I suppose most of us already have a go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe that we swear by or bake with over and over again. Chocolate chip cookies are one of those simple, fuss-free things to bake, especially when you are just starting out on your baking journey. It is also one that gathers most ingredients you might already have in your pantry – butter, brown and caster sugars, fresh eggs, leavening agents, different flours, and a plethora of different chocolates. With a gazillion recipes out on the internet, it tends to differentiate in its proportion of ingredients, with each differing variable resulting in a cookie of contrasting textures – one that is thin and crisp, or thick and gooey, chewy middles and wrinkly, crisp edges, or cakey. Most of the times, depending on the types of ingredients used, it usually always turns out good (lest the cakey one, cos’ I least prefer it).
A note on ingredients
As the recipe relies on mostly basic ingredients you most probably already have in your pantry, I cannot help but emphasise on the importance of the use of quality ingredients. The quality of your butter, vanilla, and chocolates really matters as it is the source of flavour that makes your chocolate chip cookie.
As I have briefly explained the use of high quality chocolate couverture – and not compound chocolate – in the Levain-Style Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, the tasting notes, cocoa/sugar content, and size of the chocolate contributes to the final taste and outcome of your cookie. I like to use an array of different chocolates, with different sizes (i.e., fèves and callets), and different tasting notes (roasted, nutty, floral, tangy), which gives the cookie a greater complexity of flavour and texture. The recipe calls for a mix of bittersweet and milk chocolate: the former imparts the deep, dark chocolaty notes, characteristic of a chocolate chip cookie, whilst the milky, creamy quality of the latter complements the butterscotchy and nutty cookie base. Whilst the proportion of bittersweet or milk chocolate is adjustable to your personal preference, do note that using more of either types of chocolate will alter the balance of sweetness. I personally use a mix of Valrhona 66% Caraïbe bittersweet chocolate fèves and Callebaut 33.6% milk chocolate callets, but do use your favourite chocolates.
Apart from the quality of chocolate, which lends the most prominent flavour profile of your cookie, the flavour of vanilla complementarily supports and adds depth to it. Hence, it is paramount to use the best quality vanilla you are able to get your hands on. Be it vanilla powder (made of pulverised vanilla bean pods), vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract, ensure that it is pure vanilla, and not chemically engineered vanilla imitation or vanilla-flavoured essence. It will definitely be one of your most expensive baking ingredients, but it lends a complex depth of flavour that is unparalleled. Be it Tahitian vanilla, Mexican vanilla, or Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, the use of different vanilla bean (or bean paste, in this recipe) imparts different flavour profile that complements the butterscotch cookie base. I use Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar bourbon vanilla bean paste for the most part, but interchange with Tahitian vanilla extract (more floral, fruity in flavour) for a slightly varied flavour profile. Please, please get your hands on pure vanilla bean paste, it will be your most rewarding purchase in your baking journey.
The recipe requires some time ahead for the cookie dough to age and mature in the refrigerator. Resting the dough in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours allows flavours to develop complexity and meld together. The resting period also allows the fats to solidify and the flour to properly hydrate the moisture from the eggs and butter, yielding an evenly baked cookie with the intended texture – crisp-chewy edges and soft, gooey middle, with very rustic looking wrinkly edge every single time.
CLAIRE SAFFITZ’S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(Adapted from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person)
227g unsalted butter, room temperature
28g heavy whipping cream or whole milk, cold (I use whole milk)
150g light brown sugar (or dark brown sugar, if that’s what you have)
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs, cold
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
15g good quality vanilla bean paste (I use Nielsen-Massey)
1 teaspoon baking soda
260g all-purpose flour
162g good quality bittersweet chocolate feves, half roughly chopped
122g good quality milk chocolate, half roughly chopped
A light sprinkle of fleur de sel
Measure out 114g of butter and set aside in a large bowl.
