It's amazing how quickly the weather changes around here. Last weekend, we were contending with this:
That's more snow than this Virginia girl has seen in her entire life, let alone in late March. Two days later, with the return of warmer temperatures, it was all but gone. I'm tempted to start my garden, but I'm still not familiar with the weather patterns here to know if that's safe or not. Maybe I'll wait until the end of the month.
But enough of my rambling- let's get to the cookies. Ever since I made those delicious little browned butter cookies, I've been thinking of trying browned butter in a chocolate chip cookie. Usually, I pass on most chocolate chip cookies because they've become that standby cookie that everybody makes, but few make well. I know, I know... it's heresy to treat such a classic childhood treat so cavalierly, but someone's gotta do something about it. I just can't take another overbaked, cloyingly sweet yet otherwise flavorless disc studded with bad chocolate that isn't even worth its weight in carob chips.
I'll be totally honest with you- I already have a recipe for the most perfect chocolate chip cookie (which I will share with you next time I make them), and I was going to just try browning the butter in that one to see if it could possibly make it even better... but then Cooks Illustrated showed up in my mailbox with the same general idea, so I decided to try their cookie instead. Their recipe left me hesitant, as did the overly analytic instructions (which include three 3-minute intervals of letting the batter rest and beating it for 30 seconds), but I tried it anyways and ended up with a surprisingly good cookie; however, as I suspected, they didn't have the level of crispy-chewy contrast I seek, and their flavor didn't reach that coveted toffee nirvana. The browned butter definitely made a difference in flavor when compared to a run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookie, but not to the degree that I had hoped.
The only changes I made to the recipe were using slightly fewer chocolate chips (in order to better taste how the browned butter affects the dough) and baking at 325 degrees instead of 375 degrees (because with my oven, I have to avoid the 375 setting like the plague. It's the setting of evil and burns everything). I also opted out of the nuts (again, to not interfere with tasting the browned butter). I'm thinking that with a couple of small adjustments to the dry ingredients and adding more vanilla (or maybe just replacing it altogether with Kahlua, rum, or Bailey's), these cookies could live up to their potential. So, without further ado, here is the better-than-average but not quite perfect chocolate chip cookie.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Cooks Illustrated
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
14 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and soda together in bowl, set aside.
2. Heat 10 Tbsp. butter in a 10" skillet over medium high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1-3 minutes (Nic's note: this may take longer, depending on the quality of butter you use). Remove from heat and transfer to heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 Tbsp. butter into hot butter until completely melted.
3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk again for 30 seconds. Repeat resting/whisking process 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, giving dough a final stir to ensure no air pockets remain.
4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons. Arrange 2" apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (10-14 minutes), rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool completely before serving. (Nic's note: I don't know why they say to leave the cookies on the sheet- that's a great way to overcook them with the residual heat. And cool completely before serving? Are they crazy?!)
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