A while back - I think it was one of our last walks in Indy - I told Andrew I always wanted us to have dessert in the new home. Something sweet to end our days, something comforting for the rough ones, and something celebratory for the special ones. And also as a way for me to stop buying those damn peanut m&ms in their giant $6 family-sized bags that I would tear through by myself in three measly days. You can have those expensive-ass habits until you realize you've got a mortgage to pay and a not-so-fat paycheck to budget with. Adult life, woof.
So true to my word, our first week in our new home, I opened Tara's cookbook, Seven Spoons, and set to bake a small batch of her everyday chocolate chip cookies. They were incredible. A few were eaten right away, an Instagram story was snapped, and the rest were packed up and sent to a housewarming party because why bring a bottle of wine to a new house when they can have fresh cookies?! (or even better, have someone else bring the wine and you can have both!) And that was that.
But I can never leave a bake that simple. Nope - at some point in the next few days, my heart was set on testing chocolate chip cookie recipes from all over. I'm not sure what triggered it, maybe flipping through my cookbooks in the morning, maybe after seeing this post and re-reading this one, one of my favorite posts from 2016. Either way, I found myself narrowing down the list to ten recipes, most of them being ones I've been meaning to try, many of them well known in the culinary world, or at least revered among the foodies I fervently follow. They range from small to extremely large, crispy to chewy, easy to slightly fussy, salty to sweet. Some require chopping chocolate, others need the butter melted and browned. So for each, I've given my thoughts on each cookie in terms of taste, texture, size, and ease. Plus some additional commentary because I've got opinions, yo. Andrew also tasted these cookies so occasionally his thoughts are also sprinkled into the mix.
Did we have an absolute favorite? I don't think so - cookies are so subjective! They will taste different based on what you grew up with, what triggers the strongest food memory, and what brings you back to that happy, comfortable space. Andrew and I definitely had different ideas of a "perfect cookie". So use these notes as a guide to figure out which ones you'll want to try for yourself. You may discover you like salt on your cookies! Or giant sized cookies! Or ones with brown butter!
- Taste: classic vanilla notes, lots of gooey chocolate pockets, a good balance of salt to cookie. Has that raw cookie dough taste in the middle, because it's a little underbaked!
- Texture: crisp on the edges and soft and gooey (from all the melted chocolate) in the middle
- Size: a small-medium size - definitely small enough where you don't feel bad eating 2
- Ease: vv easy, only whisk needed
- Other notes: put these in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking, which probably contributed to their perfectly round shape. I also noticed that I made more cookies than the recipe called for, so maybe my cookie scoop was a little smaller than called for
- Taste: a teeny bit saltier and nuttier than #1, and that makes sense because there are pistachios. Good pools of chocolate but not as many as #1, and you get a hint of coconut since you use coconut oil and unsweetened coconut in the dough
- Texture: chewier and denser than #1, somewhat crisp edges and soft centers even on the ones that I thought I had overbaked, but I guess I hadn't!
- Size: a solid medium size - ideal
- Ease: vv easy, only whisk needed
- Other notes: put these in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking. There was debate with Andrew on whether we can call this a "classic" chocolate chip cookie since it includes pistachio and coconut, but it was still a great cookie regardless
- Taste: like a sugar cookie with chocolate swirled in, definitely sweeter as there is no flaky sea salt on the top like #1 and #2, a great classic vanilla taste
- Texture: thin and crispy on the edges but then spectacularly soft in the middle considering how thin the cookie gets. So much texture because of the ridges you form when baking, it's lovely
- Size: huge! Like the size of my hand, needed 2 spatulas to get them off the foil, this one is definitely a eat-half-and-then-eat-the-other-half-later kind of cookie
- Ease: a little more complicated than #1 and #2, and I didn't get the ridges exactly the way I wanted to, it is admittedly a little fussy IMO to have to drop the pan over and over in the hot oven to get these ridges
- Other notes: seemed a little too greasy coming out of the oven and a little difficult to remove from the foil - but that might have been able to be solved with parchment paper? Edit (s/p eating a cookie in the fridge): these are insanely good when cold
- Taste: the first of the cookies where we could taste toffee and butterscotch tones (probably from browning the butter), these felt "hearty" even though I know that's an odd way to describe cookies (maybe "richer" is the word I'm trying to use) sooo many chocolatey pools of goodness, the salty bites were extra awesome, Andrew loved these guys
- Texture: chewy with a soft center
- Size: medium sized, you can feel satisfied with just one
- Ease: not as complicated as #3, but it does take more time than #1 and #2 because it requires a stand mixer plus browning butter
- Other notes: halved the recipe and let the dough rest for 24 hours before baking. And holy crap, brown butter smells amazing. I didn't use vanilla bean because $$$, but I'm sure if you did, it would be even more incredible of a cookie
- Taste: tons (I mean, tons) of chocolate, buttery but definitely less butterscotch and toffee tones compared to #4. It has more vanilla notes and Andrew thought it was even a little sweeter compared to #4. Awesome salty bites
- Texture: chewy with a soft center, extremely similar to #4
- Size: medium sized, good for people who want just one (but really who are those people)
- Ease: almost exactly the same level as #4, maybe even a little easier (or maybe I'm just getting good at making cookies?)
- Other notes: I think I made these a teeny bit bigger than the recipe called for, but not by much! Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen has also made these, and recommends putting in even more chocolate (8 oz instead of 6 oz), so if you love chocolate, go for that!
