Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, America!

What? No birthday cake? Cake is great and all, but there's not much (besides apple pie) that can top the all-American chocolate chip cookie for this occasion. Here's a super special chocolate chip cookie just for you, my fellow Americans. You want chocolate chips? You got 'em. White chocolate too? Okay. And sprinkles? Sure, why not? We ARE celebrating our Independence!

The quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe is neither new nor simple. Debates could go on for ages without ever reaching a consensus on what exactly constitutes chocolate chip cookie perfection. Chewy, gooey, crispy, cakey, puffy, chips, chunks, nuts, no nuts--the variations are endless. Where's a gal to start? For this experiment, I thought it might be best to stick with a basic recipe (i.e. the Nestlé Toll House® standard 'back of the bag" formula) and add a few tweaks. I also turned to the (not-so-top-secret) secret that's been causing quite a buzz in the food blogging world. It began with the famous New York Times article which reveals this simple tip: refrigerate your cookie dough for 24-36 hours before baking. (Hey, no one said it would be fast. Or easy.) Apparently this serves two purposes:
  1. It allows the flour plenty of time to hydrate, creating a better cookie texture
  2. It deepens and complexifies (I just made a new word, yay!) the flavors

Armed with two bags of chips and this handy dandy tip, I set off to baking (or rather, to prepping the dough for two days later) my cookies. Was it worth the wait? Did chilling the dough for 36 hours really produce insanely delicious and perfect cookies? You bet it did. It's difficult to describe exactly what about the flavor was different; I could only detect that it was somehow...better. It was definitely interesting to see what effect this method had on the Nestlé recipe because I seldom use it. Next time I'll revert to my go-to recipe and see what 36 hours in the fridge can do to improve it. I bet it will be Ah-maze-ing!

Festive Chip Cookies (Adapted from the classic Nestlé recipe)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ Tbl. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white baking chips
  • 3 oz. multi colored jimmies (sprinkles)

Cream butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in salt, eggs (one at a time), and vanilla extract until creamy and incorporated. Gradually beat in flour and baking soda, beating only to combine. Stir in chips and sprinkles. Scoop out portions of dough. Cover and refrigerate for 24-36 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake chilled dough for 11 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Recipe Notes:

  1. The original recipe yield is 5 dozen. I normally get between 4 and 4½ dozen because I like a bigger cookie. (Duh!)

  2. Use salted butter for this one. Many bakers use only unsalted butter in cookies, but since the original Toll House® recipe gives you the option of butter OR margarine (which is salted), I think the cookie can handle it. Besides, you almost need the salt to counter the extreme sweetness from the white baking chips.

  3. Yes, that really DOES say 1½ Tbl. As in "one and a half Tablespoons" of vanilla extract. It really boosts the flavor--but not so much that the vanilla smacks you in the face.

  4. I found it easier to scoop the dough before refrigerating rather than after, since 36 hours in the chill box will really harden it up. Just make sure you have a suitable container (and fridge space) in which to stash your dough balls for a day and a half. Also be sure to have some type of theft-deterrent device installed to ward off the raw cookie dough lovers in your household :)

  5. Why use 3 ounces of sprinkles? Isn't that just overkill? One can never have "too many sprinkles." It's just an arbitrary amount I came up with--I threw in a whole tub of sprinkles, which happened to be a 3 oz. (about ½ cup) container. Use as many or as few as you'd like.

  6. And aren't sprinkles like, really expensive? Not if you check out the $1 section at Target!

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