Um…you guys? These cookies might be better than my mom’s. Sacrilege, I know, but what a difference some brown butter and dark brown sugar make.
Let’s dive right into concept #48: Sugar Changes Texture (And Sweetness). If you’re a fan of Alton Brown (and I am, as is anyone who is also a fan of Cook’s Illustrated, I’d imagine), you know by now that sucrose (table sugar) is made of glucose and fructose and is hygroscopic, meaning that it likes water. When the two are combined they form hydrogen bonds take a lot of heat to break. Accordingly, sugar helps preserve moisture in baked things like cakes and cookies.
When sucrose is heated with an acid, it breaks back down into glucose and fructose and becomes an invert sugar and, “because fructose does not easily crystallize in the presence of glucose, invert sugars are always viscous liquids.” Invert sugars are particularly fond of water. Because brown sugar contains more invert sugar than white sugar, using more of it makes a chewier, moister cookie. So, this recipe uses a 3:2 ratio of brown to white sugar, instead of the typical 1:1. Indeed, these are quite chewy and moist and stay that way even days after they’ve been baked.
While I’m trying to come up with a joke about brown sugar and moist cookies, this should suffice:
I love Coach.
While the recipe says that this makes 16 cookies, I used pecans in mine and the extra bulk yielded 19.
First, preheat the oven to 375° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together 1¾ all-purpose flour and ½ teaspoon baking soda in a small bowl and set it aside. If using chopped pecans or walnuts, toast ¾ cup of these and set aside.
Next, brown your butter. Melt 10 tablespoons unsalted butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Let that keep cooking, swirling the pan or stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the butter is a nice golden brown and it begins to smell a little nutty. This took me about 5 minutes to do. Immediately pour this into a heatproof bowl and add 4 more tablespoons unsalted butter, stirring until everything has melted. (Do not let the browned butter continue to sit on the stove or in the skillet…it will continue to brown and then you’ll have burnt butter, which is not what we’re going for here.)
Add ¾ cup dark brown sugar, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the butter and whisk until it is fully combined. Add 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk and whisk until everything is smooth and there are no lumps of sugar remaining, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk again for 30 seconds. Repeat rest and mix process 2 more times, until everything is thick and smooth. This is to allow the sugar to fully dissolve and caramelize more easily in the oven. At this point, the mixture started to smell lovely, like sweet coffee to me. Odd, but lovely.
Add the flour to the sugar mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until everything is just combined. Add in 1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips and nuts, if using, and stir to combine everything and to ensure that no streaks of flour remain.
Portion out 3 tablespoons dough and roll into balls, placing 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. I did this by scooping out ¼ cup of the dough, then removing 1 tablespoon…it seemed easier than scooping out 3 individual tablespoons.
Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until they’re golden brown and puffy and the edges have set but the centers are still soft, about 10-14 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. When the cookies are done, let them cool on the baking sheet placed on a wire rack. Store the cookies in a ziploc bag to help them retain their chewiness and prevent staling.
Now, my mother’s chocolate chip cookies have a special ingredient, which is not included here and which I will not reveal, but I believed it to be the thing that set them apart from all other cookies. I will still hold those cookies from my childhood in high esteem, but maybe every once in awhile, I’ll make these Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies, too. There’s no harm in variety, right?