Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies


Have you ever heard of Captain William Kidd?  His story is a crazy and thrilling one– awash in mystery, intrigue, and dastardly deeds.  In the late 1600s, William Kidd was a respectable English admiral, sailing on behalf of the English crown to capture both pirates and French (enemy) ships.  The cool thing was that each captain and crew could keep the loot from the ships they captured– it was almost like the floating lottery tickets of the day.  One good ransacking could set a Captain up for life, because the higher your rank on the ship, the greater your payday when the ships’ spoils were divided up.

Poor Kidd.  He just had loads of problems.  First, he couldn’t find a crew, so he was forced to accept a small group of men who were either criminals or desperate enough for a job that they were willing to join the ship without any experience.  He found himself in charge of a ragtag group of ruffians who were more interested in pillaging anything and everything that moved than of obeying their captain or observing the laws of the sea. 

He dealt with constant mutiny and the inexperience of his crew.  Daily, he faced greater and greater anger and rebellion when he refused to allow his men to attack and pillage English and other friendly ships.  With the crew daily threatening to mutiny and take over as a full fledged pirate vessel, Kidd was getting desperate to give them a ship to legitimately pillage.  Finally, they saw a speck in the distance.  Could it be a ship?  The men hoisted the sails and pulled hard on the oars.  Kidd recognized the dreaded determination and hatred in their eyes– they were determined to capture this ship, ransack its hull, and murder its crew, despite what Kidd had to say about it.

Grimly they approached the unknown merchant . . . and hooray!  It displayed French flags!  The men were like wild dogs discovering a torn carcass– they fell on the ship and its crew with a bloodthirsty hunger.  They tore into the ship’s bowels, stealing treasure, men, and even the very sails and tackle which held the ship together. 

Too late, Kidd discovered that this supposedly French ship was actually owned by an English nobleman, though it was being sailed at the time by French sailors.  His men had gone too far to back down, and they looted the ship, anyway.  Kidd went along cautiously, hoping that the fact that the ship had displayed French flags would make the Crown consider this a legitimate capture.

But no.  Kidd was in for more bad luck.  When he landed in New York, he was immediately imprisoned as a pirate.  Even worse, his crew turned against him and blamed the entire thing on him, saying that he had urged them to behave with such brutality and bloodthirstiness.  They were so convincing, that those on Kidd’s sham trial immediately declared him guilty and threw him into a prison of such dank and inhumane conditions that it is said Kidd became psychotic.  He began to rant and rave about treasures and how he had buried several of them– including one treasure beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations– and would trade these treasures for his freedom.

To whet the Governor of New York’s appetite, Kidd gave up one of his smaller treasure’s locations.  But the governor kept the treasure for himself and refused to set Kidd free.  Kidd was sent back to England, where he was sentenced to death by hanging. 

In perhaps the one lucky moment of his life, the hangman’s rope actually broke when the door was tripped underneath Kidd at his execution.  The unofficial law of the day said that, if a man’s rope snapped while hanging, and the man survived, that this man was obviously being given a Divine reprieve.  Kidd could hardly believe his luck.  He had been hanged and lived to tell the tale!

Not so fast.  The nobleman who owned the looted “French” ship demanded satisfaction and his treasure to be returned to him.  The executioner ordered another rope to be brought. Aww.  Poor Kidd.

Kidd was hanged on May 23, 1701.  The hatred that the people harbored for Kidd was so great, that they allowed his body to hang over the harbor for 3 years, as a warning to others to avoid piracy.  Gross. 

To this day, no one has ever found the incredible buried treasure of Captain Kidd.  Could it be under the sea?  Perhaps it lies, just waiting to be discovered, on a deserted island?  Will we ever know?

I’m a sucker for a good adventure story.  And a small part of me would just like to get in a ship and sail to the lands where Kidd was known to go . . . and take my metal detector and find that treasure!  Obviously, that treasure is a little out of my reach.

But this is another treasure I can much more easily acquire: the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Well . . . perhaps “perfect” is too strong a word.  After all– I suppose we each have our definition of what constitutes perfect.  But this recipe comes pretty darn close. 

