I should give the disclaimer that there are thousands of bakers who believe they have the best cookie recipe in the world. I personally believe I am a top contender, but I can live with the possibility that there are other, better chocolate chip cookie recipes floating out there somewhere in the world. I am happy just knowing that my recipe is pretty darn good, and virtually fool-proof as long as I am the one baking or supervising. And even without my personal touch or close supervision, the recipe has been known to turn out quite nicely.
My response to the New York Times article is that if you want to appeal to a wide audience, you should be talking to normal cooks in normal kitchens, not top bakers in uppity bakeries. Here is my response:
How To Achieve Cookie Perfection (for Mortals)
- Don't try to make the cookies healthy. Sure, there's a time and a place for everything, and if you want healthy cookies you can get healthy cookies. The problem is when you assume that one minor adjustment will make the cookie better for you without sacrificing flavor. This is not true. The three most seemingly harmless mistakes are: (1) Cutting back the salt. It's counterintuitive, but you really need salt to make a good sweet. (2) Cutting back on the chocolate chips. If you don't want chocolate in your cookies, you should be making another kind of cookie. (3) Substituting Splenda for the sugar (or even half the sugar). It's not that the cookies will be bad - they just won't be amazing. Splenda leads to cookie mediocrity.
- Don't overbake. I can't stress this one enough. When you take the cookies out of the oven, they should not look done. They should look kind of doughy. Don't worry, they'll set. And err on the side of underdone, because a slightly undercooked cookie is always better than a slightly overcooked cookie.
- Use lots of vanilla. When I created my recipe, I ended up tripling the amount of vanilla that was used in the original recipe. Usually I don't even measure - I just splash it in and you can really taste the difference.
- Make the cookies big. Most recipes say to dish out heaping teaspoonfuls of cookie dough, but I'd recommend heaping tablespoonfuls (if you're really going to be picky about measuring). It's not just about having more cookie to enjoy - bigger cookies have better textures.
- Change up your chocolate. The New York Times article recommends "1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content", but who really has that? Or even knows what a fève is? (I don't.) But Nestle makes chocolate chunks that are available in the chocolate chip section of most grocery stores - a bag of chocolate chunks costs the same as a bag of chocolate chips and makes the cookie, like, five times better. Or you can find dark chocolate Ghiradelli chips in the grocery store aisle (though I'd recommend pairing them with regular chocolate chips). If you're super ambitious (and probably rich) you can use a small handful each of semisweet chips, milk chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter chips. These make for some intense cookies.
And finally, the famous cookie recipe. (I would post a picture, but, you know, no camera...)
Amy's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened*
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup oatmeal (don't get scared, it's just for texture, you won't even notice it in the final product)
2 cups flour
1 1/2 to 2 cups chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream shortening, margarine, white sugar, and brown sugar. Add salt and soda and mix well. Blend in egg and vanilla until creamy. Stir in oatmeal and flour, then chocolate chunks. Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 8-9 minutes, until edges have set but centers are still shiny. Let sit on cookie sheets 1-2 minutes, then remove to cookie racks.
*A couple notes on the margarine/butter. First, in spite of what everyone says about butter being better, I almost always use margarine and, in fact, prefer it in this recipe. Second, if you don't have time to let the margarine come to room temperature (as is usually the case when the cookies are a spontaneous idea), slice the stick of margarine up a little and put it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Again, some seasoned cooks will argue about the consistency of the butter, but having made these cookies with everything from refrigerator-solid to almost-melted margarine, you can trust me when I say it doesn't matter.