After two years of research and 6 rounds of tweaking, I’ve finally perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe. (That statement should have a million exclamation points after it.) When I first began my “Quest for the Best: Chocolate Chip Cookie” project, my plan was to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe online. As the experiment progressed, I realized I should probably take all of the knowledge I was gaining to create my own frankenstein recipe. But to be honest, I figured I would find a recipe that was perfect and it wouldn’t be necessary. Well, I should have known myself better. As I continued to try more recipes, my expectations for the perfect chocolate chip cookie grew and grew until I knew I had no option but to create it myself.
This is obviously extremely subjective. Many people find a chocolate chip cookie recipe they love and remain loyal to it for a lifetime. (This is going to be my lifetime chocolate chip cookie recipe FOR SURE.) After I tell you all about my cookie, you might think that it doesn’t sound as “perfect” to you as your favorite. That’s totally fine! Maybe you haven’t found a favorite yet and this still doesn’t sound like perfection to you. In that case, I’ve probably got you covered over here with one of these nine recipes. You do you. This is ME. I feel like I poured my entire heart and soul into this recipe. I told Robert I think this will go down as the single greatest achievement of my lifetime. It might be kind of sad to peak at twenty-six, but I think I’d be fine with it. If nothing else comes from this blog besides this magnificent recipe, I can die a happy blogger.
After developing this recipe and my pumpkin ginger cookie recipe, I have even more respect for people who create entire books about baking (like this baking boss). Tweaking a baking recipe is no joke. Every little thing you do can change the outcome, from the amounts of your ingredients (like adding or removing a 1/2 tsp of baking soda) to the size of your cookies and the baking temperature. Thanks to my epic research, the first batch I tried of this recipe actually turned out really well, and then I spent the next five tries focusing mainly on perfecting the size and texture that I wanted. It was a journey.
Here’s the general idea of how I came to this recipe: I started with The Last Chocolate Chip Cookie from Not Without Salt as my base recipe because that one was almost perfect to me, and most importantly it was one of the best-tasting cookies that didn’t require resting the dough. To amp up the flavor I took a cue from Megan’s recipe and browned the butter with vanilla bean. The process of browning the butter changes how all of the ingredients interact (since it is now melted) and also messes with the water content. To combat that, I followed a lot of the science from this Serious Eats recipe and changed the general plan for how the ingredients are incorporated together. Through my testing process I must have read this article on Serious Eats about the science of chocolate chip cookies like twenty-five times. That thing was like my treasure map, along with The Ultimate Cookie Handbook.
I also reduced the chocolate content in the recipe. (Surprisingly, I don’t like my chocolate chip cookie to be overwhelmed by the chocolate.) After all of those changes were in place, I went about tweaking the salt content, baking temperature, cookie size and texture. (My cookie is flatter and chewier than the original Not Without Salt recipe.) And that’s about it, as far as the process goes. Because of my two years of research, I knew exactly what I wanted.
I can honestly say that this chocolate chip cookie is perfect in my eyes. So let me brag about this creation of mine and tell you why it’s so great:
ALL PURPOSE FLOUR + WHOLE EGGS
Okay, so I know I’m making you use three different kinds of sugar plus those hoity-toity vanilla beans and that fancy French salt. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t so important. Instead I’m going to point out the bright side and remind you that you’re using plain old all purpose flour for this recipe, and you don’t have to separate any eggs. Whenever I have to use partial eggs for a recipe it just feels like such a burden, don’t you think? No extra egg yolk, no fancy flours. You’re welcome.
I really surprised myself with this chocolate chip cookie experiment when I would try one and say “… This has too much chocolate!” Who am I? But the truth of the matter is I love the cookie part of the chocolate chip cookie as much as the chocolate. I feel my recipe hits a sweet spot where the chocolate is obviously prominent while still allowing the cookie itself to shine. I also purposefully chose a 12 oz. amount because that’s the size of a standard bag of chocolate chips. Yay! Just open that bag and pour it in. As for what kind of chocolate you use, I’m leaving that up to you. If you use real chocolate bars and chop them up, it will definitely taste better than chocolate chips. But I also love the ease of chocolate chips. When I photographed these cookies for this post, I used some slightly-fancy Godiva dark chocolate chips. They’re a little bigger than what I would like them to be in the cookie, so I just gave them a rough chop before throwing them in. That way there were still some large chunks but also a few half-pieces and some little bits. I would suggest sticking to semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, but I might go half dark and half milk chocolate from time to time.