As a child and teenager, I always loved chocolate chip cookies the best, of any other cookie. Disappointingly, though, I could never recreate their ooey, gooey perfection for myself, at home.  My cookies either came out flat as a pancake, or disappointingly stiff, forming nice little golf balls instead of flattening into the luscious, delectable treat that we all love.  I tried all kinds of “secret” ingredients– from pudding to cornstarch– without success.  My cookies were either hard as rocks or dry and pasty.  Bleck. 

I’m not sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way, I figured it out.  A little tweaking here and there helped me to create what I consider to be the best chocolate chip cookie that I, personally, have ever tasted.  You may have a better way, and that’s fine.  Be a Captain Kidd.  Do your own thing.  I won’t even hang you from the gallows for going rogue.

But if you are dissatisfied with your own chocolate chip cookie recipe, or if you would just like to try something new . . . be prepared to love this one.  I can’t remember where this recipe came from– most of my recipes are on handwritten cards in my recipe file.  I think it may have been on the back of a bag of Hershey’s chocolate chips.  So, you see . . . it’s not so much the recipe that’s extraordinary (when I first started cooking, I figured the more exotic the ingredients, the better the recipe, which couldn’t be further from the truth) . . . it’s the method and technique.

What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!



Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

(original recipe from Hershey’s Chocolate)

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg, room temperature
1 bag of chocolate chips


Directions:

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and egg; beat well.  Gradually add in dry ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips by hand.  Place on silpat or parchment covered cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 9-12 minutes, until just starting to brown around the edges, and rotating trays halfway through baking.  Allow to rest several minutes on cooking sheet before moving to a baking sheet to finish cooling.

Let’s take a look at the process in pictures!

