipe to compensate for it. Nearly all baking recipes start with unsalted butter for just this reason.
  • Flour – I use all-purpose flour for these cookies. I’ve tried bread flour, cake flour, various ratios of the two, and haven’t found anything that truly improves the cookie. I use King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour for nearly everything. It’s my go-to flour, and I love it. It’s got a slightly higher protein content than some other national brands and I find that it works for my baking style. I know a lot of people who swear by Gold Medal, Hecker’s, Bob’s Red Mill, etc. They’re all great, and every baker has their favorite. King Arthur is mine. A note for the southern bakers: White Lily is awesome. It makes great cakes, truly superior biscuits, and that is because of the softer wheat variety used to produce it. If you’re going to use White Lily here, please take seriously the note on the side of the bag to use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons for every cup of all-purpose flour called for in a recipe. If you don’t, the cookies will spread more than is intended. They won’t be chewy in the center.
  • Baking Soda – This is what gives your cookie dough lift when you bake it. No lift, and you have little chocolate studded hockey pucks, which are not delicious. Baking soda and baking powder are not interchangeable here. Baking powder will make your cookies lighter in color and cakier in texture. For my taste, the lift that baking powder gives in a chocolate chip cookie is too much of a good thing.
  • Salt – We’re going to use two different kinds of salt for this recipe; kosher salt in the dough, and a fancy-pants flaky finishing salt at the end. They do different things for the cookie. I use kosher salt when I’m cooking and baking. I like Diamond Crystal, the structure is different, so it measures differently. The recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. If you are using table salt, cut that to 1/4 teaspoon. Table salt is saltier than kosher salt. The grains are smaller and more regular in shape, so they pack more weight into the same volume. Since we’re going to add finishing salt later, it’s important to avoid over-salting the dough.
  • Powdered milk – This is optional. If you don’t keep powdered milk in the house, skip it. I always have the stuff on hand, because I add it to nearly all of my baked goods. It makes your finished product richer, promotes browning because of the milk sugars and proteins, and makes you cookies chewier. It’s great stuff.
  • Sugar – Again, two different kinds: light brown sugar and white granulated sugar. I have settled on a ratio of two to one brown sugar to white sugar. After a lot of experimentation, this is what gives the cookie the best flavor and the best texture. Each of the sugars has a role to play, so all one or the other won’t make the resulting cookies better.
  • Eggs – 2 eggs, standard large. Nearly all recipes use large eggs. Extra large or jumbo eggs will alter the liquid/fat/protein ratios in the dough, and I have not tested the recipe with those so I do not recommend using them. I also have not used an egg substitute in this recipe. Eggs incorporate best into a dough when they are room temperature. Set them on the counter for a bit before you are going to use them. There will be plenty of time during the recipe process to do this.
  • Vanilla extract – Use what you like and what you have. Vanillas vary widely. Mexican vs Madagascar vs Jamaican vs Tahitian, all have different flavor profiles. I prefer the real deal, and my favorite is Madagascar. If you like or use or just happen to have imitation vanilla flavoring, use it! America’s Test Kitchen did an extensive taste test of both real and imitation vanilla extracts, and their overall winner was Baker’s Imitation Vanilla. Their article gets into the chemistry on why, but I was truly surprised.
  • Chocolate – After a lot of experimentation and sampling (it’s a tough job, people) I settled on 12 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped from bars. Milk was too mild, bittersweet was too much, and a mix of semisweet, bittersweet and milk was muddy in flavor. You may disagree. If you love your chocolate dark as night and bitter, go with the high cacao percentage bittersweet. If you have happy dreams of Hershey bars, then you do you, chop ’em up and throw them in there. You’re after your ultimate chocolate chip cookie, not mine.
chocolate chip cookie mid body

