Classic(ish) Chocolate Chip Cookies
As the old saying goes, if you’ve used one oven, you’ve used one oven. Different ovens have different hot spots, different rack heights, different heating/re-heating speeds, etc. In other words, using an oven for the first time is a black box — especially if it’s in a rental unit.
Not only am I now acclimating to Richmond’s humidity, but I am also slowly becoming acquainted with my new oven. Growing up as a gas girl (to be clear, I mean that I have always used gas-powered stoves and ovens, not that I had an excessively gastric-distending upbringing), the electric oven is a new thing for me. The stove is a major difference, but even the oven takes some getting-used-to.
The best way to test out a new oven is to first turn it on. Once you have passed this hurdle, bake something you’ve made many times, with predictable results. This way, you know if you need to adjust your “usual” bake times/temps/methods to achieve your desired product. Additional words to the wise, before switching the oven on, check to make sure that: a) your oven is empty, and b) your oven racks are in the right positions — doing the 350-degree-oven-rack juggle is not fun (but really, why were they in there backwards???).
Start by using your usual bake times for a small batch of whatever you’re making, and see if the final product is underdone, overdone, or just right, then, adjust accordingly, if needed. I found that my new oven bakes my cookies faster and more evenly than my previous oven (#onwardandupward). I suppose a real adult would obtain an oven thermometer and use it to do a more formal oven calibration, but I’m not that cool. I’d rather do an edible calibration.
There’s no point in using a recipe for something you’ve never made before or something that’s super-duper complicated as your oven’s maiden voyage, since proceeding as such would either give you an outcome with no reference or potentially waste a lot of ingredients/energy/time if the product is ruined by inadvertent overbaking.
So, with these aforementioned oven points mentioned afore, I’ll transition to these cookies in particular. Though I firmly believe that one can never have too many chocolate chip cookies up one’s sleeve, I also believe that one should select one of these recipes as one’s go-to. THIS one, is my go-to.
It’s my go-to because it’s as close to a universal people-pleaser as I can get. While some of my other chocolate chippers call for arguably hoity-toity things like espresso powder, whole vanilla beans, or agave syrup, these cookies are kid-friendly, adult-friendly, & nut-free (check your chocolate chip bags to be absolutely sure, though). Yet, through a few simple techniques — mainly butter-browning and planned dough chilling — the simple ingredients in these cookies undergo a spectacular transformation into the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made/tasted.
Browning butter may sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple, requiring only a watchful eye and a heat-safe rubber spatula. I’ve rhapsodized on brown butter before, but here’s a refresher!
Start with straight-out-the-fridge unsalted butter and a light-colored saucepan or small pot (makes the browning more readily visible). Place pan over medium heat, and allow butter to melt fully before doing anything.
As you continue to heat the now-melted butter, it will start to foam up and make quasi-scary-yet-welcoming crackling and popping noises.
Once the noises start, use a heat-safe rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan every 15-20 seconds or so, to ensure that nothing is sticking to the pan’s surface.
As this heating continues, the foaming/popping will start to slow, and you’ll notice pale flecks forming in the bottom layers of the butter — these are milk solids separating from the butter (they are what will eventually turn brown).
At this point, make your stirring/scraping motions slow but constant. The silence of the butter signals the CRITICAL POINT in the butter-browning process.
As you continue to stir and scrape, watch the flecks like hawk, they’ll slowly start to turn light brown. Now, turn of the heat, but continue to stir the butter until the flecks are decidedly golden and the liquid portion of the butter is a gorgeous amber color.
Then, IMMEDIATELY pour the butter into a heat-safe glass bowl, using the spatula to scrape all of the browned flecks into the dish as well (literally liquid gold).
That’s it! The most important part of the process is paying attention; the browning process takes a few minutes to get going (probably ~5 minutes from the time you turn on the stove), but once the flecks start to change color, they can progress rapidly from brown to burned. Burned butter has an acrid taste and aroma and is totally unusable (I have burned a few sticks in my day, ensuring constant vigilance in all future brownings).
Now, with your brown butter in hand, and your oven skills refreshed, go ahead and make these cookies — you’ll be so glad you did 🙂
Classic(ish) Chocolate Chip Cookies
For the ultimate chocolate-chip experience, these cookies call for 3 different types of chips (milk, semi-sweet, & dark) — variety is the spice of life! And speaking of spice, my other go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for espresso powder, to further amplify the chocolate experience, but THESE beauties take a cue from our Mexican amigos south of the border and calls for a little cinnamon instead! If making these cookies in the summer, especially in high humidity, adhere strictly to the recommended chill times.
DISCLAIMER: The recipe is wordy because of detailed explaining, but don’t be fooled, it’s super simple!
YIELD: ~3 dozen cookies
1 stick (8 tablespoons) + 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 yolk, room temp
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or imitation vanilla…really, either is fine here)
1 cup bread flour + 1 cup all-purpose flour (use 2 cups A-P flour if you don’t have bread flour)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + a bit more for pre-bake sprinkling
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
~1/3 cup dark chocolate chips, for decorating
At least 2 hours before making the dough, brown 1 stick of unsalted butter (read post above, if you’ve never browned butter before), and immediately transfer to a small glass dish or heat-safe measuring cup. Stir cinnamon into hot browned butter, cover dish, & chill at least 2 hours (up to one day), until butter has re-solidified.
Remove chilled brown butter, 4 tablespoons un-browned butter (cut into 1/2″ chunks), and eggs from fridge 1 hour prior to dough assembly — room temp ingredients blend together sooooo much more easily. In the bowl of a stand-mixer, or mixing bowl with hand-mixer, cream together both butters and both sugars, on medium speed, until pale & fluffy, ~2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula, turn mixer to low, and add whole egg, then yolk, then vanilla. Return mixer to medium speed, and beat for an additional minute. Again, scrape down sides of bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together both flours, cornstarch, baking soda, & salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients in 3 batches (you may want to switch the mixer off for each dry aliquot to prevent coating yourself and onlookers in flour). Switch mixer off immediately after adding the last of the dry ingredients, and use a rubber spatula to quickly fold dough together, just until no flour streaks remain (don’t over-mix). Fold in the milk chocolate and semi-sweet chips, and use the spatula to gently pat the dough into a ball. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and chill overnight.
Remove chilled dough from fridge 60-90 minutes before shaping so that it will become handleable. Scoop out heaping tablespoonfuls of dough, & use your hands (slightly dampened with cold-water if you have excessively hot hands) to roll into squat cylinder shapes. Place rolled dough cylinders onto a plate lined with wax paper. Artistically top each cookie with 3 dark chocolate chips, pressing gently to ensure adherence; cover plate with plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes (you can skip this chill if making these cookies in the northern hemisphere, between September & May).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line two cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Place 6 cookies per sheet for the first batch to assess for degree of spreading while baking (you may find that your sheets can accommodate 8-10 cookies per batch, but use your 1st one as a test). Sprinkle a small amount of kosher salt on top of each cookie. Bake 4 minutes, rotate sheets, and bake for an additional 4-4.5 minutes, edges should only barely be browning, cookies should be puffy, & tops should still be light-colored but dry, with tiny microcracks forming on surface. Allow cookies to sit on hot sheets for 4 minutes to set (they should deflate a bit), before removing to wire racks for complete cooling. Cooled cookies may be stored at room temp, in airtight containers, for up to 5 days. [Note: if it’s very humid out, you may need to chill the cookies for 20 minutes, prior to stacking in storage containers, to re-harden the dark chips]