Like so many home bakers, the first time I made chocolate chip cookies I used the recipe from the back of the Toll House Chocolate Chip package. I was probably 10 years old and my mom watched over the process to make sure I didn't burn the house down. I didn't, and the cookies became a staple in the Chang household. Once I started baking professionally, I was in a world where no recipe was ever good enough—and the idea of baking chocolate chip cookies from the Toll House package was like suggesting to Bill that he read Software for Dummies—way too elementary. So I tested every other chocolate chip cookie recipe out there (or so it seemed). Every pastry chef and his/ her mother has a version of this cookie that is purported to be a vast improvement on the classic Toll House. Then, in 2000, I had to pick a final recipe for our chocolate chip cookie for Flour Bakery. You know what? There's a reason why everyone loves the Toll House cookie recipe: It makes an amazingly swell cookie.
So I used that recipe as my starting point, but I did make a few small adjustments to bring it from good to great. First I substituted some of the all-purpose flour with bread flour which gives additional heft to the final cookie and makes it chewy rather than flat and crispy. I stirred some chopped milk chocolate to the dough, which adds a nice caramelized note. The dough can be baked immediately after it's mixed, but for the best results, I always wait at least a day so the dough firms up in the fridge and all of the ingredients have a chance to get to know each other—this makes for a much better cookie, believe it or not. And finally, most importantly, use the best chocolate you can. This is the key to making this recipe shine. Thank you, Toll House for your recipe but ixnay on the Nestle Chips please. Use a high quality 62- to 75-percent cacao chocolate and you will taste the difference.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
• 1 cup (2 sticks; 224 grams) unsalted butter
• ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
• ¾ cup (175 grams) light brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 ¼ cup (175 grams) all-purpose flour
• 1 cup (160 grams) bread flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 ½ cups (9 ounces; 250 grams) chopped semisweet chocolate
• ½ cup (2.5 ounces; 70 grams) finely chopped milk chocolate
If you're baking the cookies on the same day you prepare the batter, heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven.
Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or mixing by hand with a wooden spoon), beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy, about five minutes. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle itself a few times; the sugar and butter love to collect here and stay unmixed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract on medium speed until thoroughly combined, two to three minutes. Again scrape the bowl and the paddle to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
Mix together the all-purpose flour, bread flour, baking soda and salt. Add both chocolates to the flour mix and toss to combine. Turn the mixer to low speed (or continue to use a wooden spoon if mixing by hand) and slowly blend the flour-chocolate mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Mix until the flour and chocolate are totally incorporated and the dough is completely mixed.
For best results, scrape dough into a container and let rest in the refrigerator for a day before baking. The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven. Drop the dough in ¼-cup balls onto a baking sheet about two inches apart. Press dough balls down slightly with the palm of your hand. If the batter does not fit all on one tray drop cookies on a second baking sheet and bake when the first tray is finished. If you have only one sheet tray, bake one batch and then cool the tray by running it under cold water before baking a second batch. Bake until cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. The unbaked dough can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge.
To read Joanne's article about how she became a pastry chef (and how she will be teaching Food Channel readers about pastry), click here.