How to Make the Best, Most Flavorful, Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
These chocolate chip cookies are deliciously soft and tender, packed with chocolate, and so many layers of rich flavors that it’s impossible to eat just one. Impossible I tell you. The secret is to use several key ingredients to layer as much flavor into the cookie dough as possible before you even add the chocolate. Read on and I’ll show you how.
I will never, ever, ever get tired of trying new chocolate chip cookie recipes or tweaking chocolate chip cookie recipes that I’m already in love with. Ok. Really what I mean is, I will never get tired of eating chocolate chip cookies. Any kind, every kind, all day long.
- Thin and chewy? Yes.
- Giant and baked in a cast iron skillet? Absolutely, and I’ll even share. (A little. A few bites, at least.)
- The buttery shortbread variety with ground pecans and mini chocolate chips? Every single day.
- Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with Nutella? You’re crazy if you even have to ask.
- Chocolate chip cookies with peanut butter and oatmeal? I believe the oatmeal makes it acceptable to eat cookies for breakfast. So, a thousand times yes.
- Gluten free chocolate chip cookies with almonds and cherries or with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves? Judged on their deliciousness alone, the gluten free part matters exactly zero. You won’t even know they are gluten free. (I mean, you’ll know, because you baked them. Duh. But no one else will.)
Give me ALL the many varieties of chocolate chip cookies and more. But (and it hurts me a little to say this), this recipe might be my favorite. Ugg. I feel a little trapped. Still, I think it’s true.
This is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Gawd. Commitment is hard. Let’s try this….
This is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe right now, in this moment.
Ahhhh… room to breath.
So, what, exactly, is going on inside these soft chocolate chip cookies that makes them so freaking fantastic?
#1. Toasted ground pecans.
Pecans are actually one of my least favorite kinds of nut. BUT in these cookies, they are divine because you can’t actually taste them as an individual flavor in there. If I handed you one of these chocolate chip cookies (and I do wish I could could) and didn’t tell you about the ground pecans, you’d probably never know that they are in there.
This begs the question: Why are the ground pecans in there if you can’t really taste them?
Answer: Because they add a subtle nuttiness that really kicks the flavor of the dough up a couple of notches.
When you think about it, most of the flavor in chocolate chip cookies comes from the chocolate. But, shouldn’t the cookie dough itself be as packed with flavor as possible? I mean, the chocolate is super duper important. But, that doesn’t mean the flavor of the cookie should be stuck playing second fiddle. Which brings us to #2…
#2. Toasted flour and brown butter.
Speaking of boosting the flavor of the cookie dough, a little toasted whole wheat flour and brown butter picks up where the toasted ground pecans leave off, intensifying the nuttiness in the cookie dough, adding complexity and another layer of flavor.
Somewhere, a long time ago, probably in a cookbook, I learned that adding a touch of whole wheat flour to baked goods contributes flavor without messing up the soft, smooth texture of white flour – as long as you don’t add too much. Toasting the flour takes this concept even further because the toasting process cooks out the raw flour taste and gives it an even nuttier, more complex flavor.
It’s an extra layer of flavor (always a good thing) for very little extra effort (another good thing).
Stirring the butter into the hot skillet with the toasted flour browns it up a smidge, contributing an even richer depth of flavor. As an added bonus, coating flour with butter inhibits the formation of gluten, helping to ensure that your cookies will bake up extra soft and tender.
It’s one of those win-win situations that we all need more of.
Learning to add salt to desserts – when, what kind, and how much – is one of the simplest things you can do to be a better baker.
Salt not only balances sweetness, it makes food taste more like itself. Salt takes the flavors that are already there and makes them more.
Think about it. Adding a sprinkle of salt to scrambled eggs doesn’t make the eggs taste like salt – the salt makes the eggs taste more like eggs. When we add salt to food that tastes “bland”, our intention is not to eat a bite full of salt. What we want is to taste more of the flavors in the food. That’s what salt does.
We know this is true for savory foods, which is why salt shakers are a normal accessory on the dinner table. But then, for some reason, we forget salt’s super power to boost the flavor of ingredients when we make sweet foods and leave it out altogether or add waaaaaay too little.
Even though it sounds counterintuitive, salt does for sugar what it does for everything else – intensifies its flavor. This is also why salted chocolates are so fabulous – salt makes chocolate taste more chocolaty. (More chocolatey is one of my favorite phrases.)
These chocolate chip cookies have salt in the dough for the reason we’ve been talking bout – to make all those flavors sing. But, they also have a sprinkle of kosher salt on top. That little sprinkle adds a very slight, super pleasing little crunch to the soft cookies while adding a bright pop of contrast to all those sweet flavors that is just soooo good. SO. GOOD.
As a total aside, I learned an interesting fact recently. The word “salary” comes from the Latin word “salarium”, which means salt money. And the word “soldier” comes from “sal dare”, which means to give salt. This might sound odd unless you know that in Roman times, salt was often traded as currency and Roman soldiers were paid partially in salt.