This right here is one of the major secrets to making any chocolate chip cookie taste better. It adds that wonderful nutty, toasted flavor to the cookie, amping up the toffee and caramel notes. I take it one step further by infusing the butter with vanilla bean while you’re browning it. The problem with browning butter is that it reduces the water content of the butter, and therefore affects how it interacts with the other ingredients in the cookie. So with my recipe, I have you stir an ice cube into the butter after you’re done browning it. I learned this trick from Serious Eats, which “kills two birds with one stone: it helps to add some water back into the butter, and it also helps to cool down the butter faster.” All of this can feel like an annoying extra step, but it really only adds about 10 minutes to your baking prep time and the effect it has on the flavor is unbeatable.
Salt! It’s such a magical element in sweet things. Adding the flaky vanilla salt to the top of these cookies is a game changer. You can use plain flaky salt if you don’t have the vanilla kind, but it’s really easy to make flaky vanilla salt at home. (See my note in the recipe below.) I love putting the flaky salt on top because it hits your tongue as you take a bite of cookie, giving you that salty-sweet wonderfulness in a different way than the salt that’s already in the cookie dough. The vanilla flaky salt takes it over the edge because then you also get that floral vanilla flavor with the salt. It’s seriously the best! Furthermore, I believe my recipe strikes a good balance where the salt on top enhances the cookie, but if you get a bite without it the cookie doesn’t fall flat on its own.
TO REST OR NOT TO REST
So here’s the thing: I’m a huge believer in resting your chocolate chip cookie dough. It totally makes a difference and you should try it if you haven’t already. However, I wanted my cookie to also taste fantastic if you were baking it right away. We all have those moments when the mood strikes and you need chocolate chip cookies RIGHT NOW. So I needed a recipe that gave me a cookie that was a 10 straight out of the mixing bowl, but was an 11 (out of 10) with that extra rest in the fridge. I DID IT. These chocolate chip cookies are frickin amazing if you bake them right away, but allowing them to rest gives you even better flavor and a slightly different chew to the cookie. I tested this a lot as I was baking, and even a 30-45 minute rest made a difference. Ideally I would refrigerate the dough for closer to 24 hours (and up to several days if you can wait that long), but even if you only have half an hour to wait, it’s worth it. You could always bake one or two right away so you can have a snack while the dough is in the fridge. (At least that’s what I would do.) UPDATE: I’ve since created a recipe for a single serving chocolate chip cookie for those moments when you REALLY need a cookie and don’t even have the patience to make a whole batch. Or if you really just want one. The whole thing takes about 25 minutes from start to eating time. Oh, and it happens to be vegan.
PRE-PORTIONING THE DOUGH
During my research, one thing I learned from Alana that I loved was pre-scooping the dough before chilling it. If you’re planning to bake these right away without a rest, then this doesn’t apply to you. But if you’re planning to chill your dough at all before baking your cookies, this is the way to go. While your dough is still warm and easy to work with, just scoop out your cookie dough mounds and place them close together on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. This way when you’re ready to bake them, you’re not dealing with hard, un-scoopable dough. You can just plop them right onto the baking sheet, top with your vanilla salt and place them in the oven, much like those break-apart Tollhouse cookie dough squares you can buy in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. I also like to flatten my mounds of dough a little bit. This gives them more of the shape I prefer once they’re baked, and it creates a nice little shelf for me to sprinkle on the vanilla salt without it falling off. This method is not at all a crazy concept, but it feels like such a life-hack to me.
PS – You could also freeze the dough at this point and then bake them as you need/want them. Michelle has it all figured out for you right here. If you’re baking right out of the freezer, I’d probably suggest baking these at 325 instead of 350, and give them an extra few minutes. I’ll have to test that method and update it here at some point …
Size matters, and bigger isn’t always better, as I discovered in my research. I didn’t want my cookies to be so huge that eating one would send you into a sugar coma, but they also can’t be so small that if you offered someone a cookie they’d think “… That’s it?” My cookies fall somewhere in the middle – They’re large enough to feel satisfying, but small enough to not feel too crazy for eating two in a row.
This factor was one of the hardest things to perfect as I was tweaking this recipe. My cookies develop a crisper, crunchier texture right on the edge, but the middle is wonderfully chewy and bend-able. The key to this is not over-baking. You have to pull these out when the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers still look a little under-baked. It’s so goooooood.
