Dangerous Chocolate Chip Cookies Dissected


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These are basically my perfect chocolate chip cookies. They’re just chewy and moist enough throughout the center, slightly firm and crispy on the edges, thick enough to be satisfying, full of chocolate, and their sweetness has complexity – of vanilla, butter, molasses and maple…

And that’s why they’re dangerous. I replaced the granulated sugar with maple sugar. Although the maple flavor does not dominate the flavor of the cookie enough to justify calling them maple chocolate chip cookies, the maple sugar gives them just the right texture and just the right flavor. I think that the hint of maple bridges the molasses, vanilla, and chocolate flavors; it elevates the cookie’s sweetness into true flavor.

The problem is that maple sugar is something like the gold dust of baking. Whereas granulated sugar can be about 48 cents per pound, I’ve seen maple sugar range from $9-$48 per pound. That’s at least 18.75 times more expensive. So, to recommend its use in chocolate chip cookies seems like recommending the use of Perigord truffles in a dish that won’t really taste like them.

But they’re so good.

And the maple flavor gets a little stronger on the second day.

I made another batch with significantly more maple sugar (140 g maple sugar to 80 grams brown sugar instead of 100 g to 120 g), but the cookies again eluded a strong maple flavor; instead, they were just too sweet. But the cookies are perfect in an ice cream sandwich paired with a rather unsweet Cocoa Nib Ice Cream w/ Caramelized Cocoa Nibs that I made. With the added crunch, caramel flavor, and creaminess, there’s very little more that I could ask for in the world… Perhaps only cheaper maple sugar.

There’s a lot to be said about CCC-making. I see them as the wild cards of baking. Cookies are always a little temperamental, but CCC’s have a way of turning out differently due to very small changes in technique, ratios, and weather; I tend to blame the brown sugar, which has more moisture issues than most ingredients. Even dough from the same batch can bake up differently depending on how it’s been treated and baked. And the cookies change texture over time, sometimes in a matter of hours. There’s a reason why Mrs. Fields insisted on selling cookies that were no more than 2 hrs out of the oven.

So, below is the recipe for the cookies, complete with every single step of the process for CCC’s in general detailed to the best of my knowledge. It’s a work in progress, though, b/c I haven’t yet made the perfect ccc cookies without maple sugar to my liking. Please feel free to add any wisdom or thoughts. Megnut posted the mean chocolate chip cookie a couple months ago, and this is my attempt to figure out what it all means.

And after the jump is the un-annotated version for faster reference. I used to make the recipe for Toll House cookies on the chocolate chip bag, but it tends to produce a flat, crisp cookie. My version is based on what’s usually referred to as Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Here goes… All the world in chocolate chip cookies.

Dangerous Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 34 cookies

4 oz Butter, cold, cut into 1/2″ pieces

  • I use unsalted Challenge Butter, but I’m considering trying salted butter. The salt particles are small in it, and so will disperse evenly. It also saves a measuring step.
  • Some recipes call for softened butter, but I don’t aerate cookies as much as I do cakes, so I’m not concerned about having the butter at prime plasticity for aeration (about 65-75F). Also, friction in the bowl will heat it up and soften it quickly.
  • Some recipes call for melted sugar. I’ve never done that; Cook’s Illustrated claims that it leads to a greasier cook.
  • Some recipes call for some shortening. I don’t like the flavor or way it lingers in my mouth, but it makes for a puffier, chewier cookie.
  • Some recipes also call for milk, which will produce a flatter, crisper cookie b/c of the added water.

100 g Maple Sugar

  • The stuff of worship.
  • There are also Maple Flakes, but since they’re freeze-dried, I don’t think they’d bake well. They’re more for sprinkling on ready-to-eat food.
  • I tried a batch that added maple syrup to sugar and brown sugar, but it didn’t taste much like maple.
  • The original recipe used an equal amount of granulated sugar. In her magnificent essay on sugars, Beranbaum says that the two can be substituted without change in texture. But maple sugar is sweeter and contains more water (Beranbaum says 8% to granulated’s .5%, but it just occurred to me that it may be .8%, since it doesn’t seem very moist and her chart is otherwise arranged in progression; but I could wrong).
  • The ratio of granulated sugar to brown sugar in chocolate chip cookies is often a defining factor of CCC recipes, affecting the chewiness, moistness, color, puffiness, and flavor.

