Baker’s Hours

October 29, 2008

Six Tips for a Better Chocolate Chip Cookie

Filed under: Baking Tips — Admin @ 2:31 pm
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          I recently volunteered to help plan a BBQ for Podcamp Hawaii ’08. The event was held the weekend of October 24-25th, and was a terrific success. Aside from the other BBQ duties I took on upon myself, I decided to bring some cookies to the picnic; I am a pastry chef after all. Two days later, people were still talking about those cookies on Twitter, which is what inspired me to write this entry.

          Many chefs guard their recipes with their lives. Although it is true that a good recipe is part of what makes great food great, I believe that too much emphasis is placed on them. Something that a lot of people seem to forget is that all a recipe is; is a list of ingredients. To me, the most important part of any recipe is the steps. I have note pads filled with lists of ingredients, but unless you know the procedure of how to put those ingredients together, you are not going to get the same end product as I would. I could give you my recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I don’t believe that that is necessary. I honestly believe that my recipe is no better than the hundreds of other cookie recipes that you find on the Internet. As I said before, it is just a list of ingredients. Instead, what I am going to do is give you the key steps that the cookbooks don’t tell you, so that you can take any recipe and use it to make a superior cookie.

          Before I move on to the Six Tips for a Better Chocolate Chip Cookie, I want to do a quick recap of the steps that every cookie recipe in the world uses.

  1. Cream butter and sugar together.
  2. Add eggs to butter, and continue creaming.
  3. Add dry ingredients.
  4. Add chocolate chips.
  5. Portion onto a baking pan and bake.

          Although how elaborate steps are may vary from recipe to recipe, this is the basic procedure for any chocolate chip cookie recipe. Now on to the first tip.

Tip #1: Flavoring Your Flour

            You are at the store shopping for ingredients for your cookies, and you reach for a bag of chopped nuts. This is me officially telling you to stop what you are doing. Rather than reaching for that bag I chopped nuts, opt for the whole nuts instead.

            I generally prefer to leave nuts out of my cookies when at work or when making them for a large group whom I am not familiar. It is just easier to just not put nuts into the cookies than it is to make one batch with nuts, one batch without, and then prey that someone with a nut allergy doesn’t eat the wrong one. However when it comes to my personal preference, I love nuts in my cookies. Yet just adding nuts to my cookies is not enough for me.

            Using chopped nuts out of a bag will not give your cookie the maximum amount of flavor possible. What would maximize the flavor of your cookie would be combining your dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda and/or baking powder depending on the recipe) with the whole nuts in a food processor. As you pulse the food processor, several things will happen. Your salt and leavening agents will be evenly distributed throughout the mix. Any unwanted clumps of flour will be broken up, but most importantly, oils within the nuts will come out and flavor the flour. Just be sure that you don’t get carried away. You just want the nuts diced up into the same sized pieces that you would have had you bought the chopped nuts from the store.

Tip #2: If you want a great cookie you have to use great chocolate!

A block of Callebaut chocolate being chopped up into chips.

            No offence to Nestle, but using their chocolate morsels will get you an inferior cookie. If you really want a great cookie, you have to use good quality couverture chocolate. I use 54% Semi Sweet Chocolate when making cookies. In terms of brand, I recomend Callebaut, but the brand and percentage of chocolate you chose to use should be dictated by your personal preference. If you want a more intense chocolate flavor, then you will want to use a higher percentage chocolate. The lower the percentage, the sweeter your cookie will be. Yes, couverture costs more than the chocolate morsels you get at the supermarket, but the end result will be well worth the extra money you spend.

 

Tip #3: Chocolate Dust is Your Friend

The dust left as a result of chopping up a block of chocolate.

The dust left as a result of chopping up a block of chocolate.

           Although couverture morsels are readily available at most gourmet stores, I am going to ask you to refrain from using them. Instead, reach for the blocks or bars if available. Once you get your chocolate home, use a knife to chop the chocolate into small chunks, and place them into a bowl for later.

Okay, now if you happen to be reading these tips while making a batch of cookies, I want you to stop what you are doing and look down at your cutting board. You see all that chocolate dust on the cutting board? That is cookie making gold! This is the reason why chopped chocolate gives you a vastly superior cookie over morsels. While you were chopping that block of chocolate you were also making chocolate dust, something that you don’t get in that bag of morsels. Now use the back of your knife, or a bench scraper if you have one, and make sure you get every bit of dust into your bowl that 

            The importance of chocolate dust is something that you won’t find in any cookbooks, and if you find a recipe that advocates chopping your own chocolate, it will most likely not even mention the dust. When you add your chopped chocolate that is now coated with chocolate dust, the dust will me absorbed into the dough. Hence yielding a more chocolaty cookie without increasing the amount of chocolate that you put in.    

