Why It Works
- The cocoa butter in chopped chocolate flavors and thickens this dough, which won't behave the same with mass-produced morsels.
- Nutmeg deepens the natural flavor of butter.
- A cold egg keeps the dough cool, limiting spread in the oven.
Chocolate chip cookies have a history far longer and richer than the "original" recipe on the back of a bag of chocolate morsels would suggest. They date all the way back to the late 1800s, with a simple drop cookie recipe that called for two cups of shaved chocolate. Problem was, shaving chocolate in a world without air conditioning or Microplanes was an obnoxious affair, so bakers sometimes decided to replace that with two cups of chopped chocolate instead.
But shaved chocolate weighs just about two ounces per cup, while chopped chocolate clocks in around six ounces. So what seemed like a harmless swap in technique fundamentally altered the nature of the recipe, tripling the amount of chocolate involved.
This all went down well before Ruth Wakefield was even born, which makes it kind of hard to believe she "invented" chocolate chip cookies at the Toll House Inn. Besides, long before her recipe came along, grocery stores across America were already advertising chocolate chip cookies by the pound.
Their name came from the fine shavings and chips produced by chopping chocolate, not the mass-produced, teardrop-shaped morsels we know today. With chopped chocolate, those cookies were flecked with shards of chocolate as well as the powdery dust left on the cutting board, creating a backdrop of cocoa flavor along with big chocolaty bursts in every bite.
For that reason, my recipe gets back to the true origin of America's favorite cookie, using chopped chocolate instead of commercial chocolate drops. (I mean, c'mon, they don't even look like chips!) Plus, chopping my own chocolate frees me from the limited selection of bagged morsels, allowing me to mix and match whatever types of chocolate I have on hand—in this case, an assortment of Valrhona baking bars. Or, if you're aiming for a more authentic vibe, try a mix of chocolates between 60 and 72%.
How to Make Old Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies
Whatever kind of chocolate you choose, be it bittersweet or dark, chop it with a large chef's knife to create a blend of bite-size bits, shards, and chips. Set aside a handful to garnish the cookies, and toss the rest with the all-purpose flour called for in the cookie dough. This streamlines mixing later on, so the chocolate bits and flour can be incorporated all at once, reducing the risk of over-mixing. As usual, I recommend a red/white flour blend such as bleached Gold Medal, which gives the cookies a perfect balance of protein and starch.
For the dough itself, combine everything but the egg in the bowl of a stand mixer: unsalted butter, white sugar, brown sugar, kosher salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and vanilla. It's worth noting that chocolate chip cookies (or any American dessert, for that matter) will do best with American butter: European styles contain more fat and less water, which negatively affects gluten development, giving the cookies a crumbly rather than chewy texture.
Once the butter and sugar are properly creamed, add the egg and continue beating only until well combined. I like using a cold egg straight from the fridge, as it limits spread in the oven by keeping the dough nice and cool.
As soon as the egg has been incorporated, reduce the speed to low, and add the flour/chocolate all at once. The mixture may seem crumbly and dry at first, but continue mixing until it forms a soft dough. With a cookie scoop, or even a pair of spoons, divide the dough into approximately 32 portions.
Roll each one smooth and round—this encourages all the cookies to spread and bake more evenly—then arrange them on a parchment-lined half-sheet pan. Yup. No waiting. In the spirit of the original chocolate chip cookies, a low-key dessert invented by American housewives, this recipe doesn't require aging the dough overnight in the fridge. The cookies are ready to bake as soon as they're formed. Top with an extra chunk of the reserved chocolate for a more gooey and inviting look, and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt.
Bake until the cookies are puffed and pale gold around the edges, about 15 minutes at 350°F (180°C). They may seem a touch underdone when you pull them out, but the cookies will continue to bake from their own residual heat and that of the sheet pan.
If you don't plan on serving up all the cookies at once, I strongly recommend bagging up some of the portioned dough to freeze for later (see tip #3 in this guide to baking cookies in bulk). Far better to have a ready supply of dough to bake into fresh chocolate chip cookies on a whim than a regretful binge on a dwindling cache of cookies past their prime.
You can find variations on this recipe (including brown butter, double chocolate, maple walnut, and homemade Famous Amos, as well as a gluten-free option) in my book, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts.
Recipe reprinted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts with permission from W. W. Norton.
BraveTart's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies
August 25, 2017
14 ounces assorted dark, milk, or white chocolate (not commercial chips), roughly chopped (2 1/2 cups; 395g)
12 1/2 ounces all purpose flour (2 3/4 cups, spooned; 355g), such as Gold Medal
8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks; 225g), soft but cool, about 65°F (18°C)
7 1/4 ounces white sugar (1 cup; 205g)
8 ounces light brown sugar (1 cup, gently packed; 225g)
1/2 ounce vanilla extract (1 tablespoon; 15g)
2 teaspoons (8g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 large egg (about 1 3/4 ounces; 50g), straight from the fridge
Make the Dough: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Set aside a handful of chopped chocolate (about 2 ounces; 55g) and place the remainder in a medium bowl. Sift flour on top and toss together. Combine butter, white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low to moisten, then increase to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With mixer running, add egg and continue beating only until smooth. Reduce speed to low, add flour/chocolate all at once, and mix to form a stiff dough.
Portion the Dough: Divide in 2-tablespoon portions (about 1 1/2 ounces or 40g each) and round each one into a smooth ball. (If you like, portioned dough can be refrigerated in a heavy-duty zipper-lock bag up to 1 week, or frozen 6 months. Stand at room temperature until quite soft, about 70°F or 21°C, and proceed as directed.)
To Bake: Arrange portions on a parchment-lined half sheet pan, leaving 2 inches between cookies to account for spread. Garnish each with reserved chocolate and a pinch of kosher salt. Bake until puffed and pale gold around the edges but steamy in the middle, about 15 minutes. For crunchy cookies, continue baking until golden, 3 to 5 minutes more. Cool directly on baking sheet until crumb is set, about 5 minutes. Enjoy warm or store in an airtight container up to 2 days at room temperature.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The portioned dough can be refrigerated in a heavy-duty zipper-lock bag up to 1 week, or frozen 6 months. Stand at room temperature until quite soft, about 70°F or 21°C, and proceed as directed. Though these chocolate chip cookies are best enjoyed warm, they can be kept for up to two days in an airtight container at room temperature.
With kitchen temperatures above 74°F (23°C), start by refrigerating the mixing bowl and dry ingredients until cooled to 70°F (21°C). At elevated temperatures, these ingredients and equipment can act as a heat source to the butter, warming the dough and causing excessive spread in the oven.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 10g||13%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||30%|
|Total Carbohydrate 30g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||4%|
|Total Sugars 19g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|