In my mind, there is a minimum level of quality that a homemade chocolate chip cookie should at least meet. Because the recipe is so widely available, there really isn't an excuse (unless you are experimenting in an attempt to develop a better recipe) for anyone to make a chocolate chip cookie that is worse than the Nestlé® Toll House® Chocolate Chip Cookie. The recipe is printed on the back of virtually ever bag of the most popular chocolate chips in the world - the Nestlé Toll House Morsels. If you've never made a batch of chocolate chip cookies based on Nestlé's Toll House recipe, then you should definitely give it a try.
According to Nestlé, the Toll House recipe originated with Ruth Wakefield who, along with her husband, operated the a lodge in New England called the Toll House Inn. Sometime in the early 1930's, Ruth was preparing cookies for her guests when she chopped up a bar of Nestlé Semi-Sweet chocolate and added it to the dough. The result became the most popular chocolate chip cookie recipe in the world. By 1939, Nestlé began producing the Toll House Morsels to make it easy for everyone to make this recipe. [IMG]
The recipe is actually quite simple and straightforward. Wet ingredients are mixed first until evenly distributed and then dry ingredients are mixed it. Lastly, chocolate chips and (if desired) chopped nuts are mixed in by hand. The interesting thing is that by altering the quantity of one ingredient (flour) we can achieve cookies of all sorts of different textures.
The recipe calls for 2-1/4 cup flour (which is 280 g if the flour has been sifted or up to 360 g if the flour has completely settled), 1 tsp. (4.6 g) baking soda, 1 tsp. (6 g) table salt, 2 cups (340 g) chocolate chips, 1 cup (220 g) unsalted softened butter, 2 large (100 g) eggs, 1 tsp. (5 mL) vanilla extract, 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar, and 3/4 cup (165 g) brown sugar. The mass conversions are mine and, wherever possible, I assumed USDA Nutrient Standards for volume to mass ratios. The original recipe includes one cup chopped nuts which I chose to exclude from this recipe as I wished to make a plain chocolate chip cookie for this article. [IMG]
You may have noticed that I was not precise with the mass of the flour. This is because Nestlé's recipe only states: "2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour". Is this flour sifted (as all flour should be before measuring), unsifted, or settled for one year and then packed down to fit as much as possible in a cup? I tested the whole range of flour density options starting with the USDA standard 125 g per cup (sifted) up to the maximum I could push into a leveled cup, 160 g per cup. Recipes (should) always use sifted measurements when providing volumes of flour because of repeatability. If a recipe used unsifted flour, it would be nearly impossible to replicate the exact same quantity of flour using measuring cups because it's impossible to tell how much the flour has settled. (See Kitchen Notes: Wheat Flour for more commentary on measuring flour.) Unfortunately, in the case of this recipe, it was clearly not written with 125 g per cup in mind. After testing a whole range of flour measurements, it seems that 160 g per cup (or a total of 360 g) of flour was the intended quantity. For those of you who do not use kitchen scales and wish to dry measure this amount - it's a little more than 2-3/4 cup sifted flour.
This experiment did yield some interesting results (besides the trashcan full of excess cookies, empty Costco bags of Toll House morsels, and a colleague at Fanpop who ate over 2000 calories of soft, gooey cookies during two or three hours of coding). The less flour that went into the dough, the thinner, softer, and chewier the cookies became. In fact, several of the tasters actually preferred this style of cookie. This isn't the Toll House recipe that I was familiar with, so I kept testing, but I've included the recipe for the thin chewy style (similar in consistency to the soft Chips Ahoy® cookies that come in the red bag) down below. The procedure is the same as the regular cookies, just alter the amount of flour. [IMG]
Speaking of flour, take the 360 g flour and mix it with the baking soda and table salt. Set aside to be mixed into the dough later. [IMG]
On low speed, mix the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth. This is easiest with softened (but not melted) butter. Softening butter just means you leave it out for a while (an hour or two should do it). If it becomes so soft that a butter knife drop through it (placed flat side on top of the butter) by the weight of the knife alone, then that's perfect. I like to start off by simply dropping my two sticks of butter into the mixing bowl and going about my other business. When I come back to the kitchen and remember that I'm making cookies, the butter is generally soft enough by then. This technique may not work as well for others. [IMG]
Once the mixture is evenly blended, scrape down the sides with a spatula and add one large egg. Beat at low speed until blended, then add the second egg and beat until fully integrated. [IMG]
Scrape down the sides one last time and set the mixer on low speed. Gently add the flour, baking soda, and salt mixture into the mixing bowl a little at a time. If you're too fast, you'll see a lot of flour build up as your mixer beats the dough. Just stop and wait until you don't see as much white and continue until all the flour is in the dough. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl. [IMG]
Pour in the chocolate chips and mix by hand. We don't want the mixer to do this part because it might become over zealous and smoosh our chocolate. The desired result is to have pockets of velvety smooth chocolate interspersed through our cookie, not for the whole thing to be chocolaty. This is also the right time to add any chopped nuts or other additions you may wish to make to the cookie. [IMG]
At this point, if you haven't preheated your oven to 375°F, it's a good time to do so.