Ah, the taste. The flavor of these cookies is what I think every chocolate chip cookie strives to be: sweet, salty, caramel-y, chocolatey and buttery, with hints of vanilla and totally addictive. There’s absolutely nothing missing for me when I eat this cookie. After tasting my final recipe, my dad hit the nail on the head with this text: “Here’s what makes your cookie great – they taste like the uncooked batter, only in cookie form.” Thanks Dad! THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I WAS GOING FOR. Shortly after that text, I got this one from my mom, who generally only has a sweet tooth for ice cream: “It’s probably best that you only gave us two cookies because I could’ve eaten a lot more. They are delicious!” (Please note that I gave my parents more than two cookies – this was their second batch from that round of testing. They’re always badgering me about how they don’t get to eat enough of my creations even though they live only 3 minutes away, but they’ve never been quite so persistent about baked goods as the way they were with these cookies.)
So there you have it. These cookies are seriously THE BOMB. I’ve made them several times now, and I think each time I eat them I fall even more deeply in love with them. If you try them, I hope you love them as much as I do. (And don’t forget – if these aren’t perfect for you, your new favorite might be in this list.) I LOVE THESE COOKIES!!!!!!
Illustration at top created with pencil and Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (plus other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
- 1 vanilla bean
- one medium ice cube (weighing 0.8 oz/ 24 grams)
- 3 cups (390 g) all purpose flour
- 1.5 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp coarse kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup raw (turbinado) sugar
- 1¾ cup (370 g) dark brown sugar, packed
- 12 oz. chocolate chips (or your favorite chocolate, roughly chopped)
- flaky vanilla salt (*see note)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F if baking right away.
- Scrape the "caviar" out of the vanilla bean and place it into a medium skillet with the butter, along with the leftover vanilla bean pod. Warm them together over low heat until the butter is melted. Once the butter is melted, increase the heat to medium to start browning it. Whisk constantly as the butter starts to bubble and foam. Once you see brown bits on the bottom of the pan and the butter smells nutty and delicious, immediately remove from the heat and continue to whisk for another thirty seconds. (This should take about 5-10 minutes.) Here's a great tutorial for browning butter.
- Pour the vanilla butter into a small bowl and add your ice cube. Whisk until the ice cube has fully melted. Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the eggs, vanilla and granulated sugar until well mixed and the sugar has dissolved, about 3-5 minutes.
- Remove and discard the vanilla bean from your butter. Add the raw sugar, brown sugar and butter to the egg mixture and beat until combined and smooth.
- Add the flour mixture and mix on low until just incorporated, but not longer.
- Stir in the chocolate by hand with a sturdy spatula.
- IF YOU'RE GOING TO REFRIGERATE THE DOUGH: Using a large cookie scoop (about 3 tbsp), scoop mounds of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press on the tops of each cookie mound to flatten them a little bit. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 days.
- About 20 minutes before you want to start baking, heat your oven to 350°F and remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator so it can start to come to room temperature. (Even if your oven is already warmed up, you should let the dough sit out for 15-20 minutes before baking so it warms up.) Place 6 mounds of cookie dough at a time on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle the tops with your flaky vanilla salt. Bake for 9-11 minutes until just starting to brown on the edges and the top is crackly but still looks underbaked in the middle. Let them rest on their cookie sheet for 3 minutes before moving them to a wire cooling rack.
- IF YOU'RE GOING TO BAKE THEM RIGHT AWAY: Use your large cookie scoop (about 3 tbsp) to place 6 mounds of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten the tops of the mounds a little bit with your hand. Sprinkle your flaky vanilla salt onto the little shelf you created. Bake for 9-11 minutes until just starting to brown on the edges and the top is crackly but still looks underbaked in the middle. Let them rest on their cookie sheet for 3 minutes before moving them to a wire cooling rack. Repeat until you've used all of your dough.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature. They should stay good for 2-3 days, if they last that long.
*Recipe adapted and inspired by Not Without Salt, Serious Eats, Take a Megabite and Fix Feast Flair
*If you'd like to make a BOURBON version of this cookie, follow the instructions from my brown butter bourbon and pear cocktail to make brown butter-infused bourbon, and then use the leftover butter for this recipe. Just remelt the butter to a liquid state before adding to the recipe (and there's no need to add an ice cube since the bourbon added some water content back into the butter). Start with step 4 of the recipe and proceed from there.