The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie (No Perfection Required)

I recently attended a “Coping with Stress and Adversity” conference. There we learned to “never say never, or always” and how to offer criticism by sharing a “star and a wish.” So when I saw this recipe I thought: now is the time.

I have never very rarely been able to follow a recipe precisely. Meticulously following directions tends to make me anxious. (Which should come as no surprise, considering the kind of conferences I frequent.) I can do it. But I don’t like it.

Before I bake, I take a few deep breaths, read the directions aloud, and wish for the best. Tried and true recipes require less meditation, but new recipes can unhinge me. Yet, when I saw these chocolate chip cookies, I decided to dig deep, follow the instructions, and shut up about it.

A classic recipe like chocolate chip cookies can evoke an added layer of stress, as there can be so much expectation, fond childhood memories even. You typically can’t please everyone. Some like thin, crisp cookies, while others like them soft and chewy. And then there are those that can’t commit and prefer to have it both ways (turns out, I’m one of those). Well, this recipe caters precisely to … umm, everyone.

I followed the directions perfectly (actually, I’m not sure if I’m still allowed to say perfectly after my seminar). Browning the butter was crucial and made the cookie dough reminiscent of toffee. The process was actually pretty therapeutic. What was not therapeutic: despite following the recipe with precision, I had cookies come out looking like they'd been steamrolled. When I retraced my steps I found baking soda that was "best by June 3, 2010."

Yet—and here’s the kicker—even flat these cookies are lovely. Nutty. Chocolately. Crisp and chewy. And if you follow the directions (which are not difficult, I might add) you’ll get fantastic cookies.

And, though I probably shouldn’t be advocating for the use of cookies as a 'coping mechanism' after the conference I just attended, I could swear having a cookie and milk moment brought my blood pressure down again. Now, I don’t know you, and I don’t know anything about your blood pressure, but my guess is that you don't have freshly baked cookies with milk nearly enough.

So here comes the star: bake these cookies and you’ll be a hero. The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated. They’ve done the heavy lifting and have written instructions that truly work. Their dough is divine chocolate intervention and their method is perfection.

As for my wish? I wish I had fresher baking soda. And also, more cookies. Always most days, more cookies.

Cook's Illustrated's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

1-3/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda*
14 tbsp unsalted butter (1-3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1-1/4 cups chocolate, roughly chopped into chunks (or chocolate chips)

Position oven rack to middle shelf and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside. Then, heat 10 tbsp of your butter in a saucepan, swirling constantly, until butter is nutty and dark golden in color. Transfer melted butter to a large bowl; add in remaining butter and stir until the butter melts.

Add sugar, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract to melted butter and whisk until combined. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until smooth and sugar is fully incorporated and without lumps (this should take about 30 seconds). Let mixture sit about 3 minutes, then whisk again for 30 seconds. Repeat this process 2 more times; the mixture will become smooth, thick and shiny.

Stir flour into batter until just combined. Then stir in chocolate. Scoop cookie batter into portions that are about 3 tbsp each. Bake cookies one tray at a time, rotating tray half way through baking, until the cookies are golden and their edges have begun to set but the centers are still soft, about 10-14 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Makes 16 cookies

-Warning! Baking multiple cookie trays at a time can cause uneven baking. (This is really good news if you only have 1 baking sheet due to the size of your tiny, tiny kitchen.)

-I still am not over this batter. It was a rich, caramel-wannabe cookie dough in its finest hour. The browning of the butter and use of dark brown sugar is spot on.

-For the chocolate I used half Taza's stoneground 70% dark chocolate (because I just love the stuff) and half Scharffenberger chocolate.

-For more info check out Cook's Illustrated's explanation.

-*Check the expiration date. I beg of you.


  1. These sound divine; I love the taste of browned butter! And just to let you know there are others like you out there, I also happen to like my chocolate chip cookies both soft and chewy and crisp and thin.

  2. Browned butter and dark brown sugar - awesome flavour combination. Good tip be expiration date - I never thought to check and just did now!

  3. I was a bit nervous following this recipe too! Your cookies look great!

  4. Mmm, those look so good. I always get a little antsy with their recipes, maybe because they seem so grown up?

  5. This so totally look like the perfect chocolate chip cookie!

  6. Amazing how powerful baking soda is. The cookies look gorgeous regardless!

  7. meh, i've seen and eaten cookies that are far closer to being deemed a failure. i think ya done good.

  8. These cookies look perfectly delicious! Wonderful recipe and photos. Thanks for sharing. I'm so glad to have found your beautiful blog and can't wait to check out more of your recipes! :) - Georgia

  9. Wish I could have gone to the seminar with ya... ;)

  10. Mmm these look fantastic! I must say after some experimentation I think browning all the butter in a cookie recipe makes the flavor a bit strong, I think I'll stick with about half, but the depth of flavor is really amazing.

  11. My mouth is watering from this picture and description of such a wonderful cookie! I might have to get these ingredients when I go grocery shopping tomorrow!

    And yes, those poppy cupcakes are the cutest!!

  12. I have also recently discovered baking with brown butter and just cant get enough :)

    Wonderful idea to use it for cookies!

    One comment, though, I dont think your cookies came out flat because of baking powder. I think it was because the dough was too warm. My advice - try cooling it down in the fidge or freezer next time. I am 99% sure they'll be perfect even with an out-of data baking powder! :)