The next step is to form the cookies themselves. I prefer to bake the cookies on either a silicone baking mat or on parchment paper. Both work equally well in providing a nonstick surface that doesn't overly brown the edges of the cookies (like aluminum foil might do). Forming the cookies is easy - you don't have to worry about shape much since the dough melts as it bakes and flows into a circle. I did the first few batches with a tablespoon and my hands, but washing my hands to move trays around got tedious, so I did the last several tests using a tablespoon and a teaspoon to scoop and plop the dough onto the sheet.
According to the recipe, you can make 60 cookies per batch. I must make big cookies because in the week of testing, I never ended up with more than 32 in a batch (I use a heaping tablespoons). The cookies end up roughly the same thickness, so if you like thicker cookies, you'll need to use more flour than the recipe states. Also, by making smaller cookies they'll seem thicker because the thickness remains roughly constant while the diameter reduces. [IMG]
The cookies should be baked for ten minutes (give or take a minute depending on your oven) at 375°F. I tested baking at 300°F (for 20 minutes) and 450°F (for 6 minutes) and didn't really notice much difference in the final product once the cookies fully cooled. [IMG]
When making the reduced flour (thin and chewy) cookies, placement of the cookie dough is fairly important since the dough spreads out quite a bit while baking. [IMG] Once one pan of cookies is done, take them out of the oven and slide the next pan in. Let the cookies cool on the pan for about five minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. They can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for about a week - if they aren't eaten up first. [IMG]
Posted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 8:27 pm Post subject: eggs
One thing I've noticed with chocolate chip cookie recipes is that sometimes it doesn't specify the size of egg. If your cookie recipe (or any recipe for that matter) doesn't specify a size, assume Large. Using Extra Large or Jumbo can throw off your ingredient ratio completely and you can end up with pancakes.
Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 1:18 am Post subject: Chocolate Chip Cookies
I have been making these cookiesfor many years. but with a little change. I have 9 children(now 18 grandchildren also) so I need lots of cookies. I use the large bag of Nestle Chips and double everything except the shortening (I use butter) and only use the one bag of chips. This makes a more dense cookie and a lot of them!
Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 3:47 am Post subject: improved chocolate chip cookies
I have been baking for about 35 years now and find chocolate chip cookies to be pretty flexible and forgiving of ingredients and inexact measurements.
I use a combination of whole wheat, unbleached all-purpose flour and oats, because the fiber is good for you and because the whole grains complement the butter. I also often substitute one stick of butter with applesauce to cut down some of the fat. I find the applesauce makes the cookies moister, and does not compromise the flavor. I only use Ghiradelli chocolate chips and I often substitute pure maple flavoring for the vanilla. I like to add chopped pecans or walnuts, as well. My cookies taste decadent.
While I have discovered that beating the butter and sugars together, until light and fluffy, is important, I have found that mixing the wet ingredients first, then just dumping all the dry ingredients on top and mixing it in, makes no difference in taste and appearance (as long as the baking soda is not clumpy).
Finally, using a cookie scoop speeds up the process of dropping dough onto the cookie sheet, and keeps the cookies uniform in size.
Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 3:50 pm Post subject: cookie
I actually add a little bit of almond extract to mine (which does a little something to the dough, but I can't really tell what), and I use half butter, half shortening for the fat, this way you get the best of both worlds. I usually use nuts, and end up with a thick, chunky cookie that is still soft.
Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 5:50 pm Post subject: modification on the NTH recipe
I've been making these cookies for as long as I can remember - taking over from my mom since everyone thought mine were better.
I find it interesting that other people have used/developed the half butter/half shortening method as well as doubling the vanilla. We buy our vanilla down in Juarez for roughly $5/ quart so it's cheap to be liberal with it.
I've also tried adding ground up oatmeal for a portion of the flour. This makes for a "meatier" cookie.
As for eggs, I've noticed when making creme brulee and cheese cake that it does much better if the eggs are room temperature. Does anyone think that could produce better cookies too? Maybe better blending between the wet ingredients?
One difference I've yet to see yet is modifying the sugars. I use 1 cup brown sugar (dark) and a half cup of white rather than the 3/4 cup of both the recipe uses.
As an aside, I met my soon-to-be wife (less than a month to the wedding!) by having the best tasting chocolate chip cookies at a Bible study...
Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 12:56 am Post subject: About those Famous Amos-style cookies ...
Chocolate chip cookies are among my favorite foods, so I found this exploration fascinating. As a fan of hard, crunchy cookies, I am in the minority. Now that Kelloggs/Keebler has completely ruined Famous Amos cookies, can anyone clarify for me just what one needs to do to achieve the crunchiness that once distinguished those cookies? More flour, OK -- how much more? Thanks.
Side note: When I was a kid, we lived next door to Wally Amos when he was first launching the brand. When he moved, my mom got his cookie sheets.
Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:08 am Post subject: Cookie variations
I do add extra vanilla to mine, and I also add some sour cream (this usually means more flour too). It just adds a rich taste to the dough, and keeps the texture softer for longer. I like to use half milk/half semi-sweet, but then again, I like things super-sweet, and a lot of folks might find that too sweet.
Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 8:08 pm Post subject: Variations
I've seen some sugar variations before. I heard people rave about a friend's cookies, but apparently she didn't use brown sugar because to me they were sugar cookies that happened to have chocolate chips in them. A disappointment.
Using all brown sugar, a variation that I've seen on some bags of chips, makes a very rich cookie.