Calgary·Recipes

Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: The cookie of your dreams

The internet is full of chocolate chip cookie recipes — a Google search produces about 130 million results — and many of them claim to be the best. But what constitutes the greatest chocolate chip cookie is subjective.
No matter how you like them, knowing how to tweak the quantities of each ingredient will allow you to make your dream cookie. (Supplied by Julie Van Rosendaal)

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

Whether you like them thick and cakey or thin and chewy, knowing how to tweak the quantities of each ingredient will allow you to customize the cookie of your dreams.

Virtually every chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for the same ingredients — butter, white and brown sugars, egg, vanilla, flour, baking soda, salt and chocolate. It's the ratio of those ingredients, particularly the butter and sugar to flour, that makes a difference. A cookie that has a higher ratio of butter and sugar to flour is going to spread more, and is going to be chewier than one that has less butter and sugar relative to the quantity of flour.

A cookie with more flour will be thicker and cakier, and spread less. We talked more in-depth about it on this week's Calgary Eyeopener, but here are the basics of how each ingredient will affect the taste and texture of your cookies. 

Our food guide Julie van Rosendaal on how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie - for you.

Letting the dough rest for a few hours, or even refrigerating it overnight, gives the flour a chance to hydrate — it absorbs the moisture in the dough, and some of the sugar dissolves, so even with the same recipe, you wind up with a very different cookie. A cookie baked after the dough has had a chance to rest is denser, it spreads less and has a smoother texture and more complex caramel flavour. It also browns more quickly, so you should pull your batch out of the oven earlier to not overbake it. Keep in mind a cookie firms up as it cools, so most chocolate chip cookies should be golden around the edges but still paler and softer in the middle if you want them to stay chewy once they cool. 

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

Butter 

This adds flavour to your cookies, and fat acts as a tenderizer, inhibiting gluten formation. Because it melts in the oven as your dough heats, a higher quantity 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 cakey, 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 won't be able to incorporate air into your dough by beating your butter and sugar, as so many recipes begin. Less moisture also means less gluten development and makes it harder for sugar to dissolve, so you may get less caramelization. In general, cookies made with melted or browned butter are denser. 

Cookies with a higher ratio of sugar will spread more and be more chewy. (Supplied by Julie Van Rosendaal)

Sugar

Granulated sugar will make a thinner, crisper cookie, making it spread out more. Brown sugar, on the other hand, will make a thicker, chewier cookie. Brown sugar has more hygroscopic qualities — meaning it absorbs moisture from its environment — and it's more acidic, so will react with the baking soda to create more carbon dioxide bubbles that make dough rise. It also melts faster than granulated sugar, meaning it caramelizes quicker as your cookies bake. Overall, cookies with a higher ratio of sugar will spread more and be more chewy/candy-like. (If you use brown sugar, keep in mind that darker brown sugars will give your cookies a more pronounced molasses flavour — I typically use golden brown sugar in a chocolate chip cookie.)

Eggs 

Eggs are mainly protein and water, particularly the egg white (the yolk is mostly fat). A cookie that contains more egg will be cakier, with more lift, and that added moisture will allow for more gluten development (when flour comes into contact with moisture the gluten develops).

Flour

A higher ratio of flour to other ingredients will produce a thicker, cakier cookie. Most of us use all-purpose flour (unbleached all-purpose is my default) — if you use bread flour, which is higher in protein (gluten), you'll get a chewier cookie, while cake and pastry flour will produce a more tender cookie.

Chocolate 

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

This is key! Oven temperatures vary…so if your cookies are spreading too much, it could be a higher quantity of butter to flour, but it could also be that your oven is on the cool side, and that the dough is melting before it has a chance to set. If your cookies aren't spreading, your oven could be too hot, meaning the dough is setting before it has a chance to melt and spread out a bit. Be sure you don't overbake your cookies if you want them chewy once they cool down. 

Instead of chocolate chips chop dark chocolate bars to make these chocolate chunk cookies. (Supplied by Julie Van Rosendaal)

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies 

Chocolate chips are perfectly fine here, but I like to chop dark chocolate bars or disks of couverture chocolate to get a range of big chocolate puddles to little chocolate bits 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 soda
  • 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 soda and salt and stir until almost combined; add the chocolate and stir just until blended. 

Drop by the scoop or large spoonful onto parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden around the edges but still fairly pale in the middle — keep in mind they'll firm up as they cool. Transfer to a wire rack, if you have one. 

Makes about 1 ½ dozen cookies. 

These chocolate chip cookies have a higher ratio of butter and sugar to make them chewy. (Supplied 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 crispy 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 soda
  • ¼ tsp fine salt
  • 1 to ½ cups semi-sweet 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 soda and salt and stir or beat on low speed until almost combined; add the chocolate chips and stir until blended. 

Drop the dough in large spoonfuls, spacing them at least a couple of inches apart (they spread a lot!) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until deep golden. 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 in place of the egg to make these cookies vegan. (Supplied by Julie Van Rosendaal)

Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies 

A chewy oatmeal-chocolate chunk cookie is a beautiful thing. These use boiling water and baking soda in place of the egg. If you're not worried about them being vegan, you could use regular butter. 

  • 1 cup plant-based butter or coconut oil
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour ½ tsp fine salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup boiling water 
  • 1 ½ cups 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 beat it in on low speed). Stir the baking soda into the boiling water and stir it in too, along with the oats, chocolate chips and nuts (if you're using them). 

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

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

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