4. Vanilla and almond extracts.
Adding vanilla to chocolate chip cookies is kind of a given. Still, it’s worth talking about because I don’t feel that most cookie recipes add enough vanilla to really make a difference.
Like salt, vanilla is a flavor enhancer. This is why it’s included in nearly every kind of sweet baked good. When baking something delicate and subtle, a teaspoon (or less) of vanilla is enough to boost and brighten the flavors. But…
These chocolate chip cookies are anything but subtle. They are rich and substantial, complex and bursting with layers of intense flavor. A teaspoon or two of vanilla is not going to cut it. You need a full tablespoon in there to get the job done.
While vanilla extract is common in cookies, almond extract is not, and I really think it should be. Almond extract adds warmth to the flavor of these cookies while boosting their nutty richness. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s an essential ingredient… but, it provides that little extra oomph that takes these cookies from really good to can’t-stop-eating-them good.
5. Give that dough a rest.
This last point is tricky and difficult and requires ginormous amounts of self control: After you make the dough, let it “rest” in the refrigerator for at least 24, and preferably 36 hours.
This is really, really hard to do.
I have not actually ever managed to do it.
I mean, I DO let the dough rest for a couple of days, because it really does make a difference. But, I usually bake at least one cookie right away, because the entire reason I am making cookie dough right now is because I have a powerful craving for chocolate chip cookies right now.
Delaying the satisfaction of a warm chocolate chip cookie for 36 hours is not a level of self control I possess. So. I bake one and tuck the rest of the dough away in the refrigerator. Waaaay back there, hidden behind a bunch of other stuff, and try my best to forget that it’s there.
This never actually works. I always bake another cookie the next day. Whatever. We are who we are.
Here’s why you want to let that dough rest: The resting time allows all the flavors inside the dough to meld and intensify. If you do what I do and bake one cookie right away, another the next day, and bake the rest on day 3, you will notice a difference. It’s kind of amazing.
I first learned about this trick in Bakewise by Shirley Corriher (one of the most useful books in my cookbook collection.) Shirley learned this trick from Maury Rubin at City Bakery in NYC, who sells thousands of cookies a day. It’s genius. You think that it can’t possibly make that much of a difference.
And yet. It absolutely does.
The sheer pleasure of warm cookies and cold milk.
Dunking a warm, soft, fresh from the oven cookie that’s oozing with melty chocolate, into a cold glass of milk is one of those simple pleasures that’s seriously difficult to beat.
If someone handed you a glass of cold milk and a warm chocolate chip cookie right now, you would feel instantly cared for and content. This is true whether we are 3 years old or 103. It’s kind of magical.
HUGE shout out to the folks at Longmont Dairy for delivering fresh milk (and eggs and butter) from happy cows in glass bottles to our home every week. Their product is not only superior to most of what’s available to me at my local grocery store, it smooths my inner anxiety about unsustainable, often cruel and unhealthy factory farming and environmental waste. If you’re in Colorado, do yourself a favor and check them out.
Used in this recipe:
My favorite baking sheets for cookie baking are these insulated no-rim sheets from Nordic Ware.
More popular cookie recipes:
- Soft, Chewy Vanilla Sugar Cookies
- Skillet Cookie with Chocolate Chips and Oatmeal
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
- Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
- New York Black and White Cookies
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 ½ sticks salted butter, at room temperature, cut into tablespoon size pieces
- 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt (plus more for sprinkling)
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp almond extract
- 1 ½ cups bittersweet chocolate chips
Make the cookie dough:
- Add the pecans to a skillet set over medium heat and let toast, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant. Let cool then grind in a food processor until powdery. (Be careful not to over grind and make pecan butter.)
- While the pecans cool add the whole wheat flour to the skillet and set it back over medium heat. Toast the flour, stirring frequently, until it’s 2 shades darker in color and smells fragrant. Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring until the butter is melted and combined with the flour. Let cool to room temperature.
- Measure out ¼ cup of ground pecans and add to a large bowl along with the all-purpose flour, 1 tsp kosher salt, and baking soda. Stir with a wire whisk to combine.
- Beat both sugars, eggs, and both extracts with an electric mixer on medium high until well combined – about 1 minute. Add the whole wheat flour and butter mixture and beat on low speed just until combined.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients and the chocolate chips to the dough and beat on low speed (or stir) just until combined. Do not over work the dough.
At this point, the cookies can be baked right away, or reserved in the refrigerator. Allowing the dough to rest, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 36 hours, improves the flavor and texture of the cookies.
Bake the cookies:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough into golf ball size balls and space on the baking sheets at least 3-inches apart. Use the palm of your hand to flatten slightly and sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of kosher salt (optional, but soooo good).
- Bake for 12–14 minutes, until the cookies look set but slightly underdone in the middle.
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