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The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Test



I’ve been working on this post for almost two years. Not that I’ve been physically composing it for that long, but that’s when I embarked on my quest to find my favorite chocolate chip cookie. At that point, I had amassed enough chocolate chip cookie recipes that I’d made and thought were on the spectrum from decent to excellent. I'd also created a spreadsheet to compare ingredient ratios, in order to narrow the list down to recipes that were different enough from each other. Of course, it only made sense for me to try them all at once so I could compare. But was I really going to eat EIGHT different cookies at once? Emphatically, yes. But by myself? No way. I love opinions! Because after all, while I must be personally impressed by the end result to want to call a recipe “mine,” really, I bake for others. I love doing it, and don’t get me wrong I looooooove sugar, but I rarely eat very much of what comes out of my kitchen. Time to recruit the masses!

I work in a Psychology lab, so my colleagues are no strangers to behavioral testing and gathering data. I set up a Chocolate Chip Cookie Taste Test (check out the consent form), in which 12 people joined me in tasting eight different cookie recipes. I cut each cookie into thirds, so that the taste you got was big enough to have two or three bites, and understand the contrast between the center and the edge; but hopefully small enough pieces that everyone could handle eight of them without going into a sugar coma. Each cookie contained the same mix of chocolate chips - I usually use three different types: milk, semi, and bitter, or a 3-mix of two of them involving at least two different brands. Each cookie is also dusted with sea salt just before baking, and a few additional chocolate chips are placed on top as soon as they come out of the oven. I maintain and emphatically impress upon you that any chocolate chip cookie will not live up to its potential without salt on top.


(the dough balls sprinkled with salt before going into the oven)

Each recipe was cut up and placed on plates labeled A through G, and each participant was given an individual randomized order in which to test them. A palate cleanser of milk was provided in between each taste, with some opting for water or tea instead. Everyone started with the same test - chewy chips ahoy - and gave me ratings on that so I had a baseline from which to start and compare. One of my participants really enjoyed those and thought they were perfectly great, so I knew to take their data with a grain of salt (no pun intended). Not to say anything terrible about chewy chips ahoy - they’re really great for some situations, but they’re just in a different category than what we’re talking about here (namely, the chemical-tasting category).

The questions people were asked:

-How much do you like sweets? (1-5)

-How much do you like cookies? (1-5)

-Which cookie do you think you’ll prefer? (A-G)

-Rate each cookie on Appearance, Texture, and Flavor (1-10)

-General thoughts on each, A-G (text)

-General thoughts overall (text)


(the cookies immediately after being removed from the oven and placing more chocolate chips on top)

It was a pretty fun and delicious experiment, and after all the data was coded and analyzed I was left with three clear contenders for the #1 spot…but no clear winner. So, what did that mean? I had to do another test! That test remained on my to do list for quite a long time, until finally a month or so ago I got together with some cookie-loving friends after making those three cookie dough recipes for my freezer over the summer. We had some dinner, had some drinks, and I baked up some cookie dough balls. But wait! Drinks + baking = silliness, and I totally forgot to salt them and add chocolate chips after baking, but instead rolled them in raw sugar as I do many other cookie types. WRONG! It totally changes everything about them, so while that was fun, it wasn’t the final test that was needed. Luckily, I’d kept just a couple of dough balls of each type, so I had one more chance. I made them correctly that time, and brought them in for myself and a special colleague to try. We landed on a clear 1-2-3 placement, and now I’m finally ready to share them with you!

The third place winner - The NYTimes Cookie - is a very good cookie recipe, but it tastes a little more "vanilla" than the others, due to it using light brown sugar instead of dark brown. The second place winner - The Cook's Illustrated Cookie - is super delicious. For many this will be their favorite over my first place choice. They're a little more intense in depth of flavor and nuttiness thanks to the browned butter. The cookie we crowned with first place is a recipe I've adapted from one of my favorite pastry chefs, Stella Parks, and her blog Bravetart. I adapted it somewhat significantly, though, to the point where I think I can safely call it my own. It's the perfect balance between crispy edges and a chewy center, with the intense sweetness of the childhood memories of toll house, but a much more interesting and deeper flavor thanks to the dark brown sugar and the tiniest bit of almond extract. This is my all time favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (and the runners up) - the key word being “MY.” You might just have to make all three to find out which is yours...

Happy Baking!

First Place - The Sweetery Boston


Adapted from Bravetart

MAKES approximately 20 Cookies at 2oz each, 25 cookies with a large cookie scoop

INGREDIENTS/SUPPLIES

  • 3 cups AP flour (12.75oz)

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature

  • 5 ounces granulated sugar (about .71 cups)

  • 8 ounces dark brown sugar (about 1.14 cups)

  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1.5 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

  • 1 egg

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 3 cups (18oz) of a mix of 3 different types of chocolate chips - at least two different kinds (milk/semi/bitter) and at least two different brands

  • sea salt

  • small dish of 3-5 extra chocolate chips per cookie

  • stand mixer

  • 2-3 large cookie sheets & parchment

  • food scale or cookie scoop (optional, but will make your cookies better)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 12.75oz AP flour and 2tsp cornstarch.

