Measuring Up the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

On Wednesday, I received several emails asking if I had read the New York Times article that morning on the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The newspaper's food section that day was quite a sight... All that was visible above the fold was a ginormous photo of chocolate chip cookies, and the headline, "Perfection? Hint: It's Warm and Has a Secret." Of course I decided that I had to make the recipe as soon as possible.

I made the cookie dough Wednesday night, using chopped Hershey's Special Dark bars for the chips. The recipe calls for bread and cake flour, and provides measurements for both by weight and volume. Just to cover all of my bases, I measured by volume and double checked the weights. I found huge discrepancies. For instance, the recipe specifies 1 and 2/3 cup bread flour, or 8.5 ounces. I measured out the 1 and 2/3 cup flour, but when I weighed it, it only weighed 7.5 ounces. When I weighed the 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons for cake flour, it only weighed 7.25 ounces instead the 8.5 ounces specified in the recipe. I decided to add more flour in both cases to reach the appropriate weight (this required more than an extra 1/3 cup for both flours). Measuring flour can sometimes be trickier than you might think. In Europe they tend to specify flour by weight and not volume, since volume varies depending on all sorts of factors (how tightly it's packed, atmospheric conditions, etc.). I always measure flour using the scoop and level method, which means I aerate the flour (I stir it) first to make sure it is loose, then I use a spoon or scoop to lightly fill up the appropriate measuring cup until it's overflowing, and then I level the measuring cup with the back of a knife. If you pack the flour into the cup (which is what happens when you dip the measuring cup into the bag of flour), you can end up with a substantially greater amount of flour than what you would get with scoop and level. I figured that since this recipe was adapted from Jacques Torres, who likely relies on weight as opposed to volume, matching the recipe weights would be the safer route to take.

When I baked up the cookies on Friday morning the dough had been chilling for 30 hours. The recipe directs you to make 3.5 ounce cookies. I experimented and found out that a #12 scoop yielded 3.5 ounces of dough. But I thought the size of the resulting cookie was a bit excessive, so I used a #16 scoop instead, which yielded a 2.25 ounce cookie. Because the dough was so stiff when I first took it out of the refrigerator, I promptly broke my #16 scoop trying to release the first ball of dough. In the future, I will make sure to let the dough come to temperature for a bit before I start scooping.

The cookies came out beautifully golden brown. They are firm (and maybe even a little crispy) on the outside, but chewy on the inside. As the NY Times article noted, the flavor is like a regular chocolate chip cookie, but magnified. More caramel-toffee flavor, more intense all around, and an aroma like you wouldn't believe. These cookies have serious heft. They are in fact the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever baked.

I got 27 three and a half-inch cookies from my batch, instead of the 18 five-inch cookies specified in the recipe. I will definitely have to make these again.

A random hot (literally) tip: if you're thinking about visiting the Sur La Table in Friendship Heights in the near future, don't, or at least, not without calling first. I stopped by this afternoon to buy a new #16 scoop and their air-conditioning is broken -- and has been since last Saturday! It was positively unbearable in there, and apparently there is no projected date for when they'll have it fixed...


Elizabeth said…
I have eagerly been waiting for this review! Can't wait to make them ... would you recommend that those of us who don't weigh our flour go ahead and add the extra 1/3 cup?
You know, I'm going to make these again soon and I'm going to try it with less flour. While the cookies were great, I suspect that I made them with the upper acceptable limit of flour. I'm going to try measuring by volume next time, and they might spread a little more like the cookies in the picture that accompanied the NY Times article... I think you could do it either way! I'll post an update on how they turn out!