120 g Light Brown Sugar

  • Here’s a CCC that uses all brown sugar.
  • I use C & H brand, which is real brown sugar, not granulated sugar sprayed with molasses, as some are.
  • Sometimes different sugars are used. Here are my experiences:
    • Dark brown sugar can be substituted for a more pronounced molasses flavor and slightly chewier texture
    • A mixture of granulated sugar and molasses can be substituted, but the batter will need to be chilled and the cookies will be more delicate; I think b/c granulated sugar granules are finer than brown sugar granules. See the Tartine cookbook for two excellent examples of cookies that use granulated sugar plus molasses instead of brown sugar for CCC-style cookies.
    • Some recipes also use corn syrup, for moisture and chew.
    • I once used Dark Muscovado Sugar instead, and the cookies were flatter, too chewy, and had a greyish hue. It would probably work better with a lower ratio of this sugar, or maybe with more butter. I also mixed in some cinnamon, and that was a great flavor combination.

heaping 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt

  • I dislike “heaping” instructions, but I think the original recipe was meant for table salt. Since I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt, which has larger granules, more volume of it needs to be added. 1/2 tsp seemed like too much, and since I don’t have a 1/3 tsp, I heap.

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

  • If you use just the right amount of baking soda, the cookies will rise just so. If you use less, acc to Cook’s Illustrated, the cookies will be a little thicker. If you use more, the cookies will be more brown and spread more, but they may taste soapy.
  • Cook’s Illustrated substituted baking powder to increase the acidity so that the cookies would set faster, and so have more of a contrast btw a chewy interior and crisp exterior. I’ve also seen recipes that use vinegar or lemon juice to add acidity as well as cut the sweetness.

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

  • I’ve been using Nielsen-Massey Mexican Vanilla recently. It seems more spicy and pungent to me. I like it.
  • Vanilla extract is a flavored alcohol, so I tried using Meyer’s Dark Rum with the Dark Muscovado Sugar batch, but it didn’t add adequate flavor. I do want to experiment more with different alcohols in the future.
  • I used to use Vanilla Paste a lot, and I liked it for its true vanilla flavor and aroma. It doesn’t have any alcohol in it, so I wonder if that affects the texture of the cookie at all.

50 g Egg, lightly beaten

  • I beat it lightly so that it incorporates more evenly more quickly.
  • Some recipes use an extra egg (for moistness and cakiness), yolk (for richness and lift), or white (for chewiness). I don’t care to have their extra flavor in my cookie, so I haven’t pursued those routes.

175 g All-Purpose Flour

  • I use King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.
  • Some recipes add more flour for a heftier cookie, but it’s harder to bake out all of the starch that way and the cookie can taste more floury.
  • Some recipes use different flours (such as bread which will make it chewier and heftier, or cake which will make it cakier). I find that bread flour dulls the flavor, so it’s not worth the extra chew to me.

180 g Chocolate Chips

  • I like Guittard’s Semisweet chips, but I sometimes chop up whatever couverture I have around for it, too (which, frankly, is a pain to cut into nicely-sized chunks). In the picture above, I used halved Cacao Barry 58% callets, which were perfect with the maple b/c they’re not too sweet.
  • Milk or white chocolate — or any mix-in for that matter — works, too.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 300F.

  • I’ve found that anything higher makes the edges and bottoms of the cookies brown too fast for this recipe, but other recipes may require a higher temp to bake properly, perhaps more acidic ones.

Line a baking sheet with a silpat.

  • I like that the silpat insulates the cookies slightly, whereas parchment or direct placement on the baking sheet browns them more. I haven’t used insulated cookie sheets (with a layer of air in between layers of metal), but I think it would be too much insulation.