  2. In your mixer on low, then medium-high, cream until fully combined (~2 minutes): 2 sticks butter, 8oz dark brown sugar, 5oz white sugar, 2TB corn syrup, 1tsp baking powder, 1tsp baking soda, 1.5tsp salt, 1/8tsp almond extract, and 1TB vanilla.

  3. Add 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, then mix on medium-high 6-7 minutes, stopping once in the middle to scrape down the sides.

  4. Mix in the dry ingredients on low until just barely no traces of flour are left, 30-45 seconds.

  5. Scrape down the sides, add your chocolate chips, and mix on low for 15 more seconds until the chocolate chips are evenly distributed.

  6. In order to make the cookies look uniform, you need to scoop the batter either with a cookie scoop or by weight. I use a 2” cookie scoop to make cookie dough balls that are about 2 ounces each. Scoop the dough balls onto a wax paper or parchment lined cookie sheet - it’s okay if they’re close together; you’re not going to bake them yet.

  7. If you want to bake them soon, wrap the sheet in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours, or up to overnight. If you want to save the dough to bake another day, which is what I always do, put the cookie sheet in the freezer (you don’t need to cover it) and 1 hour later transfer the dough balls to a freezer ziplock bag. The dough will keep for 6-12 months, possibly longer. DO NOT BAKE THE COOKIES AT ROOM TEMPERATURE. Chilling is a must. When you’re ready to bake, heat your oven to 350F.

  8. Take out one tray’s worth of cookies and arrange them a minimum of 3” apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet - I have 11x17 cookie sheets and bake them in three rows - 3/2/3.

  9. Let the cookies warm up at room temperature for about 10 minutes, until the dough is tacky enough that salt will stick to it. Sprinkle each dough ball with about an 1/8tsp of sea salt, or however much you want to use.

  10. Bake for 12 minutes, but start checking them at 10 minutes. Don’t overbake! How long you actually let them sit out of the freezer, how cold they were in the first place, and your specific oven temperature can make all the difference when you’re going for the perfect cookie. For me, 12 minutes was perfect but for you it might be 11 or 13. Take a look at the just-out-of-the-oven pictures above to see what your cookie should look like when it’s ready to come out of the oven. You might think they’re underbred, but they’re not. You want the cookies to be nicely crispy on the outside/edges, but still chewy in the middle. Or…at least, I do.

  11. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, carefully place 3-5 additional chocolate chips on top of each cookie.

  12. Repeat steps 8-11 for one sheet of cookies at a time (i.e. don’t take cookie dough balls out of the fridge/freezer until you’re ready to bake them 10 minutes later.)

  13. Cool the cookies completely on their baking sheets, and enjoy!

Second Place - The Cook’s Illustrated Recipe


MAKES approximately 15 Cookies at 3oz each

INGREDIENTS/SUPPLIES

  • 1.75 cups AP flour (8.75oz, which is what I use, though by my calculations 1.75c should = 7.43oz)

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 10 and 4 tablespoons butter (1.75 sticks, separated)

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)

  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (150g)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  • 1 egg

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 1.25 cups (7.5oz) of a mix of 3 different types of chocolate chips - at least two different kinds (milk/semi/bitter) and at least two different brands

  • sea salt

  • small dish of 3-5 extra chocolate chips per cookie

  • stand mixer

  • 2-3 large cookie sheets & parchment

  • food scale or cookie scoop (optional, but will make your cookies better)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 8.75oz AP flour and 1/2tsp baking soda.

  2. Brown 10TB of butter - see instructions here, in step #2.

  3. In your stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, mix your browned butter with 4TB room temperature butter until fully melted. Then add 100g granulated sugar, 150g dark brown sugar, 1tsp salt and 2tsp vanilla.

  4. Add your 1 egg and 1 egg yolk (if you’re doubling the recipe, use 2 eggs and 1 yolk), and mix on medium-high for about 30 seconds, until fully incorporated and no sugar lumps remain.

  5. Wait 3 minutes, then mix on medium-high for 30 seconds.

  6. Wait 3 minutes, then mix on medium-high for 30 seconds.

  7. Wait 3 minutes, then mix on medium-high for 30 seconds.

  8. Mix in the dry ingredients on low until just barely no traces of flour are left, 30-45 seconds (if you don’t want to have to scrape thick batter off the whisk, you can fold it in by hand.)

  9. Scrape down the sides, add your chocolate chips, and mix on low for 15 more seconds (or fold in) until the chocolate chips are evenly distributed.

  10. In order to make the cookies look uniform, you need to scoop the batter either with a cookie scoop or by weight. I use a 2” cookie scoop to make heaping cookie dough balls that are about 3 ounces each. Scoop the dough balls onto a wax paper or parchment lined cookie sheet - it’s okay if they’re close together; you’re not going to bake them yet.

  11. If you want to bake them soon, wrap the sheet in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours, or up to overnight. If you want to save the dough to bake another day, which is what I always do, put the cookie sheet in the freezer (you don’t need to cover it) and 1 hour later transfer the dough balls to a freezer ziplock bag. The dough will keep for 6-12 months, possibly longer. DO NOT BAKE THE COOKIES AT ROOM TEMPERATURE. Chilling is a must. When you’re ready to bake, heat your oven to 375F.

