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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Updated: Mar 23



Chocolate chip cookie ingredients

Testing as Distraction


When my mind needs a distraction from all things landscape, I bake.  After my spouse’s recent trip to Costco, I found a 4.5-pound bag of chocolate chips on our kitchen counter, way more than the small package I expected.  Time for the test kitchen!


Phase one (we ran out of eggs, so phase two will be after restocking the pantry) included our go-to recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (ATK).  We know the results will be reliable for a large, cakey cookie.  As much as our guests and we enjoy them, their shelf life is short, and their taste shifts from light and airy to dense and dry in a few days.  I did not expect to find a successful alternative from Better Homes and Gardens (BHG).

Three chocolate chip cookies
From left to right: ATK, BHG, The Joy of Cooking

BHG’s cookies have enough instructional variation to make it worth a comparison.  Whereas ATK says to melt the butter first, add two eggs, two egg yolks, and larger amounts of almost everything else, BHG did not require melting the butter while replacing half the butter with shortening and adding only two eggs.  The cookies were smaller in size, but they had a similar cakey texture.  What surprised me is their lasting flavor tasted better over time than ATK’s variation.


My last egg was used in a recipe from The Joy of Cooking, and the result was utterly unremarkable.  Less of everything, including taste: one egg, less than half the vanilla, and only a quarter of the chocolate chips used in the other two recipes.  Yet the yield was similar, including their diameter.  The recipe called for a smaller “drop” per cookie on the baking sheet than ATK’s ¼ cup dough per cookie.  Opening the oven resulted in disappointment: a flat cookie with little substance and, if lucky, four chocolate chips—a blend of crispy/chewy rather than cakey was the only benefit.


From left to right: ATK, BHG, The Joy of Cooking

Size is a fascinating subject.  The earlier recipes from The Joy of Cooking and BHG recommended considerably smaller cookies than ATK’s quarter cup, which reminded me of an article I read long ago about how American dinnerware has changed over the centuries.  Looking at still-life paintings from earlier centuries, dinner plates were considerably smaller than our modern versions, meaning we piled on larger proportions than our ancestors.  As I move on to phase two of this little baking test, I will be watching to see if cookie size is directly proportional to the copyright of a given cookbook.  This first impression is based on only three recipes, so I hope my suspicion about size over time is either proven or wholly kiboshed.  I will still have cookies to share!


First Update:  The editors of The King Arthur Flour Flower Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook (KAF) offer two chocolate chip recipes: one chewy (p. 296) and another crispy (p. 297).  At the time of this update, I only baked the chewy version, which distinctly differs from other tested recipes.  While the different recipes, including KAF’s crispy version, incorporate brown and granulated sugars, the chewy version replaced the granulated sugar with light corn syrup.  The recipe also called for only one egg, which contrasts ATK’s use of two eggs plus two yokes.  I believe the combination of corn syrup and less egg contributed to the cookie's chewiness.


King Arthur's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Another difference is the method of combining ingredients.  Most baking recipes, including the prior three, follow a similar process: combine the dry ingredients, set aside, cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy (which means starting with soft butter, or, in the case of ATK, melted and cooled); then add the wet ingredients (eggs and vanilla); and finally, slowly add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and/or baking powder, and salt).  KAF’s approach starts similarly with beating the butter and sugars (this time with corn syrup) but then recommends adding the vanilla, baking powder, salt, and baking soda before adding the egg.  One possible reason is to follow other methods of alternating wet, dry, and then wet ingredients again as a more thorough incorporation, but I’m not a professional baker.  Leaving the flour until last, I suspect, mitigates a common problem of overworking the dough, which is why KAF also recommends mixing in the chocolate chips by hand rather than with the mixer.


The results remind me of the BHG cookie: medium height, still a tad cakey, but unlike BHG’s version, KAF’s does have a little more chew.  I baked them for 13 minutes, and the edge had just enough crunch for a contrasting texture.  For this experience, both KAF’s chewy and BHG’s cakey cookies can compete for the number one spot in our kitchen.


Notes:

  • Optional nuts, or "nutmeats" in The Joy of Cooking, were omitted.

  • Online versions of these recipes frequently differ from the printed recipes in the books listed below, hence why they have not been included here. More testing options!


To be continued…


 

references


America’s Test Kitchen (Eds.) (2006).  The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  Brookline: Cook’s Illustrated. (p. 593).

Knox, G.M. (Ed.). (1981).  Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (9th Edition).  Des Moines: Meredith Corporation. (p. 159).

Rombauer, I.S., Becker M.R. (1975). The Joy of Cooking.  New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company. (p. 705).

Whitman, J. (Ed.) (2003).  The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook.  Woodstock: The Countryman Press. (pp.296-297).

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