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Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m a firm believer that the simple pleasures in life are the most satisfying, and a warm chocolate chip cookie (preferably with a glass of ice-cold milk) has to be one of life’s greatest simple pleasures.

As a great lover of chocolate chip cookies, I am always amazed by the lack of good cookies, even in New York City. I’ve sampled many a bakery cookie and have been sorely disappointed. Generally speaking, it’s because they are stale or too tough, but partly because I like homemade cookies so much that it annoys me to pay $3.00 (or more) for a cookie that’s just average!

Thus, I’ve been experimenting for quite some time to develop what I believe to be the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Of course, this is all dependent on what you are looking for. I want a cookie that is crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside, with plenty of chocolate chips and walnuts. (Nuts in chocolate chip cookies are controversial I know, but I adore the extra flavor and texture they add. Brandon, another cookie junkie, refuses to eat chocolate chip cookies with nuts. Tant pis. You can certainly eliminate them from the recipe, or substitute pecans for walnuts.) I like the flavor to be rich—tasting of butter, brown sugar, and vanilla—with a slightly salty aftertaste. Just a hint, though—too much salt can ruin a cookie (as I’ve learned from experience).

My cookies were inspired years ago by a recipe I found in The Best Recipe, Cook’s Illustrated’s cookbook. I love that they experiment and experiment until they get their desired result, and then explain WHY it turned out the way it did. Their recipe calls for one egg and one egg yolk, a trick that gives the cookie a richer flavor and a denser texture. They also call for more brown sugar than white, which gives a warmer, rounder sweetness than the brightness of white sugar. Over the years, I’ve continued to adapt the recipe to my taste. Sometimes I like using dark brown sugar or crunchy Demerara sugar to add extra depth of flavor. I add more vanilla than most recipes call for and as I mentioned above, a combination of salted and unsalted butter.

Most importantly, however, is what you do with the dough after you make it (besides eating it by the spoonful!). Chilling the dough for an hour or so allows it to set up (meaning it scoops easier) and cools the butter so the dough doesn’t spread on the cookie sheet. Ultimately, this step makes a cookie that is gooey on the inside and crisp on the outside: just what I love. Best of all, I’ve made these cookies so many times now that I don’t even need a recipe—I just make them from memory. So with no further ado, I present you with MY version of the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.

PERFECT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 stick unsalted butter
1 stick salted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 16-ounce package bittersweet (or semi-sweet) chocolate chips
1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Soften the butter in the microwave (or on the stove top) until nearly melted, about 1 minute. Let cool slightly. Cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until blended. Add the egg and the yolk, mixing well. Add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat until no flour streaks remain. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Cover the dough with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Drop tablespoonfuls of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet (about 2 inches apart) and place in the oven. Bake for 11 minutes for soft cookies or 13 for crisp ones. The cookies should be slightly brown and puffy. Let the cookies sit on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes to cool before removing to a cooling rack or a plate. Eat one (or two or three) warm with a glass of ice cold milk. Life doesn’t get much better than this!




  • Anonymous

    What are you thoughts on using a small ice cream scoop to scoop out the cookies? Do they spread if there is a mound of dough?

  • Anna Watson Carl

    A small ice cream scoop works great! They won't spread a ton, but they'll puff up nicely. I just use my hands and make tablespoon-size balls, and the cookies end up looking like the picture.

  • Gillian hart

    Anna, I lived in Nashville years ago and met you through Katie Gustafson. I LOVE your blog and I just made your cookies with my kids. They are CRAZY good!! Can’t wait to try more recipes!!

    • annabwatson

      Hi Gillian! So good to hear from you!! That’s so fun you made these cookies with your kids. Chocolate chip cookies are my weakness…I make them every few weeks and have to freeze them so I don’t gobble them all up :) Hope you are doing well!

  • Christina Ware

    I’m making these for the party this afternoon!! xo

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  • Coralie K

    Reading this instead of a 100-page long research paper for class… Argh. Cook’s Illustrated “The Best Recipe” is also my to-go book for American classics! I have the almost exact same recipe for the perfect cookie, except that I put 1 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of white sugar (speaking of the quest for the perfect cookie) and I add a tablespoon of coffee powder. I had once read that somewhere, and have been doing it ever since, I think it adds something. If not, it still gives a little bit of a caffeinated kick! Going to make cookies this week with peanut butter chocolate I brought back :D

    • annawatsoncarl

      Haha…nothing like a little procrastinating by reading recipes :) I’ll have to try your method with extra brown sugar and coffee powder (do you mean espresso powder, or regular coffee?). Thanks for the great idea!! xx

      • Coralie K

        I usually put what I have on hand, both should work. AND I forgot the best: top the cookies with fleur de sel/Maldon salt. It’s THE BEST.

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My name is Anna Watson Carl. In a word, I love food, I love France, and I love throwing dinner parties. Over the years, I've worked as a personal chef, taught cooking classes, edited cookbooks, written for magazines, tested and styled recipes, and traveled whenever opportunity has arisen. But at heart, there's nothing I love more than sharing a meal with friends around the yellow table.

For me, cooking has always been a way of life. As a (mildly precocious) ten-year old, I planned and prepared a four-course Valentine's dinner for my parents, birthing a lifelong passion for dinner parties. That was just the beginning. I've been cooking ever since, whipping up souffles at a chateau in Burgundy, searing filet mignon for a wealthy client's dog (bizarre, but true), butchering ducks for confit de canard in Paris, baking the night shift in Nashville, and bathing the floor of my NYC apartment in turkey brine...the story continues.

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