My “Unofficial cookie law” is this: Cold Ingredients are the enemy of good cookies.  Whenever I make cookies of any kind, I get the butter and eggs out of the fridge about 1/2 hour before I’m going to use them, so they whip up nice and light.
First, let’s cream your butter and both sugars.  Start out slowly, and gradually work to a high speed for a minute.
Unlike the creamed sugar and butter from the sugar cookie recipe, this one has brown sugar in it.  Therefore, your creamed mixture won’t look as light.  If you investigate it closely, though, you will see that it is fluffy like the sugar cookie dough, even if it is a little darker in color.
Add your eggs and vanilla.  When you were a kid, did you ever do experiments mixing oil and water?  Oh?  You do experiments like that as an adult, too?  (awkward silence)  Excuse me . . .
Yeah . . . they don’t mix too well.  To make sure that your egg incorporates into the oily ingredients (butter), make sure you scrape the sides well.
Now, add the salt and baking soda, and mix a few times just to combine.  We are going to add the flour, next . . . but a word about flour.
Believe it or not, recipes vary, based on what kind of flour you use.  I usually find that I get the best “true to measurement” results from the more expensive, primo brands of flour, like King Arthur.  When I use the cheaper versions (like Aldi flour), I have to add a little bit extra, to get the recipe right.  What I’m saying is, add the flour a little bit at a time, mixing after each time.  You may need a little more, or you may need a little less, depending on what kind of flour you’re using.  You want the dough to be thick, but also creamy.  Don’t make it so thick that the creaminess is gone, or the cookies won’t flatten, but will be kind of like little chocolate chip golf balls.  Too little flour, and too soupy of dough, and the cookies will spread like ultra thin frisbees.  Get to know your dough– and your flour– and soon you’ll be making perfect chocolate chip cookies, every time.
Now . . . the best part!  Drum roll . . . the chocolate chips have arrived!  Mix these in by hand.  They will wreak havoc on your mixer if you try to mix them with it. . . and what has your poor little mixer ever done to you?  You can also stir in some nuts if you like– pecans and walnuts are great in chocolate chip cookies. And life . . . like neighborhoods . . . is always more interesting with a few choice nuts included.
Also– who said you have to use “chocolate” chips?  I know this is technically called “Chocolate chip cookies,” but you can go nuts (literally)– try cranberry pecan with white chocolate chip, or maybe butterscotch chips with toasted walnuts and maple extract instead of vanilla.  How about macadamia and white chips?  The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.  Just prefer plain ‘ole chocolate chips?  No problem– chocolate is classic for a reason.
Next, enter your secret weapon– the cookie scoop.  I have a wide variety of sizes of these . . . for everything from dividing dough evenly between cake pans to making cupcakes and muffins perfectly, without that cringe-worthy “muffin top.”  I’ve tried cheapie cookie scoops, but they usually broke after several months, for me.  Granted, I bake a lot and tend to make my equipment work hard for its keep . . . but these have held up under all kinds of pressure, and they are also very comfy on my hands and easy to use.  I use the black (pictured here) for cookies, blue for muffins and cupcakes, and orange for teeny things.  Pick up these scoops as a treat to yourself, here.
You’re probably thinking, “A cookie scoop?  Good grief.  What do I need one of those things for?  I’ve made cookies for years perfectly well with 2 spoons.  Why do I need some gadget to do the job for me?”
I know.  I said that too.  Until I got one.  I will never go back.  Take your baked goods from “Your toddler helped make these!  How sweet!” (Awkward silence).  “Ohhh . . . you made them?  Sorry.” to the envy of the school bake sale.  You’re welcome.
Grab yourself a scoopful of dough.  Go ahead and sneak a taste with your (clean!  You did wash hands, right?) finger.  Wash thoroughly afterward.  I won’t judge you for tasting. And you won’t die from the raw egg.  People are just trying to stop you from living your life.  Be a rebel, my dear Captain Kidd, and have some cookie dough.
Smoosh it against the side of the mixing bowl to make sure that your scoop will sit flat when you dump it out.  Place your cookie balls on a silpat, but don’t crowd them.  Do you work well when you’re elbow to elbow with other people, craning for space?  Neither do your cookies.  They don’t want a cramped apartment.  Give them the spacious country manor and they’ll reward you by being happy and delicious.
These beauties are all ready to pop into the oven.  You definitely need to use either parchment paper or a silpat for these cookies– personally, I prefer a silpat.  Silpats are kind of like reusable parchment paper– and nothing sticks to them.  The worst casserole spill-overs and messy, sticky cookies peel right off, with ease.  I use my silpats every single day.  Pick up a silpat, here, if you need a treat for the baker in your life.  You won’t regret it.
Bake your cookies at 350 for 9-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking to ensure that they get toasty on all sides.  Because you used a cookie scoop, your cookies are all the (relatively) same size, and they should all be done around the same time.
See this?  It doesn’t look done, does it?  And this is where so many people make the fatal mistake.  “My cookie isn’t brown.  Therefore, it is raw and isn’t done.”  WRONG!!!  Here is the only clue you have: see the edges?  They are ever so slightly brown.  You can see in both of those cookies in the picture that the edges and bottoms are starting to get toasty.  That’s enough.  Any more time in the oven and they’ll look more crisp than a sunbathing senior citizen on the Florida coast.
Another mistake that people make when baking chocolate chip cookies is taking them straight from the oven to the cooling sheet.  NOOOOO.
See how those cookies are puffy and weird looking?  If you take them off the baking sheet now, when they have first come out of the oven, they will break apart and remain puffy and weird looking.  It’s ironic that chocolate chip is the all-American cookie, because these cookies are so very American.  They require a good rest before they can get up and go to work for you.  If you give them their space and let them rest, they’ll be great.  Crowd them or push them too hard, and it’s gonna’ get ugly.
After about 2-3 minutes of rest, the cookies are ready to put on their suits and head in to work.  Get out that old faithful cooling rack, and let them finish cooling.  (Oh dear?  You broke a cookie? I guess you’ll just have to eat it, in the name of science . . . hehe).  See how the cookies kind of deflated, a little bit?  That’s good.  All the soft puffiness remains, though.  Just wait till you try one . . . er, two.
Yeah, BABY.  Now that’s a cookie.  It is nice and thick, without being tough.  Nice and soft inside, with ooey, gooey chocolate chips.  And they stay soft, for days . . . if you’re lucky enough to still have any cookies left, after that time.
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Too bad Captain Kidd didn’t survive to see these cookies . . . because I bet these little hidden treasures would have made his day.  Give them a try– you’ll be glad you did!
You did it.  And I’m just so proud of you.

 


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