January 14, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes: My Top 10 List {Naptime Simple Tips}

My Day So Far: Driving up to Cooperstown for tomorrow’s appearance on “Bridge Street.” Crazy excited (and nervous!)

Naptime Goals: Arrive in Cooperstown, bake brownies for tomorrow’s show, make sure I have all ingredients prepared.

Tonight’s Meal: Mom’s cooking tonight, I am too nervous about tomorrow to cook!

Parenting Lesson of the Day: Kiddo + 3 hour solo parent car ride = not fun.

I have never met anyone who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies. In fact, I would find it downright strange if someone told me they didn’t like a classic buttery cookie studded with warm, oozy chocolate chips. I mean, who could ever turn down such taste perfection? When it comes to baked goods, the standard chocolate chip cookie is a true classic. I theorize that it is almost the perfect sweet – pleasant to chew and taste, with perfectly proportioned flavors of butter, sugar, vanilla and chocolate. It is the childhood treat that never loses appeal.

I’ve baked so many chocolate chip cookies over the years that I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur. If you don’t believe me, just ask my friends. I bake them by the dozens on a weekly basis, dolling them out in ziploc baggies any chance I get. My standard operating procedure is to make the dough during naptime, let it rest in the fridge throughout the afternoon, then bake them after my daughter goes to sleep. Then, I save half of what I bake for my family and give the rest away. This means we all enjoy fresh cookies, plus it necessitates that I replenish our supply every few days. Sure, I bake other kinds of cookies as well, but chocolate chip remains the ultimate standby. These are the ones I bake more than any other.

I’ve probably tried at least four dozen different chocolate chip cookie recipes since I started baking as a teenager. Over time I’ve weeded out most of them, only retaining a small, but well-edited, selection of those worthy of repeat performances. The recipes I like most each have subtle nuances, creating cookies with their own unique flavor and textures. In turn, each cookie is well-suited for a variety of serving purposes. One recipe I’ve found is particularly good for ice-cream sandwiches, another is great for children, and a third is perfect for serving during afternoon tea.

After years of careful taste-testing I am excited to share my personal favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes with you. I will write a quick disclaimer here, too: I know I haven’t, by any means, tried all recipes out there. But, in my opinion, these are the best of the best I’ve baked to date. After you read this list, if you have a favorite recipe you think should be listed here, let me know and I’ll give it a go!

The Naptime Chef’s favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes:

1. Dorie Greenspan’s My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies: Soft, sweet and slightly cakey, these are my favorite hands down. The flavor notes of vanilla and chocolate are perfectly balanced, while the texture is slightly soft, but not crumbly. Part of their success is due to Dorie’s specific instructions for adding the ingredients – follow them carefully. These cookies stand up well when vanilla ice-cream is sandwiched between them, and are also great served on their own to adults and children alike.

2. The New York Times’ Chocolate Chip Cookie by Jacques Torres: A slightly more involved recipe, I’ve made this with both the complicated flours, and basic all-purpose flour. Both versions have been successful and delicious. I love how the chopped chocolate creates layers and ridges in the cookie, allowing the chocolate to melt and permeate every crumb. A particularly decadent cookie, these are great for impressing friends and guests.

3. Cook’s Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies: Being a devotee of browned butter, it is only natural that I would turn to this recipe. Initially skeptical, I’ve come to love the deeper flavor the browned butter gives the cookie, creating rich almost caramel-like notes that contrast nicely with the chocolate. Don’t bake these with children unless they are old enough to use the stove.

4. Martha Stewart’s Thin and Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies: Not surprisingly, Martha has enough varieties of Chocolate Chip Cookies to make my head spin. And, I’ve tried every single one. The unusually large amount of butter causes these cookies to thin out and crisp while baking, making them somewhat brittle from the start. I love the slightly delicate texture and rich buttery taste, they are perfect for grown-up afternoon tea.

5. Barefoot Contessa’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies: Never one to shy away from excess, Ina shows us how it’s done by passing up wimpy chips and adding impressive chocolate chunks to her cookies. These cookies are bold in flavor, size and texture. I find them particularly great for summer ice-cream sundaes and for serving to kids. Adults love them, too, though they are so gigantic you only need to eat one!

6. Neiman-Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies with Blended Oatmeal: An old favorite, I stumbled upon this recipe in a fluke email and didn’t look back. I never add raisins or walnuts to my cookies, but I love the addition of oatmeal. In this case, the blended oatmeal creates a wonderful, subtle texture and nutty flavor that is unusually satisfying.

7. Martha Stewart’s Alexis’ Favorite Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies: Vastly different from the delicate Thin and Crisp variety, these cookies are frisbee-style cakey cookies similar to those found in coffeehouses around the country. I love the deeper flavor they get from the larger than usual amount of brown sugar. I’ll admit, when we are feeling indulgent I whip up a batch of these and dip one, piece by piece, in a tall glass of milk. They also hold up well when traveling because they are so large and sturdy.

8. Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies: It is rare that you can recreate a packaged product from scratch at home, but with this recipe you can. Kathleen’s well-balanced chocolate chip cookies are generated by this very same recipe. So, either buy them in the store or make them at home – your choice! An all-around great cookie, I like to sprinkle a little extra salt on top and take them to summer picnics.

9. Scharffen Berger’s House Recipe: Leave it to the chocolate experts to come up with one heck of a decadent cookie. More sophisticated then most, these cookies call for a variety of Scharffen Berger chocolate (a brand which I highly endorse), creating a multi-layered chocolate flavor. I recommend using the bittersweet chocolate chips and serving these with coffee to adults.

10. Chocolate Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies from Park Avenue Potluck: Great cookies with playful flavors, I love how these caramelize when baking. The generous dose of cinnamon gives them a warm comforting taste and aroma, making them perfect for baking at home with children and munching on a cold winter day. They are also excellent for taking into school or the office – colleagues always love the unusual flavor twist.