Dear Mrs. Wakefield,
I must admit that I feel a little sheepish adding another chocolate chip cookie recipe to the world's ever-growing collection, presuming to be the new "best" recipe. I wonder, do you think it's funny, how many people out there have tried to improve on your original Tollhouse recipe? Are you rolling your eyes at all of us who can't seem to leave well enough alone?
As a caveat, I must say that I haven't judiciously tested all the other "best" cookies on the Internet before carefully calculating and assembling my own. This recipe is just what I think is the best, made up of all the things I look for in the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
I always go through a series of mental calculations as I decide if a chocolate chip cookie is worth going for. In no particular order, here are the things I look for in a perfect cookie:
The Chocolate-to-Dough Ratio: Most of us agree that the primary purpose of a chocolate chip cookie is to serve as a vehicle for getting chocolate into our mouths. The saddest cookie-eating experience is one in which you bite into a chocolate chip cookie without tasting any chocolate. Any good chocolate chip cookie must have huge chunks of chocolate in every mouthful.
The Type of Chocolate: Now, as much as I love your recipe with the Tollhouse chocolate chips, my favorite chocolate chip cookies don't actually have chocolate chips. I want them to have big-ass pools of chocolate that flood into your mouth as you bit into them. Chocolate chips are too waxy, too small, and just aren't melt-y and chocolate-y enough. And none of this milk chocolate nonsense; the chocolate should be dark and robust, flavoring each bite.
The Dough: I'm also quite picky about the actual cookie dough, which must be delicious in its own right and must balance the chocolate. I look for a darker color dough, flecked with stray chocolate shavings. It should have plenty of brown sugar and vanilla, which translates to a more complex, caramel-like flavor, as well as a little bit of salt to keep it from being sickly sweet. Pale, anemic dough is always a bit of a turn-off for me.
Texture: And of course, the perennial chewy/crispy debate. Personally, I like my cookies to be crispy just along the outer edge, and very chewy and gooey in the middle. While I think the 6-inch bakery cookies are little over-the top, I do think they need to be on the larger size in order to achieve these two texture qualities.
So here's the resulting recipe, my personal "best" cookie. It's humble, no fuss, no fancy flours or imported chocolate chips (seriously, NY Times cookies, why would you call for low-gluten cake flour and high-gluten bread flour, only to mix them and create the equivalent of all-purpose flour?) While I do recommend giving the dough time in the fridge, they taste just fine if you pop them straight in the oven. Because, let's be honest, who plans a chocolate chip cookie craving 24 hours in advance?
Since you were a baker, Mrs. Wakefield, I'm sure you know that we all like to experiment, and change and perfect. My recipe is not drastically different from other recipes out there, but it tweaks them just so, to make my perfect cookie.
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
12 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
Beat together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
Beat in the salt and baking soda. Fold in the flour, followed by the chopped chocolate.
Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour, or up to 24 hours While you can skip this step and bake the dough immediately, the dough will be easier to handle and the cookies will have an improved texture if you refrigerate it first.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Drop scoops of about 2 tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, about 4 inches apart. Sprinkle the cookies with sea salt, if desired.
Bake the cookies for about 12-13 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown.
Let cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack and cool for another 10 minutes or so. Serve and eat warm.