Controversial statement: all chocolate chip cookie recipes are basically the same.
Sure, some are better than others (The New York Times recipe is probably the best one out there) but they’re all different ratios of butter, brown sugar, regular sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate. And though different ratios will yield slightly different results, in my experience what matters much more than the recipe are the specific techniques you use to make your cookies. For internet purposes, let’s call them hacks and I’ve got six of ’em that’ll work with any chocolate chip cookie recipe and produce consistently good cookies every time.
CCC Hack #1: Use European-Style Butter.
The chocolate chip cookie master in my life is my friend Diana who makes the best cookies I’ve ever had. When I asked her about it, she offered up one major secret about why her cookies are so good: she uses Plugra European-Style butter when she makes them. The higher fat content creates cookies that are richer than your every day cookies. Also, it feels extra fancy to use butter that comes in shiny gold packaging. You’ll see.
CCC Hack #2. Chop The Chocolate Yourself.
Buying a bag of chocolate chips from the store is a loser-move when it comes to making quality cookies. Buy bars of chocolate–I like Ghiardelli 70% bittersweet, but sometimes I splurge on the Scharffen Berger–and use a big chefs knife and chop it into big chunks. Those chunks make the cookies so much more dynamic; sometimes you get a big bite of chocolate, sometimes you get just a sliver. But that textural complexity makes for a major difference in your finished cookies.
CCC Hack #3. Use An Ice Cream Scoop.
Whenever a TV cooking host talked about using an ice cream scoop with a lever to make cookies, I thought “who needs that?” Then I got one and now I can’t imagine making cookies without it. Not only does it ensure that all the cookies will be equally sized, it also just produces really nicely shaped cookies. My strategy is to scoop the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, flatten them a bit, and then sprinkle them with salt. Actually that’s another hack.
CCC Hack #4: Don’t Be Shy With Salt.
Some pastry chefs advise doubling the salt in any given recipe, but I wouldn’t go that far. I’ll just say that sprinkling your cookie dough with Maldon sea salt before it hits the oven is a little flourish that goes a long way. The large crystals add another textural dynamic that make everyday cookies feel like Prom Night.
CCC Hack #5. Age the dough.
This comes from that New York Times recipe, and it’s such good advice. If you can, make the dough two days ahead, keep it in the refrigerator, and then scoop it. The cookies will be that much nuttier and take on a caramel-like flavor. If you can’t wait that long, do what I do: make more cookie dough than you need. Scoop the cookies you want to bake immediately onto a Silat-lined sheet (see next hack); as for the other cookies, scoop the dough on to a parchment-lined sheet and then stick that sheet into the freezer. The next morning, pop those raw cookie mounts into a freezer bag and keep them in your freezer for up to a month (or sometimes longer). The cookies will age the way they need to age, but also you can bake delicious cookies whenever you want straight from the freezer. Just pop into a 350-degree oven and bake a few minutes longer than you normally do. This is the secret to my happy marriage.
CCC Hack #6: Use a Silpat.
My final hack is one that I’ve only settled on recently. Normally, I just bake chocolate chip cookies on parchment paper, but I find that with a Silpat sheet, the cookies are more protected from the hot metal and don’t end up as dark on the bottom. Not a major hack, but a nice hack still.
Are you sick of the word “hack” yet? I know I am. But that’s ok, we’ve reached the end of this post. Happy cookie-ing.