In an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugars, salt, baking soda, and vanilla on low until mostly combined. Increase the speed to medium, and beat until homogeneous and slightly creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.

  • You’ll notice that a couple “dry” ingredients are being mixed with the “wet” here. It’s just to ensure that ingredients are evenly distributed. The salt and baking soda are usually added with the flour, but the flour should be incorporated with as little mixing as possible so that the cookies aren’t tough from gluten development. Baking soda and salt do not contribute to gluten, and I think that it’s important to distribute them evenly in the batter.
    • Rose Levy Beranbaum has technique of mixing butter cakes in which she adds the soft butter and then the eggs to the dry ingredients. I’m tempted to try this for CCC’s, and mix it less.

Add the egg, and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.

  • I once mercilessly overmixed a batch of cookies trying to get cold eggs to emulsify into the batter (which, incidentally, is unnecessary for CCC’s), and the cookies were quite cakey and slightly drier.

With the machine on low, gradually add the flour.

  • I transfer the flour with a flat plastic dough scraper to do this, b/c pouring flour from a bowl is perilous at best, unless you’re using bigger equipment.

Stop the machine when the flour is mostly incorporated and scrape down the bowl. Add the chocolate chips, and mix on low until just combined.

Drop the dough by tablespoon onto the silpat.

  • I use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop.
  • I’ve found that flattening room temp dough with your fingers or a cup will produce a flatter cookie that’s crispier on the outside.
  • You can chill the dough for a few days, but either let it come to room temp before baking or flatten them slightly (otherwise, they’re puffy and weird).
  • You can freeze the balls of dough on a baking sheet, and then put them in a ziploc bag for longer storage. Defrost them overnight in the refrigerator, separated on a flat surface and closely covered. The issue here is that you don’t want condensation to form on the dough.

Bake for 18 minutes, until dough is just set across the top of the cookies and the edges are browned, rotating the pan after 11 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let sit until stable, then scrape up each cookie and remove to a cool surface.

When cool, store in an airtight container.

Dangerous Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 34 cookies

4 oz Butter, cold, cut into 1/2″ pieces
100 g Maple Sugar
120 g Light Brown Sugar
heaping 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
50 g Egg, lightly beaten
175 g All-Purpose Flour
180 g Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat.

    In an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugars, salt, baking soda, and vanilla on low until mostly combined. Increase the speed to medium, and beat until homogeneous and slightly creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.Add the egg, and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.With the machine on low, gradually add the flour. Stop the machine when the flour is mostly incorporated and scrape down the bowl.

    Add the chocolate chips, and mix on low until just combined.

    Drop the dough by tablespoon onto the silpat.

    Bake for 18 minutes, until dough is just set across the top of the cookies and the edges are browned, rotating the pan after 11 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let sit for 5 minutes, then scrape up each cookie and remove to a cool surface.

12 Responses to “Dangerous Chocolate Chip Cookies Dissected”

  1. Tommy Says:

    Evil woman!

    Why must you make my mouth water so? You will pay for your transgressions…

    By the way, the juniper flan was a bust. Just DID NOT work! The antelope demi was as good as it sounds, but juniper flan… don’t even bother.

  2. jamie Says:

    nina.. they were fabulous. i couldnt stop eating them. i ate them till i was literally sick from all the sweetness but even then.. i wanted more.

    i have a basic “spicy” oatmeal cookie recipe that i really like but im convinced you can make it gourmet and teach me!!!!

  3. emily Says:

    I’m always baking new recipes of chocolate chip cookies, but haven’t tried one with maple sugar. Luckily, I have some in the pantry.

  4. Nina Says:

    Tommy – Bummer! I haven’t worked much with juniper berries — did their flavor just not infuse well? Maybe a panna cotta would work? Or from the way it sounds, I guess just forget it and take consolation in a Gin & Tonic…. 🙂

    Jamie – Thank you! And dude, keep me posted on the spicy oatmeal cookies. 🙂

    Emily – I hope you like it! It is a bit sweet, but it seems to work….