How to Make My Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip cookie browned butter
  • Brown the butter. Browned butter is great stuff. It’s nutty and gives great depth of flavor to anything, from cookies to pie crust to pasta dishes. Browned butter is one of the single biggest flavor enhancers in this recipe. In the photo above, there are a couple of things to notice. The first is the big difference in color from where that butter started. It picks up a lot of color as it cooks. The second thing is the layer of browned bits at the bottom of the measuring cup. That is the toasted milk solids. That’s where nearly all of the nutty-toasty-yummy flavor is. You really want to make sure you get all of that into the dough when it’s time. The third thing is the measuring cup itself. You start by browning two sticks of butter. That’s one cup. As you can see, once you’re done browning, there is not one cup left! The bubbling and foaming that happens is the water content in the butter boiling and then cooking off. It is critical to replace that water! The butter and the eggs are the only real sources of water in the recipe. If you don’t replace the water you cooked out, your cookies will be dry. Add water, a bit at a time, until you are back to one full cup. For me, it generally takes about 2 tablespoons of water to replace what evaporated out. Don’t skip this. Once the butter is browned, we need to let it solidify again. Into the fridge for about an hour.
  • Sift together your dry ingredients. That’s the flour, baking soda, powdered milk, and salt. I hate sifters. They make a mess and are just annoying to use. I am much happier with a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. If your kosher salt is too coarse to fit through the sieve, toss it in the bowl after you sift. Set this all aside for a bit.
  • Cream together the browned butter and sugars until it’s light and fluffy. What does light and fluffy look like? That. This butter and sugar mix may be a bit darker in color than you are used to because of the difference in the ratio of brown to white sugar, and the browned butter. This is normal. It should take 2-3 minutes in a stand mixer, a bit longer with a hand mixer.
  • Add in eggs and vanilla and beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is mixed well.
  • Time for the dry stuff. Add in your dry ingredients and mix just long enough to combine. Give the sides of the bowl another scrape down. If there are unmixed bits of flour, no worries. You’re going to give it all one last spin when you add in the chocolate.
chocolate chopped
  • Fold in the chocolate. There are 2 reasons for chopping the chocolate yourself instead of using a bag of chocolate chips. The first reason is control. You can control the size of the chocolate pieces and the quality and flavor of the chocolate. There are a lot of truly exceptional chocolates that you can get in bar form that aren’t available in chip form. The other reason is those little splintery-looking shards you see in the picture above. Those little pieces get added in too, and melt into the cookie differently than the larger chunks do. Those chocolate shards give you small ribbons of chocolate throughout the dough while the larger chunks give a big hit of chocolate studded throughout the cookie. You can see how the two look once the cookie is baked:
chocolate chip cookie close
  • Chill the dough. Do it! I know, you’ve already worked so hard. You’ve earned your cookie. You deserve your cookie, and you want it now. I get it. Wait anyway. It’s so worth it. The flavors meld and develop together while it sits in the fridge, and the flour hydrates, improving the texture of the baked cookie. Your browned butter firms up again after all of that mixing and your cookies will spread less in the oven and have a crispier edge. The centers of your cookies will be chewier if the dough is cold when it goes into the oven. The whole operation improves with some chill time.
chocolate chip cookie salt
  • Salt the bottom of your cookie. This is where it all came together for me. The moment the last tumbler in the ultimate cookie lock fell into place. The finishing salt. Chocolate and salt are the best of friends, the brilliant combination we all discovered the first time we dipped a french fry in a milkshake. So we’ve all seen the Instagram-photo cookies with the fancy sea salt dusted on top after they come out of the oven. I’ve done it. I also didn’t taste any difference. And then, I saw the light, in the form of a Joy the Baker post. This is true genius at work. Joy is brilliant. Just, all-out brilliant. She recommended in an Instagram reel that you put the finishing salt on the pan and then drop the cookie dough on top of it, because the salt on the bottom of the cookie will hit your tongue when you put the cookie in your mouth. HOW HAS NO ONE THOUGHT OF THIS BEFORE? Seriously. How has this not been a thing before? It makes all the difference in the world. The burst of salt at the instant you bite that cookie makes the whole experience. I used Fleur de Sel as my fancy-pants finishing salt, but only because I was out of Maldon at the time. The large crystal size of Maldon sea salt will give a great crunch that you’re going to love. Don’t go crazy, you don’t want to put a scoop of cookie dough onto a mountain of salt, you just want a sprinkle for each cookie:
chocolate chip cookie salt close
  • Bake at 375F for about 11 minutes, turning the pan halfway through. Cool for as long as you can stand before you burn your mouth on melted chocolate.

Cookies can be stored in a covered container at room temperature for 3-4 days. At least that’s the rumor. I have teenagers. This is a not a theory I have the opportunity to test.

Dough can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days as well, or frozen for up to two months.

My Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Course: Cookies, DessertsCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Intermediate
Servings

36

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 

10

minutes

Chocolate chip cookies with a deeply complex, rich flavor and a great contrast of crispy edge and chewy interior, elevated by the best salt trick ever.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 tbsp powdered milk, optional

  • 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

  • Flaky sea salt, to taste

Directions

  • Brown the butter in a saucepan until the butter stops foaming and the milk solids toast to a medium brown. Pour the browned butter into a measuring cup and add water, a tablespoon at a time, to return the volume to a full 1 cup. Refrigerate until solid, about 1 hour.
  • Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and powdered milk. Set aside.
  • Once the browned butter has firmed up, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs and vanilla extract, mix to combine.
  • Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, beat until just combined.
  • Fold in chopped chocolate.
  • Chill dough, wrapped in plastic, for at least 24 hours. No cheating. Or almost no cheating.
  • Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  • Sprinkle flaky sea salt in circles where you will drop the dough, about 2 inches apart.
  • With a medium cookie scoop, drop level scoops of dough onto the salt circles.
  • Bake for about 11 minutes, turning the pan halfway through if your oven does not bake perfectly evenly.
  • Cool cookies on the pan for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.
    Who’s kidding who here? Try to wait long enough that you don’t burn your mouth on the chocolate!

Notes

  • Dough can be held in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
  • Store cookies at room temperature in a sealed container for 3-4 days.
  • Makes about 36 cookies. How many servings that translates into is a judgment call.

I love to see what you’re cooking. Tag me at #jessiescozykitchen or @jessiescozykitchen on Facebook and Instagram!

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