Published May 1, 2009.
We set out to perfect the back-of-the-bag classic with a cookie that was crisp at the edges, chewy in the middle, and full of rich toffee flavor.
A chocolate chip cookie that’s moist and chewy on the inside and crisp at the edges, with deep notes of toffee and butterscotch to balance its sweetness.
Since small tweaks in baking recipes can translate to big differences, we broke down the Toll House recipe into its main components to see what improvements could be made. We tackled texture first. Melting two sticks of butter before combining it with other ingredients gave us the chewy texture we wanted. Since we were melting butter, we browned a portion of it to add nutty flavor. For sugar, the Toll House recipe calls for an equal amount of white and brown sugar. We got the best results when we used a bit more brown sugar, which enhances chewiness. Next came flour. Cake flour yielded a crunchy, crumbly cookie and bread flour produced dense, breadlike cookies. In the end, simply cutting back on the all-purpose flour increased moistness and allowed the chewiness contributed by the brown sugar to come to the fore. With less flour, the cookies were a little greasy, so we decreased the butter by a small amount. Finally, we looked at eggs. Egg whites tend to create cakey texture, which we didn’t want in our cookies. Eliminating one egg white gave us supremely moist, chewy cookies.
We had achieved chewiness, but were still missing crisp edges and deep toffee flavor. As it happened, the cookies we wanted had much to do with sugar and how it’s treated—in this case, allowing the sugar to dissolve and rest in the melted butter, vanilla, and eggs. The dissolved sugar caramelized more easily when baked, creating a spectrum of toffee flavors and influencing texture. As the dissolved, caramelized sugar cooled, it also took on a brittle structure, which gave us the crisp edges we wanted, but left the center chewy. As the oven burned off moisture from the cookie’s edges, the remaining moisture concentrated in the cookie’s center, much like an evaporating lake. All that was left was finessing the baking time and temperature. With caramelization in mind, we kept the temperature hot and left the cookies in the oven until golden brown, just set at the edges, and soft in the center. The resulting cookies were crisp and chewy, gooey with chocolate, with a complex medley of sweet, buttery, caramel, and toffee flavors.list of recipes