You know when you get a crush on someone's brain? It has nothing to do with the actual human, looks, or personality...it's pretty much all about the information they have stored in that-there noggin. I have a brain-crush on Alton Brown. The dude is a food genius. The amount of food and science-based knowledge he's got is mind blowing. And I'm totally jealous. His recipes have never failed me, and during the Good Eats marathons that seem to happen pretty often on weekend mornings on the Cooking channel, I've learned a ton about techniques and kitchen utensils.
Needless to say, as someone who bakes frequently (I hesitate to call myself a baker because...well...it sounds so professional, which I am not) I was surprised to realize that I had never bothered to test his chocolate chip cookie recipe. My personal preference with chocolate chip cookies is a flat, crispy cookie. However, I've realized over the years that most people like fluffy, chewy cookies. Weirdos.
Apparently, the way to a fluffier, chewier cookie is melted butter. And the ratio of brown sugar to white sugar. What? Seriously? That's it? Well, that and actually weighing your flour and sugar by weight as opposed to volume. Do you have a food scale? Do you use your food scale?
Well, if you don't have one and you bake often, you should get one. There is definitely a marked difference in products where certain ingredients have been measured by weight. You can find them for pretty cheap. I think ours was about 20 bucks. It is more unusual to find recipes that provide measurements by weight, but they're out there. And they're awesome. Alton does it, and so does Christina Tosi of the famed Momofuku Milk Bar. And the folks at America's Test Kitchen.
Here's why weighing things like flour and sugar by weight vs. volume is important:
Say you have a recipe that needs both brown sugar and flour (among other things). The density of both ingredients is very different, so obviously, a cup of flour and a cup of brown sugar are not the same thing. Further, though, when measuring these ingredients by volume instead of by weight, you leave room for lots of human error...a cup of tightly packed brown sugar is very different from a cup of loosely packed brown sugar. Now, most recipes these days that measure by volume are fairly reliable, and there's nothing wrong with doing it that way, but weighing the ingredients is fun! Try it! If you ever see a recipe where flour, sugar, etc. is given in ounces, don't mistake that for volume! 8 oz. of flour is not the same as 1 cup of flour! Liquids, of course, should be measured by volume.
Anywho...I suggest you try these cookies. They're good as is, but I also tried a batch where I switched out half the chocolate chips for chopped up Andes mints. Also delicious.
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe by Alton Brown
8 ounces unsalted butter
12 ounces bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ounces granulated sugar
8 ounces light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ounce whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1. Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
2. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda onto a paper plate. Pour the butter into your stand mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the whole egg, the egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add the egg mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.
4. Using the paper plate as a slide, gradually integrate the dry ingredients, stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once the flour is worked in, drop the speed to "stir" and add the chocolate chips. Chill the dough for 1 hour (DON'T SKIP THIS PART! Seriously.)
5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven.
6. Scoop the dough into 1 1/2-ounce portions onto parchment-lined half sheet pans, 6 cookies per sheet. If you wanted, you could sprinkle a little sea salt on top here. Bake 2 sheets at a time for 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove from the oven, slide the parchment with the cookies onto a cooling rack and wait at least 5 minutes before devouring.