Tip #4: Don’t Over Mix!

What your dough should look like before adding chocolate. The dough is just beginning to form but there is still flour in the bowl.

What your dough should look like before adding chocolate. The dough is just beginning to form but there is still flour in the bowl.

            One thing that can ruin a cookie is if the dough breaks. Yes this is possible, and I have seen it happen many times. This occurs when your dough becomes so warm that the fat in the butter separates. Unfortunately, there is no way to fix a broken dough (at least none that I know of). You can continue mixing the dough, and it will somewhat look homogenous again, but it is too late. The dough is ruined. Were you to try and bake these cookies, you will end up with a flat, greasy, cookie, pock marked with holes from where the butter seeped out. Oh and chances are your cookies will be sitting a pool of butter in the baking pan. An easy way of preventing this from happening would be of course to not over mix your dough. But, how do you do that?

            Often times, the reason people over mix their dough is because they think that the dough has to completely come together before adding the chocolate. In fact once you add the your dry ingredients to the bowl, you shouldn’t even be running the machine. After you add your dry, simply pulse your mixer (turn it on and off so that the paddle only does a single rotation) until the dough starts to pull together. The dough should be in chunks and there should still be some flour in the bowl. Now is the time to add the chocolate, which leads me to my next tip.

Tip #5: Freeze Your Chocolate

Friction can create a surprising amount of heat in the bowl while you are mixing your dough. It’s high school physics, but it is frequently something that many never bother to take into account. Often times you won’t even realize how hot the bowl is until it is too late. So, as a way to insure that you dough doesn’t get too warm, you just have to place your bowl of chopped chocolate into the freezer. The frozen chocolate will quickly chill the dough, preventing it from breaking. The coldness will also make portioning the dough easier since your will not have to worry about your chocolate melting while you scoop your dough.

This is a properly mixed dough. The flour is fully incorporated, there are no signs of the butter separating, and the chocolate is evenly dispersed throughout the dough.

This is a properly mixed dough. The flour is fully incorporated, there are no signs of the butter separating, and the chocolate is evenly dispersed throughout the dough.

Tip #6: Rest Your Dough

            Yes, you read it right; you have to rest your dough. I know that you have put a lot of work into thee cookies, but the pay off is with in reach, so please bare with me and fight the urge to pop your cookies into the oven.

            One of the most widely kept secrets of cookie baking that is constantly left out cookbooks and recipes is the importance of resting the dough. What happens when you rest the dough is you allow the dough to fully hydrate, giving you a firmer dough that has the ideal amount of spread while baking. There are some pastry chefs who say that you have to rest the dough to up to 36 hours or more. Although this was standard practice at the Greenbrier, I have found that you get the same results if you allow the dough to rest overnight.

            So, there you have it. Six tips that will enable you to bake chocolate chip cookies just like mine. I hope that you find this tips helpful, and happy baking!

 

Song stuck in my head at the time of  this post: We’ll Be Together from the Grease 2 soundtrack

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5 Comments »

  1. Thanks Ed, this is delightful.

    I am tasting these ono cookies as I read this, remembering how delish they were. Everyone wanted to take cookies home after the BBQ. I was lucky, and now by following your wise guidance, might get lucky again!

    Comment by JudiC — October 29, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

  2. […] nctrnlbst @ 12:04 pm Tags: Baking Tips, Chocolate Chip Cookies Thanks to @Joscie who sent me these cookie related questions via Twitter. If you have any questions related to any of my posts, or the pastry […]

    Pingback by Chocolate Chip Cookie Q&A « Baker’s Hours — October 30, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  3. Those cookies were to die for. Thank you for sharing the recipe! I like your views on how things should be shared. I say the same about taking photos. Whatever the trick may be, we did learn it from somewhere else!

    I have always sucked at baking. But one of these days I will give this recipe a try! And I will report back to you!

    Comment by susie — November 3, 2008 @ 12:42 am

  4. […] no lack of food at the pot luck event. Of course, being a baker, I brought cookies. I made my chocolate chip cookies that were a big hit at last year’s Podcamp, a peanut butter cookie recipe that I got while […]

    Pingback by Hawaii Geek Meet - Baker's Hours — April 20, 2009 @ 10:12 pm

  5. Thanks for the great tips! I have a soft cookie recipe that calls for 2 cups choc chips. I decided to use callebaut couverture slabs (a mix of white, milk and dark) equalling 6 ounces. But my batch came out super greasy and undercooked at the base of each cookie (even when I baked them 10mins more than the recipe called for). I don’t know why, because when I made it with the cheaper choc chips the texture of the cookie was perfect (but obviously the flavour of the choc was lacking).

    What’s causing this? Is the fat content too high with the couverture?

    Comment by CookieLeen — June 5, 2009 @ 3:50 am


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