  5. liz Says:

    If you ever want to add a little crunch without adding nuts, try adding a cup or so of Rice Krispies to your chocolate chip cookies. My mother used to do this when I was growing up and I’ve continued the tradition.

  6. Nina Says:

    Liz – Thanks, that sounds like a great idea — I sometimes want more texture but without adding the flavor/fat of nuts. I’ll try that.

  7. fattypr Says:

    oh gosh. i love choc chip cookies, so i will def have to try this recipe. before i go to every grocery store in town looking for maple sugar, though, let me ask if you recommend going straight to a specialty store or if it should be everywhere.

  8. Nina Says:

    I’d go to a specialty store or a gourmet market… or better yet, call around first. I used India Tree brand maple sugar, but on their website, it lists le gourmet chef in columbus and balducci’s in bethesda and alexandria as the closest places in your area to stock it; and then more in DC.

    Whole Foods here had a maple sugar for sale, but its ingredient was “dehydrated maple syrup,” which should technically mean regular crystallized maple sugar even though it’s a funny way for saying it, but it looked slightly different than India Tree’s…. It should work, but I can’t completely vouch for it.

  9. Brian Says:

    Thanks for another awesome blog post, by the way. I was bored tonight and found I had all the ingredients for these around (well, except the maple sugar — had to use turbinado instead) and they came out super ell. Furthermore, all your technical detail was really fascinating. I wish I could find entire cookbooks with this kind of technical detail. It really teaches the “why” instead of just the “how” (and, coincidentally, I’m right in the middle of trying to progress from a chef-who-knows-how to a chef-who-knows-why!)

    They came out really well.

  10. Nina Says:

    Thanks, Brian! I’m so glad that the cookies came out well — and no exploding bottles of Scotch were involved. 🙂 They look fantastic!

    I like the idea of using turbinado. Frankly, I wouldn’t have attempted it b/c the granules seem large — but it looks like they melted in with the rest of the dough? The cookies must have a nice rich flavor. I happen to have lingering bag of turbinado around that’s ripe for experimenting with… 🙂 Actually, I just checked the bag and it mentioned that it can be substituted 1:1 for white sugar. Huh. I had no idea. 🙂

    And seriously, I wish that descriptions in cookbooks would describe the technical detail more; I was surprised that I couldn’t find a breakdown of ccc’s like the one in this post anywhere… Thank god for blogs. :). Cook’s Illustrated is usually good, but even they sometimes sneak some inexplicable elements in.

  11. Brian Says:

    Actually the sugar texture was still there, which is probably half because of the turbinado and half because I don’t have a stand mixer and creamed the butter and sugar together by hand (I do not recommend this!) but it was not an unpleasant texture; I think it caramelized a bit during cooking. One of my coworkers who bakes a bunch actually noted it as an aspect she really liked.

    From Beranbaum’s sugars article you linked to (that article rules!) she says turbinado is 99 pure sucrose, although she does note that it cannot always be substituted perfectly because the moisture content is different, the granules are larger, and the molasses flavor is there. It would be disastrous used in confection, but for baking I find it substitutes pretty well, as long as you want those different flavors (which I did!) And I’m sure the moisture content differs from brand to brand. The kind I get is just from Whole Foods or Central Market’s bulk bins here in Austin and it’s a very light, pale gold color, nowhere near as dark as Sucanat, and very dry (plus the stuff I have is pretty old so I bet it’s drier still.)

  12. Nina Says:

    So… I made the turbinado sugar variation with some Trader Joe’s organic. I liked it! For me, the granules brought back memories of sugar granules in iced tea, and for my boyfriend, they reminded him of pop rocks. 🙂 And I liked enhanced brown sugar-y flavor and texture. I think it’s interesting that, really, the turbinado is kind of like a mix-in b/c the granules are so large, and the brown sugar is more integrated into the dough and gives the structure.

    And I never really thought about it before, but it seems like turbinado sugar is like real brown sugar (such as C & H brand), but drier and with larger granules.

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