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Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: The cookie of your dreams

Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: The cookie of your dreams

The internet is full of chocolate chip cookie recipes — a Google search yields about 130 million results — and many of them claim to be the best. But what is the best chocolate chip cookie is subjective.

Whether you like it thick and cakey or thin and chewy, knowing how to adjust the amounts of each ingredient can help you customize the cookie of your dreams.

Virtually every chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for the same ingredients: butter, white and brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt, and chocolate. It’s the ratio of those ingredients, especially the butter and sugar to flour, that makes all the difference. A cookie with a higher ratio of butter and sugar to flour will spread more and be chewier than a cookie with less butter and sugar in proportion to the amount of flour.

A cookie with more flour is thicker and cookie and spreads less. We talked about it in more detail this week Calgary Eye Openerbut here are the basics of how each ingredient will affect the taste and texture of your cookies.

Calgary Eye Opener9:08Julie van Rosendaal about chocolate chip cookies

Our food guide Julie van Rosendaal on how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie – for you. 9:08

Letting the dough rest for a few hours, or even putting it in the fridge overnight, gives the flour a chance to rehydrate – it absorbs the moisture in the dough and some of the sugar dissolves, so even with the same recipe you get a completely different cookie. A cookie baked after the dough has had time to rest is denser, has less spread, has a softer texture and a more complex caramel flavor. It also browns faster, so you’ll need to take your batch out of the oven earlier so as not to overcook it. Keep in mind that a cookie will firm up as it cools, so most chocolate chip cookies should be golden brown around the edges, but still paler and softer in the middle if you want them to stay chewy once cooled.

In general, cookies made with melted or browned butter are denser. (Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal)

Butter

This adds flavor to your cookies and fat acts as a tenderizer and inhibits gluten formation. Since it will melt in the oven as your dough heats up, a larger amount of butter will result in a more spread out cookie. If you use shortening, which is a solid fat (butter contains some water), you’ll have a more tender cookie – more cake-like, less chewy.

How you treat the butter also makes a difference – if you melt it, and especially if you brown it (which requires more cooking time), the moisture will evaporate, leaving you with butter oil. This means you can’t get air into your dough by whipping your butter and sugar, like so many recipes begin. Less moisture also means less gluten development and makes it harder for sugar to dissolve, resulting in less caramelization. In general, cookies made with melted or browned butter are denser.

Biscuits with a higher sugar ratio spread more and are chewier. (Provided by Julie Van Rosendaal)

Sugar

Granulated sugar makes a thinner, crunchier cookie, giving it more spread. Brown sugar, on the other hand, will make a thicker, chewier cookie. Brown sugar has more hygroscopic properties — meaning it absorbs moisture from the environment — and it’s more acidic, so it will react with the baking soda to create more carbon dioxide bubbles that make the dough rise. It also melts faster than granulated sugar, meaning it caramelizes faster as you bake cookies. In general, cookies with a higher sugar ratio will spread more and be more chewy/candy-like. (If you’re using brown sugar, keep in mind that darker brown sugars will give your cookies a more pronounced molasses flavor — I usually use golden brown sugar in a chocolate chip cookie.)

Eggs

Eggs are mainly protein and water, especially the egg white (the yolk is usually fat). A cookie that contains more egg will be biscuitier, with more lift, and that added moisture will cause more gluten development (when flour comes into contact with moisture, gluten develops).

Flour

A higher proportion of flour to other ingredients will produce a thicker, crunchier cookie. Most of us use all-purpose flour (unbleached all-purpose is my standard) – if you use bread flour, which is higher in protein (gluten), you’ll get a chewier cookie, while cake and pastry flours will give you a softer cookie.

Chocolate

Chocolate chips are, of course, perfect for chocolate chip cookies, but I like to chop dark (about 70 percent chocolate) bars to get a range of small and larger chunks of chocolate in each cookie. (If you want to make a chocolate chip cookie, swap about ½ cup flour for cocoa!)

This is the key! Oven temperatures vary…so if your cookies spread too much it could be a larger amount of butter to flour, but it could also be that your oven is on the cool side and the dough is melting before it has a chance to set. If your cookies don’t spread, your oven may be too hot, meaning the dough is setting before it has a chance to melt and spread out a bit. Be careful not to overbake your cookies if you want them to be chewy once they have cooled.

Instead of chocolate chips, chop dark chocolate bars to make these chocolate chip cookies. (Provided by Julie Van Rosendaal)

Thick and chewy chocolate cookies

Chocolate chips are fine here, but I like to chop dark chocolate bars or slices of couverture chocolate to get a series of large chocolate puddles to small chocolate chips in each cookie.

ingredients

  • ¾ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (I prefer golden)
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • 1 cup (or so) chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugars, egg and vanilla for about two minutes until pale and light. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until almost blended; add the chocolate and stir just until blended.

Drop the scoop or large spoon onto parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges but still fairly pale in the center – note that they will firm up as they cool. Transfer to a grid, if you have one.

Makes about 1 ½ dozen cookies.

These chocolate chip cookies have a higher ratio of butter to sugar to make them chewy. (Provided by Julie Van Rosendaal)

Thin and chewy chocolate chip cookies

These chocolate chip cookies have a higher ratio of butter and sugar to flour than most recipes, making them very thin and chewy, almost candy-like, with a crunchy edge.

ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups packed golden brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp fine salt
  • 1 to ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars for a minute or two until pale and light. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir or beat on low speed until almost combined; add the chocolate chips and stir until blended.

Drop the dough into large spoons, spaced at least a few inches apart (they spread a lot!) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Use a thin spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 1 ½ dozen cookies.

Use boiling water and baking soda instead of the egg to make these cookies vegan. (Provided by Julie Van Rosendaal)

Vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

A chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookie is a beautiful thing. These use boiling water and baking soda instead of the egg. If you’re not worried about them being vegan, you can use regular butter.

  • 1 cup vegetable butter or coconut oil
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup boiling water
  • 1 ½ cup old-fashioned or quick oats
  • 1 cup (or so) chopped dark chocolate or vegan chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugars and vanilla for 1-2 minutes, until pale and light. Stir in the flour and salt (or whisk in on low speed). Stir the baking soda into the boiling water and stir this in as well, along with the oats, chocolate chips and nuts (if using).

Drop the dough into large spoons (or roll into balls) and flatten slightly with your hand. (I like to push a chocolate chip into the top of each cookie as well, to make sure each cookie gets one and to make them look extra chocolatey.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown around the edges but still soft in the center. Makes about two dozen cookies.