  12. Take out one tray’s worth of cookies and arrange them a minimum of 3” apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet - I have 11x17 cookie sheets and bake them in three rows - 3/2/3.

  13. Let the cookies warm up at room temperature for about 10 minutes, until the dough is tacky enough that salt will stick to it. Sprinkle each dough ball with about an 1/8tsp of sea salt, or however much you want to use.

  14. Bake for 12 minutes, but start checking them at 10 minutes. Don’t overbake! How long you actually let them sit out of the freezer, how cold they were in the first place, and your specific oven temperature can make all the difference when you’re going for the perfect cookie. For me, 12 minutes was perfect but for you it might be 11 or 13. Take a look at the just-out-of-the-oven pictures above to see what your cookie should look like when it’s ready to come out of the oven. You might think they’re underbred, but they’re not. You want the cookies to be nicely crispy on the outside/edges, but still chewy in the middle. Or…at least, I do.

  15. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, carefully place 3-5 additional chocolate chips on top of each cookie.

  16. Repeat steps 8-11 for one sheet of cookies at a time (i.e. don’t take cookie dough balls out of the fridge/freezer until you’re ready to bake them 10 minutes later.)

  17. Cool the cookies completely on their baking sheets, and enjoy!

Third Place - The NYTimes Recipe


MAKES approximately 30 cookies at 1.75oz each (original recipe is for 16 3.5oz cookies - these would need to bake for longer than what’s listed below)

INGREDIENTS/SUPPLIES

  • 2.5 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1.25 cups light brown sugar (10oz)

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (8oz)

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour (8.5oz)

  • 1 & 2/3 cups bread flour (8.5oz)

  • 1.25 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1.5 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1.5 teaspoon salt

  • 3.5 cups (21oz) of a mix of 3 different types of chocolate chips - at least two different kinds (milk/semi/bitter) and at least two different brands

  • sea salt

  • small dish of 3-5 extra chocolate chips per cookie

  • stand mixer

  • 2-3 large cookie sheets & parchment

  • food scale or cookie scoop (optional, but will make your cookies better)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 8.5oz cake flour, 8.5oz bread flour, 1.25tsp baking soda, 1.5tsp baking powder, and 1.5tsp salt.

  2. In your stand mixer, cream (beat on medium-high) 2.5 sticks butter, 10oz light brown sugar, and 8oz granulated sugar for about 1-2 minutes until fully incorporated.

  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add 2 eggs and 2tsp vanilla, and mix on medium-high 6-7 minutes until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary.

  4. Mix in the dry ingredients on low until just barely no traces of flour are left.

  5. Scrape down the sides, add your chocolate chips, and mix on low for 15 more seconds until the chocolate chips are evenly distributed.

  6. In order to make the cookies look uniform, you need to scoop the batter either with a cookie scoop or by weight. I use a 2” cookie scoop to make cookie dough balls that are about 1.75 ounces each. Scoop the dough balls onto a wax paper or parchment lined cookie sheet - it’s okay if they’re close together; you’re not going to bake them yet.

  7. If you want to bake them soon, wrap the sheet in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours, or up to overnight. If you want to save the dough to bake another day, which is what I always do, put the cookie sheet in the freezer (you don’t need to cover it) and 1 hour later transfer the dough balls to a freezer ziplock bag. The dough will keep for 6-12 months, possibly longer. DO NOT BAKE THE COOKIES AT ROOM TEMPERATURE. Chilling is a must. When you’re ready to bake, heat your oven to 350F.

  8. Take out one tray’s worth of cookies and arrange them a minimum of 3” apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet - I have 11x17 cookie sheets and bake them in three rows - 3/2/3.

  9. Let the cookies warm up at room temperature for about 10 minutes, until the dough is tacky enough that salt will stick to it. Sprinkle each dough ball with about an 1/8tsp of sea salt, or however much you want to use.

  10. Bake for 13 minutes, but start checking them at 11 minutes. Don’t overbake! How long you actually let them sit out of the freezer, how cold they were in the first place, and your specific oven temperature can make all the difference when you’re going for the perfect cookie. For me, 13 minutes was perfect but for you it might be 12 or 14. Take a look at the just-out-of-the-oven pictures above to see what your cookie should look like when it’s ready to come out of the oven. You might think they’re underbred, but they’re not. You want the cookies to be nicely crispy on the outside/edges, but still chewy in the middle. Or…at least, I do.

  11. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, carefully place 3-5 additional chocolate chips on top of each cookie.

  12. Repeat steps 8-11 for one sheet of cookies at a time (i.e. don’t take cookie dough balls out of the fridge/freezer until you’re ready to bake them 10 minutes later.)

  13. Cool the cookies completely on their baking sheets, and enjoy!

#recipe #classic #cookies #chocolatechipcookies #chocolatechip #chocolate

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sarah@thesweeteryboston.com

boston, massachusetts

© 2014 by Sarah Cohan