The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie... sweet, deep medallions you have coaxed the richest of flavor into, this cookie classic meeting its utmost potential. I can think of no better thank-you note to end The Week of Cookies and Gratitude on. 

I discovered this recipe a couple years ago in a Cooks Illustrated issue and have quite simply never looked back.I’ve actually shown up at a gathering, homemade walnut chocolate tart in hand, and been asked where the hell the chocolate chip cookies were. You can rest assured cookies were the things my hands held the next time around. Forgiveness was offered readily. 

The depth is in the details:  
1. The Butter: Use unsalted. Using salted butter doesn’t allow you to control the amount of salt in the dough and you can end up with an overly-salty cookie. Blek. 
Brown the butter. This browned butter, my dear friends, is the absolute key. It increases the chewiness, enhances flavor, and the smell alone will convince you of its sacredness.

2. The Brown Sugar: Use dark brown sugar. Light brown sugar is going to rob you of some rich flavor. To boost the caramel taste even further, this recipe uses more brown sugar than white.

3. The Resting and Whisking: This allows the sugars to dissolve more, and along with the butter and brown sugar, there’s that caramelization happening - totally invaluable.

4. The Salt: This is where I diverge from the Cooks Illustrated path a bit. They call for a standard table salt, but I went to the pantry one day for the salt and saw our little bag of Penzey’s coarse grey sea salt staring at me. Visions of sea salted caramels swirled in my head... What a divergence that was! The larger grain gives you an occasional bite of rich salt between the teeth, a lovely surprise amongst the cookie's sweetness. Alternatively, you can use fleur de sel, or any coarse salt really. Of course you can stick with the table salt - You’ll still have a crazy good cookie. 

5. The Chocolate: Splurge just this once and buy the Ghirardelli chocolate chips – it’s their shape and size that makes them the winner. Their width gives you chocolate in every bite. 

The shape of the chips gives you chocolate in every bite!

The perfect marriage: Chocolate and Neruda 

The eve of their making was just yesterday, and my task set forth was two-fold: 1) bake chocolate chip cookies, 2) write a love poem for my dear friend’s wedding next weekend. The combination seemed apparent and totally natural... I pulled out Pablo Neruda’s 100 Love Sonnets for inspirational reading, and just can’t resist sharing a relevant excerpt from a favorite…

You are the daughter of the sea, oregano’s first cousin.
Swimmer, your body is pure as the water;
cook, your blood is quick as the soil.
Everything you do is full of flowers, rich with earth…

Naiad: cut your body into turquoise pieces,
they will bloom resurrected in the kitchen.
This is how you become everything that lives.

The bigger size helps with their superior texture

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated May & June 2009 issue

Yield: 16 cookies
Time: 40 minutes total, 20 minutes hands-on

1 ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (8 ¾ ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (5 ¼ ounces)
1 heaping teaspoon coarse grey sea salt (or 1 teaspoon table or kosher salt)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ¾ cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and adjust oven rack to middle position. Whisk flour and baking soda together in mixing bowl and set aside. Note: If you have a scale, definitely use it for the flour. Too much flour will make these perfect cookies a bit imperfect. If you don’t own a scale... just get one.

2. Cut up 4 Tablespoons of the butter into small cubes, place in large mixing bowl and set aside. Heat the remaining 10 Tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Continue cooking, swirling the pan until the butter turns a dark golden brown and gives off that divine nutty, browned butter aroma, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Remove skillet from heat and, using a heatproof spatula, pour browned butter in with the 4 Tablespoons of butter you’d set aside. Stir until all butter is completely melted.

4. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to the bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Then add egg and egg yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth and no sugar lumps remain, about 30 seconds.

5. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk again for 30 seconds. Repeat this process of resting and whisking about 2 more times, until the mixture is thick, smooth, and beautifully glossy.

6. Using wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture just until flour is combined. Now stir in chocolate chips and give it a final stir, making sure no flour pockets remain and the chocolate chips are evenly distributed.

7. Divide dough into 16 portions, about 3 Tablespoons each. Place on large baking sheets lined with parchment paper, 8 balls per sheet. 

8. Bake one tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Edges should have begun to set but centers should still be soft. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through to ensure even baking. Immediately transfer to wire baking rack to cool. Cookies will be fresh for about 36 hours, but trust me… they won’t last that long. 

My final Cookie Week delivery to a local reader

Thank you dear readers
May all chocolate gravitate towards you...


  1. Making these today with Nadia; so excited about the brown butter brilliance. I also love the choc chip cookies in the new NYT cookbook (Amanda Hesser's recipe, not the other one in that book), for which coarse salt is a must, just like these.

  2. How fun!! I'll have to check out Amanda Hesser... she sounds like a lady I'd like.
    I hope you and Nadia enjoy! (Feel free to post a photo... I'd love to see that little one doing some baking.) :)

  3. Do you have high altitude instructions? Mine did not turn out like yours. :(

  4. So sorry they didn't turn out for you! May I ask where you're baking?
    I've done a little research in the past about high altitude baking, but have honestly done much of it myself. Here's the best website I found... http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes2008/high-altitude-baking.html
    Halfway down the page, there's great info on cookies. Let me know what you think!

  5. I made these delightful pieces of heaven last night. My husband and I are chocolate-chip-cookie-aholics, so I knew I had to at least attempt "the perfect chocolate chip cookie."

    They ARE the perfect cookie. Even the batter is better to sneak bites of! I will never be able to make the recipe on the back of the chocolate chips again. Once you have had perfection, you can't go back. To quote my husband; "There is brilliance in the perfection of something so simple."

    Katie, you are Michelangelo, and these cookies are your perfect circle. I can't wait to try your Sistine Chapel recipe!

  6. Ashley,
    You are sooo right on... Those "back of package" recipes don't touch these! Your husband and you clearly have great taste AND a way with words. Love it!
    I have to give much credit to those gurus at Cooks Illustrated. They've really got it dialed. That said, I'll save your Michelangelo compliment and look at it on rainy days. :)
    Now... my Sistine Chapel. Hmmm.

  7. I've just dug this recipe back out for local trick-r-treaters coming in the morning. Love it! Totally the best cookies EVER.