Browning the butter. In a saucepan, cook the remaining 113g of butter on medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fully melted. When the butter comes to a boil, lower the heat and continue stirring with a heatproof spatula, while scrapping the bottom and sides of the saucepan to prevent the milk solids from sticking and burning. Stay cautious whilst stirring as the butter will spatter and foam as the water evaporates. After stirring for approximately 5 to 7 minutes, the butter will foam up and brown bits will float amongst the foam. Apart from the visual cues, another telling sign that it is ready is that the nuttiness from the toasted milk solids in the butter will permeate the kitchen. Remove the saucepan from the hob immediately.
Pour the browned butter into the large with the rest of the butter, making sure that you scrape in all the browned milk solids (Note: this is crucial as the browned bits carry loads of flavour that will add to the fragrance of the cookie). Let the browned butter cool to room temperature in another bowl filled with ice.
Add in cold cream or whole milk (no need to stir as yet).
In another bowl, sift all-purpose flour, fleur de sel, baking soda in a bowl. Whisk until well-incorporated and set aside.
When the browned butter mixture has cooled down to room temperature (it can be lukewarm, just make sure that it is not hot), whisk in light brown sugar, and caster sugar until the mixture is smooth and thick for about 45 seconds. Make sure that the sugars are well-combined into the browned butter mixture.
Slowly add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk until homogeneous. Ensure each egg is well mixed into the mixture before adding the next.
Add in vanilla bean paste and whisk until the mixture is smooth and satiny (as Claire describes), making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl, with no unmixed eggs or vanilla.
Switch to a flexible spatula and stir in the dry ingredients until barely blended. When things are still looking a bit floury, stir in the chocolate fèves and callets until all of the ingredients are just combined. This prevents overmixing the cookie dough.
Lay clingfilm on the countertop, cover the cookie dough tightly to avoid the cookie dough from drying out and set in fridge for at least 12 hours, up to 48 hours. (I let mine rest for 24 hours).
After resting for a day, apportion the cookie dough into balls with an 2-ounce ice cream scoop or quarter cup measure. If you prefer to be more precise, weigh out each cookie dough ball to approximately 2 ounces, or 56g each. Note: If you have chosen to refrigerate overnight, let the cookie dough thaw out at room temperature for five minutes before proceeding to apportion it (or skip this step entirely). After apportioning the cookie dough balls, freeze it for 30 minutes, or up to a month, before baking.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C.
Depending on the size of your baking tray, place 4 to 6 chilled or frozen cookie dough balls, spacing them at least 3 inches apart to allow space for them to spread. Note: this is crucial to prevent risking the cookie converging into one big cookie.
Bake for 16 to 17 minutes or until dark golden brown on the edges. Right when you remove the baking pan from the oven, gently drop the baking pan down onto the kitchen counter a few times, deflating the puffed middle. The pan-banging will help create wrinkly ridges around the edges of the cookie.
Let it cool on the baking pan for at least 10 minutes to set. Lightly sprinkle atop with fleur de sel.
TIP: If your cookie is misshapen upon baking, use the back of the spoon to gently prod the protruded edges of the cookie and form it back into a round. Though, a free-form cookie can look pretty rustic too!
TIP: Substitute the suggested types of chocolates with your favourite ones. Seek out different chocolates with various tasting notes, different sized chocolates (in fèves or callets), as it melts nicely into gooey chocolate puddles! I would, however, add a good amount of bittersweet chocolate - at least 60% cacao - so the cookie will be more balanced and not overly sweet. I highly recommend Valrhona or Callebaut. The choice is endless, but I would recommend against using compound chocolate or chips.
NOTE: If you do not want to bake everything up, the extra dough keeps nicely in the freezer for up to a month, or tightly wrapped in the fridge for up to 5 days. Good for that midweek cookie craving!
Yields approximately 18-19 cookies, depending on the size of your cookies.
The best way to serve it is with a cup of cold milk. I really love having the chocolate chip cookie warm – though, really let cool a little cos' your cookie won't hold its shape straight out of the oven – so the chocolate still remains melty and when dipped into cold milk, creates a hot and cold tinkle, which in my personal opinion, feels pretty comforting.
Let me know if you try it, enjoy! :)