My brownstone is nestled up right next to another one; our buildings share a stoop and set of steps down to the street. When it’s nice enough out, one of my neighbors likes to sit on the top step and read his newspaper. He’s like the mayor of our little block, always waving to passersby. He even sometimes brings his cordless telephone out and takes a call. (I’ve always wondered who he is talking to.)
Every single time I happen to come home when he’s sitting outside, he looks up as if completely surprised to see me, and without fail he says: “Nice day, isn’t it?”
It’s so reliable, like clockwork. I always cheerily offer a breezy “the best!” back, and we both nod and go about our day.
While predictability would be boring all the time in life, it’s nice to have some things you can count on. My neighbor will always comment on the weather. The Saturday morning yoga teacher will make the exact same lame joke every week during the standing head to knee posture. Whenever it’s sunny, the barista at my coffee shop will hand me my drink before I can ask for it (cold brew, room for milk).
And I like having the ability to summon my own bits of predictability: for instance, a chocolate chip cookie recipe that always, always works.
(These also happen to be truly exceptional when dunked in cold milk, but that’s neither here nor there.)
As we’ve discussed here before, I routinely spent lunch time and snack time coveting everyone else's food when I was growing up. It wasn’t that I didn’t like what I had (even then I knew I had won the lottery when it comes to mothers, baking-wise and cooking-wise and life-wise), but I also wanted a cellophane-wrapped Hostess cake and a miniature bag of cheddar Sun-Chips (why were those so good?).
But there was one topic on which my tastes were surprisingly mature: cookies.
Our classic, go-to cookie was always the same: my mom’s kitchen sink cookies (as I call them), packed with Grape-Nut cereal and oats and dark chocolate chips and shredded coconut. Enter our kitchen, and you’d always find a glass Anchor Hocking jar filled with them.
You’d think I’d have hated oatmeal in a cookie (too healthy!) and wished for Oreos or frosted animal crackers or Mrs. Field’s soft-baked sugar cookies. But not only was I sure that my mom's cookies were far superior to anyone else’s, I liked them so much that I was loath to share—and that was contentious. My mom’s cookies were (and still are) famous among my sisters; our friends would beg us to give them one, or even half. (Here’s the recipe, if you like.)
I’ve always made my chocolate chip cookies that way, and it wasn’t until a few years after college that I started making regular chocolate chip cookies. I just loved them the way she makes them, and I still do.
But in the course of experimenting, I’ve found a few chocolate chip cookie recipes that I love almost as much—but I have such a hard time stopping myself from tinkering with the recipe every time.
I make thin, crispy ones and thick, chewy ones. I make sweeter ones with milk chocolate chunks. I make intensely chocolatey ones with three kinds of chocolate chips and cacao nibs. I add malt powder, espresso powder, and buttermilk powder. I top them with turbinado sugar and flaky sea salt. I stir in tahini and brown butter and toasted nuts.
But once I land upon a combination that’s perfect, just as it is, I let it be in all its resplendent simplicity.
This is that chocolate chip cookie. It has golden, crisp edges and a fat, soft center. It has pools of melted chocolate (the trick to get this effect is use half wafers or discs in addition to chips!) and a sprinkling of sea salt on top to balance the sugar. If you use very good chocolate, it has a sophisticated flavor but isn’t fancy: it’s just the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. Full stop.
I started with a recipe from Jacques Torres, the pastry king himself—while I love his original version, it calls for both bread flour and cake flour, which not everyone has on hand. And I do like the texture that his chosen combination of a low-protein and high-protein flour yields, but I’ve found I actually prefer them with all-purpose and a touch of whole wheat. They’re still nicely chewy, but with even better flavor.
*From there, I made it my own—changing the chocolate, adding salt, lowering the sugar, and so on…until they’re just right for me. And hopefully for you?
If you can find white whole wheat flour, that’s even better for this recipe. And be sure to let the dough rest overnight—this will help ensure they spread just the right amount, and makes the sugar taste slightly more complex and caramelized.
Chewy, Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups (188g) white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (213g) packed dark brown sugar
1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (225g) dark chocolate discs or wafers
1 cup (170g) semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
flaky sea salt, for finishing
In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter/sugar mixture and beat well. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.
Add the flour mixture gradually, beating until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds.
Fold in the chocolate using a spatula.
Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the dough and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or up to 72 hours. TRY NOT TO EAT ALL OF THE COOKIE DOUGH DURING THIS TIME.
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° F.
Scoop large spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (I did about 1/4-cup spoonfuls). Sprinkle with the flaky sea salt and bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to brown and the middle still looks soft.
Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.