6. (right) Salted (Vegan!) Chocolate Chip Cookie from the Ovenly cookbook
- Taste: chocolate-y and salty, but I would say less so compared to #1, 4, and 5. It doesn't have that poor "vegan" baked good taste which honestly just blows my mind! There are less vanilla notes compared to the previous cookies, and I noticed after eating one cold that they taste a little more "artificial" compared to the other recipes - but still extremely tasty. And freaking vegan!
- Texture: soft throughout but it had a crispy outer shell when eaten warm. Slightly (only slightly) cakier than the other cookies probably because of the addition of baking powder. Definitely the softest cookie so far, but it's because they give strict rules to underbake the cookie
- Size: larger than #4 and 5, a good medium-large sized cookie
- Ease: vv easy, no stand mixer! But you do have to have some space to put the cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes right before baking
- Other notes: did I mention they're vegan? I used 62% cocoa chocolate chunks instead of chopped 60% bittersweet chocolate bars (like I had been using for the other recipes) since the recipe didn't state it needed chopped chocolate (only chips), and I didn't have to pre-scoop the dough before putting it in the fridge which was nice, because it gives you a little more fridge space
7. (left) J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies from Serious Eats
- Taste: a lot like a regular, classic Toll House chocolate chip cookie! Mine were a little underbaked so I probably should have baked them an extra minute longer. My only complaint was that they tasted a little bit greasier than the other ones, but overall excellent with lots of toffee and butterscotch notes like #4
- Texture: a little less dense than #4 and 5, it had much more of a classic Toll House cookie texture and was thinner than I expected it would be, had that crispy shell exterior and a very soft middle
- Size: medium-large sized
- Ease: it's not the easiest recipe but not the most complicated either. I thought it was a little fussy to have to use both your whisk and paddle attachments for your stand mixer, and it does require some extra time because of browning butter
- Other notes: there were 2 oz less chocolate in this recipe than the other recipes I had tested so I thought that was really interesting. It was one of those recipes where they recommend to let the dough rest, but then it was a little bit annoying to have to chip away at the dough when forming your balls before baking - I would leave your dough out to warm up a little to make it more scoopable and then put back in the fridge for 5 minutes or so before baking! Honestly I liked these cookies but they did require a lot of extra little steps
8. (right) Dorie Greenspan's My Classic Best Chocolate Chip Cookies from the cookbook Baking: From My Home to Yours
- Taste: okay scratch what I said about #7, this cookie tastes the most like a classic Toll House cookie with it's pure vanilla and butter flavors. It's definitely sweet and not salty, and you can sort of taste the walnuts but oddly not as nutty as I had thought it would be - must be the super fine chop. Andrew loved these and he's normally a salty cookie kind of guy... so that's saying something
- Texture: thin and crispy on the edges, soft in the middle, definitely a thinner cookie
- Size: medium-large sized, and they all look a little "homemade" and not perfectly round (and it was so damn cute that way)
- Ease: a simple recipe that required a mixer, but not extra fiddly steps
- Other notes: used chopped chocolate for these guys, and I did put it in the fridge uncovered for about 2 hours because the dough was so soft that I think they would have spread way too much if I had baked them right away
9. (left) Alton Brown's The Chewy from Good Eats
- Taste: brown sugar notes, less chocolatey than #1-5, but still a good ratio (actually maybe a ratio I appreciate more I'm realizing). It's not as salty as the other cookies but it's a good level of sweet, and they didn't taste greasy either
- Texture: chewy! As the name suggests. It's a little firmer on the edges, but chewy and thick throughout
- Size: the perfect medium size
- Ease: required melting some butter and a few extra whisking steps, but overall not too bad
- Other notes: halved the recipe (even though Alton said not to, oops!) and used both dark and light brown sugar since I had both on hand. I also used a mix of 62% chocolate chunks and 60% Ghiradelli chocolate chips. These did rest in the fridge for 24 hours before baking. And omg these were definitely the prettiest looking cookies, with that perfect golden brown right out of the oven *swoon*
10. (right) Jacques Torres' Chocolate Chip Cookies from The New York Times
- Taste: an elevated Nestle Toll House cookie with a fantastic salt balance. Lots of vanilla notes and less toffee and butterscotch notes than say, #4 or 8. I really appreciated this classic flavor, that wasn't too greasy and had a great balance of chocolate to dough
- Texture: crisp, rounded edges with soft, chewy middles (basically, perfect)
- Size: medium-large, probably the second largest of all 10 types of cookies I baked!
- Ease: required the mixer but it really wasn't as complicated of a recipe as I thought
- Other notes: didn't use dark chocolate feves (because $$$) but I used Ghiradelli 60% chocolate chips since they are fairly large. I let this dough rest for ~48 hours. And, like #9, these had the most beautiful golden brown color coming out of the oven
So there you have it, 10 recipes that you should check out for those times you need a cookie. If I had to give out awards, it'd go down like this:
- #1 for the best cookie when you're in need of a quick cookie fix
- #2 for the most adventurous cookie
- #3 for the best artisanal bakery feel award
- #4 for the biggest crowd pleaser
- #5 for the chocolatiest award
- #6 for obviously, the most vegan cookie (in all seriousness, this one is a great option for vegans)
- #7 for the most well-researched and scientific cookie
- #8 for the cutest cookie
- #9 for the sexiest looking cookie
- #10 for the ultimate elevated Toll House cookie
I know the year will have its ups and downs - times where I will only want to sleep and times where I will crave the company and free time I so freely had this past year. As such there will inevitably be a period where baking won't be on the brain, so very low on the totem pole of priorities. But I already know that when I need a way to slow down and re-center myself, I will have my trusty oven, ready for another pan of cookies.
Happy cookie experimenting!