Reaching Chocolate Chip Cookie Nirvana
James Beard award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan shares her favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and some tips for making this classic dessert.
Few desserts satisfy a craving quite like a decadent chocolate chip cookie, especially when eaten right out of the oven.
“If you live in America, you grow up with the Toll House cookie or with Chips Ahoy! or whatever packaged cookie your mom had in the house,” says Dorie Greenspan, author of Dorie’s Cookies, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook, noting that she grew up in a Chips Ahoy! home.
But can you improve on the classic recipe for this nostalgic treat? “Making a change is playing with tradition,” she says. “There are many things that you can change, but it should still have that satisfying, take you back, comfort of a chocolate chip cookie.”
On the plus side, the chocolate chip cookie has the added advantage of being incredibly simple. So much so that even inexperienced bakers can try their hand at, as Greenspan says, “playing around” with spices and other modifications, but she recommends keeping your changes subtle.
Her tips and recipe will help you achieve a slightly more gourmet version of this classic cookie using pantry staples. Don’t worry; you’ll still find all the rich, chocolatey, nostalgic goodness you crave.
Most chocolate chip cookie recipes call for standard all-purpose flour, but if you want to give your cookies a richer flavor and texture, whole wheat flour is an excellent option. But don’t be alarmed: Greenspan recommends using just enough that you notice a difference in flavor and texture, but not so much that the cookies taste too much like health food (no one wants that).
“I find that whole wheat flour is naturally sweet,” says Greenspan, who uses a small portion of whole wheat alongside all-purpose in her signature Newest Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe (below).
Alternatively, she’s also found that a portion of the flour can be replaced with oats for a chewier texture. The chocolate chip cookie recipe in Everyday Dorie replaces part of the all-purpose flour with oats: “I used a cup-and-two-thirds all-purpose and a cup of oats—I would use more all-purpose than oats.”
Though most chocolate chip cookie recipes rely on white sugar for that essential boost of sweetness in the dough, you should consider subbing in richer brown sugar.
In her signature chocolate chip recipe, she “also played around with the proportion of white sugar to brown sugar,” says Greenspan. Keep in mind that, “usually, you’ll get a crisper cookie with white sugar than with brown.”
Brown sugar also lends a caramel-like quality to the cookies, which Greenspan notes is particularly nice when you begin to introduce other flavors to the dough. Which brings us to...
“I like the spice to be more hint than hammer,” says Greenspan. Spices are not the star of the show as they are in, say, Ginger Snaps, but in small doses they add subtle, surprising savory notes to chocolate chip cookies. “Open your cupboard, see what’s in there—play around.”
In her Newest Chocolate Chip recipe she adds a quarter teaspoon nutmeg and quarter teaspoon coriander. “Coriander is usually a spice you find more often in savory cooking than in baking, but I chose those two based on fragrance,” she says. “They both seem kind of citrusy to me.”
Her recipe notes also offer a few suggestions, including adding a bit of instant espresso (“it might go unnoticed because it’s the kind of flavor that enhances other big flavors”), a bit of cinnamon or, even, a bit of Chinese 5-spice powder. Really, any spice is fair game.
The main attraction is, of course, the chocolate chips. While many recipes call for semi-sweet chocolate, Greenspan favors a more decadent approach.
“I actually prefer using chopped [bittersweet] chocolate to store- bought chips,” she says. “What I like about chocolate is the element of surprise. With a chocolate chip, you see the chip, you bite the chip, you taste the chip. With chopped chocolate while you see it, it’s all over the cookie. A bite can have a lot of chocolate or not much chocolate.”
Don’t have a chocolate bar you’re willing to sacrifice? Don’t worry: You can get the same distribution of chocolate flakes and chunks by chopping up your chocolate chips.
Without stealing too much thunder from the chocolate, there are plenty of ways to put pantry staples to work layering in texture and flavor. “I love giving people the chance to play around with a spice or a crunchy [element],” she says.
One of Greenspan’s favorite (and somewhat unexpected) additions is dried apricots. Other dried fruits also work well with chocolate, including cherries (cherries and chocolate are “a match made in heaven”) and cranberries. Pair those (or not) with nuts like walnuts, pistachios, pecans or hazelnuts. But be sure to chop the add-ins into pieces that are easy to mix and eat, roughly the size of chocolate chips. Or, try adding seeds, like flax, poppy or sesame (“like a bird seed chocolate chip cookie”).
Orange zest can also brighten and enhance the flavor of brown sugar, if you decide to add some to your recipe.
Flaky sea salt is a great flavor enhancer. Add a bit to each ball of dough right before you put it in the oven. Or, if you forget, immediately after the cookies emerge soft and gooey from the oven, but do so “sparingly, really sparingly.”
It may be intimidating to alter foundational elements of the chocolate chip cookie, but Greenspan’s recipe is a great start to understanding how slight changes have a big impact. “It’s just a slightly more grown-up cookie,” she says.
Recipe from Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan
- 1 3/4 cups (238 grams) All-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (91 grams) Whole wheat flour
- 3/4 tsp Baking soda
- 1/4 tsp Freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp Ground coriander
- 2 sticks (8 ounces; 226 grams) Unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) Sugar
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) Light brown sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp Fine sea salt
- 2 Large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tsp Pure vanilla extract
- 10 ounces (284 grams) Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or an equal amount of chocolate chips (1 2/3 cups)
Whisk both flours, the baking soda, nutmeg and coriander together.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars and the salt together on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. One by one, add the eggs and beat for 1 minute after each goes in. Beat in the vanilla. Turn the mixer off, add the dry ingredients all at once and pulse to begin the blending, then mix on low speed until the dough comes together and the flour has disappeared. Add the chocolate and incorporate on low speed or mix in by hand with a sturdy flexible spatula. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour.
When you’re ready to bake, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Use a level tablespoon of dough for each cookie: Roll each tablespoon of dough between your palms to make a ball and place the balls at least 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets — these are spreaders.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back after 6 minutes, or until the cookies have spread, puffed a little, turned a light golden brown and feel only just set around the edges. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies rest on the sheets for at least 5 minutes before lifting them onto the racks to cool to just warm or room temperature.
Repeat with the remaining dough, being certain to use cool baking sheets.
A word on timing: You can use the dough soon after it’s made, but it improves with more chill time. If you can wait a day to bake the cookies, do.
Makes about 50 cookies