When I embarked on making the perfect chocolate chip cookie 3 years ago I had no idea it would be so daunting. I prefer a cookie with a bit of height, no spread and not super chewy. Took me 3 years and a lot of trials and tribulations to say I am somewhat happy with the outcome. So many cookies bit the dust, so many ingredients wasted - but this is what encompasses the creation process.
First it was testing flours to find the one that didn't add an after taste, that offered enough elasticity in a drop cookie. I tested store brand flours, flours fresh from a local mill, whole wheat, unbleached, bleached, different big brands, cheaper brands and now only use King Arthur AP flour. I found that flours from the mill were a little too nutty for my liking, colors and textures and grittiness altered the flavor spectrum. The fresh flours are amazing in rustic breads just not what I am looking for in a cookie.
I use a mix of light brown sugar and granulated sugar, equal amounts. Truthfully sometimes I add more light brown and even sometimes I add some dark brown sugar. Dark brown sugar adds another layer of flavor as it brings in more molasses flavoring. Mix a little of a darker vanilla along with dark brown sugar and it completely changes the flavor of the cookie.
Butter to me is one of the most important factors in the cookie making process. This has probably been one of the biggest challenges for me. Prices have increased on butter in the past year or so making bakers and cooks around the world test other brands. I did testing of so many brands, hoping to find an alternative to my first love - Land O' Lakes unsalted. The price for a 1 pound box of Land O' Lakes rose to over $4.50 per box in my area (up from $3.50 per pound) basically over night. Butter is a big part of my cost as I use 2.5 sticks per batch of chocolate chip cookies. I tried store brands, European, Amish, etc but found that I prefer the taste of Land O' Lakes. Our local grocer often has a $1 off per pound box and I stock up and freeze some. Between my pie dough and cookie batters I go through butter at a fast rate so I am always on the hunt for deals.
Vanilla is also key to a great tasting cookie. And as you all know vanilla went through some steep cost increases in the past few years due to a shortage of beans. This brought the baking world into a tizzy as we all struggled to find the best but yet affordable vanilla without losing the quality of a good bean. Many bakers turned to making their own vanilla - someday I will try this as well. A few years ago I ran across Blue Cattle Truck vanilla while in Marfa, TX visiting our daughter and son-in-law. It is amazing. The flavor profile is the best and it adds such a great wow factor to cookies that I haven't bought anything else since. I just had a 1 gallon container delivered! I was able to get a 5% off coupon online : ) I do want to make my own vanilla - I will journal that journey!
There is no other way to say it - but farm fresh eggs are the best eggs! Once you buy a dozen from a local farmer you won't ever go back to store bought eggs. Not only are the shells beautiful and an array of colors (great for photos), the yolk such a vibrant color, the taste is completely different too. I am luck to have a friend nearby who raises chickens and if her chickens are being stubborn we have tons of year round farmers markets where I can pick up a few dozen eggs throughout the week. Usual cost of local eggs is around $5 per dozen so definitely more pricey than typical grocery store eggs but well worth the price!
First step in making a great fluffy cookie is to bring your butter to room temperature. I typically leave my butter out for at least 6 hours. Using a stand mixer cream your butter for a few minutes before adding in your sugars. I cream the butter and sugars together for about 3-4 minutes. You don't want to over-cream it as then you get a crazy butter flavor in your cookie. Add in your vanilla and eggs (one at time) until this mixture is well blended and the eggs are fully incorporated. Whisk together your flour, baking soda and salt by hand in a separate bowl and then add slowly to the wet mixture. Making sure to continually scrape the sides of the bowl - mix for about 2-3 minutes. Make sure to not over mix as this can flatten your cookie during baking. I like to add the chocolate chips or chunks by hand as well as any other additions such as nuts or raisins. I am partial to Guittard semi-sweet chips but like to use 1/2 semi and 1/2 dark chips. I also like to cut in 1/3 cup of Guittard Akoma chips as they add a little richer flavor to the chocolate.
Refrigerating the dough for at least 3 hours before baking helps solidify the fat in the
cookies, which helps with spreading of the cookie during the baking process. I like to refrigerate the dough overnight and usually separate the dough into 2 discs after mixing so that it stays chilled when portioning out to bake. I top each cookie ball with a little sea salt flakes as it adds a layer of sweet and salty to the cookies plus it just makes the baked cookies look pretty!
I use this same dough for cowboy cookies, M&M cookies and any other mix-ins like chocolate chip nut cookies.