Thick and Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies – Recipe

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Thick and Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies

Everyone has an opinion about chocolate chip cookies. I like mine cakey and tender, but browned enough to develop some flavor. I'm not a fan of cookies that spread out and get crispy all the way through, and I don't particularly like walnuts in them. I want tasty dark chocolate, and a perceptible level of salt, experienced as little surprising flecks, not an overall even saltiness.

I've been using this recipe for years, and often thought of posting it, but I dithered because (A) everyone and their mother has posted a chocolate chip cookie and (2) only a few of the tweaks are my own. After a recent batch, I asked on the Herbivoracious facebook page and a whole bunch of folks encouraged me to post it, so here we go!

The basic heritage of this recipe starts with the traditional Toll House model. I use several of the suggestions from Stephanie Vardavas (triple vanilla, melted butter, added milk, reduced sugar). Then I made my own changes: better chocolate, more and better salt, and well-refrigerated dough.

That last change is the biggest step towards cakey cookies. By chilling the dough and then forming it into compact balls, it has less time to spread in the oven before the outer layer solidifies. I suspect that melting the butter helps as well, because it more thoroughly coats the flour, reducing any chance for gluten development that would toughen the cookie.

The chocolate I've specified is Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips. They are widely available and much tastier than the brands we all grew up with, but by no means the finest chocolate you can buy. Their 60% cacao chips are even better if you can find them. If you want to upgrade further, either to a better brand of chip or by chopping good bulk chocolate, don't let me stop you! You can also use more chocolate than the recipe calls for. It uses the standard size bag of chips, but there would be no issue at all using at least 25% more. 

Update 10/23/2011: Well shoot. I just learned about child slavery in the cocoa trade, and it turns out there isn't any good reason to think these chips are ok. I'll be experimenting with fairly traded options and let you know if I find one that works well in these cookies.

There has been some research that cookies come out even tastier if you age the dough for 24-48 hours in the refrigerator. I wouldn't know, because I'm simply not that patient! If I get around to trying it sometime with this recipe, I'll let you know.

Thick and Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields 30 moderate sized cookies

  • 224 grams (1 cup / 2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup packed) brown sugar
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) whole milk
  • 15 grams (1 tablespoon) pure vanilla extract
  • 287 grams (2 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 8 grams flaky sea salt (2 teaspoons Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt); probably 1 teaspoon of most other salts), rubbed between fingers to break down flakes slightly
  • 100 grams (2 large) eggs
  • 336 grams (2 cups, one 12-oz. packagege) Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips (or other high quality chocolate chunks or chips)
  1. Put the butter and brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high until the butter is just melted, about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a stand mixer bowl, add the granulated sugar, milk, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until the color lightens, about 2 minutes.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, gradually add the flour mixture. Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Reduce speed to low, add the chocolate chips, and mix just until well distributed.
  3. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour (and preferably two or even overnight), until quite firm. You can just cover the mixing bowl with a plate and put the whole thing in the refrigerator. Don't skimp on this step, or your cookies will be flat and hard.
  4. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper. For standard half sheet pans, you'll probably have enough to need three sheets total, with the last one only half full. Drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the sheet, using a dispensing scoop if available.  Twelve cookies will fit comfortably on a standard half sheet. Keep the balls high and round, don't squish them at all. If your oven is at all underpowered, bake one sheet at a time. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until well risen and lightly browned around the edges. Tip: Don't re-use a hot sheet.  If it is necessary to re-use a sheet, rinse it under cool water and dry first. While one sheet is baking, you can get the next one ready and refrigerate the dough balls until ready to bake.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 in Baking, Desserts, Kid Friendly, Recipes.

24 Responses to “Thick and Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies – Recipe”

  1. rural_gal
    October 12, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Ghirardelli uses genetically modified ingredients in their chocolate:

    link to kellythekitchenkop.com

    Use only organic to avoid genetically engineered foods, as GMOs are not allowed.

  2. October 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Now I know exactly what I’m doing this weekend! :)

  3. John
    October 13, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    Ghirardelli … sigh. I remember when I first tried that, in Berkeley in the ’80s. I said “Geez…THIS is what people are raving about? Have they actually TASTED this crap?” I’ve tried it again, off and on, over the intervening 3 decades, and I still like it less than (a) Hershey’s (which ain’t great), (b) Cadbury’s (a bit better), (c) Lindt (much better), and (d) the second-cheapest stuff you can get at any grocery store in France. Which all goes to show, I guess, that tastes differ. But in this rare case, Michael, you’re WRONG! :)

    All that being said, I like the rest of the recipe. And I’m totally with you on the walnuts.

  4. Michael Natkin
    October 13, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    So keep in mind I'm speaking specifically of chocolate chips. I agree, Ghiradelli is nothing spectacular at all, but I like it far better than Hershey's and Nestle, so as far as widely available brands of chips go, I think it is the best option. And actually for some reason I think their chip formulations taste better than their bars, which I don't care for either. 

    Do Lindt and Cadbury make chips? If so, I've missed them. Another good choice is Callebaut buttons, I see them pretty frequently now. They are pretty enormous as chips but you could halve them, or of course you can get any good brand of bar or bulk dark chocolate and chop it, if you don't mind irregular size chunks in your cookies. 

  5. October 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    Your cookies look amazing!

  6. October 20, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    So you like cakey cookies–so does my husband. Unfortunately for him, I rarely want to make them that way. Why do we all prefer different textures?

  7. Michael Natkin
    October 20, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    Ha! Well, you could probably accomodate both with this recipe by baking half right after you mix the dough and the other half after they have been well refrigerated.

  8. November 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    I made these over the weekend and let the dough sit in the fridge overnight. They were absolutely delicious but they weren’t thick. I’m wondering what I did wrong. Maybe my baking soda was a bit old…could that have done it?

    And in response to your chocolate chips, Cadbury does make them and I know they’re available here in New Zealand and Australia but not sure if they export them to the States. I’d imagine that they would. :)

  9. Michael Natkin
    November 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Hey Karen – well, let's see if we can debug what went wrong. Did they actually spread out thin, or did they stay compact but simply not rise? If they spread out, it sounds like maybe your oven runs cool (which would give them time to spread) or maybe you didn't get them in the oven while the dough was actually still quite cold? If they stayed compact, but didn't rise, then old baking soda sounds like a logical suspicion. Hmm, or here's another idea. I don't know that I've ever actually let them rest that long in the fridge, maybe not more than a couple of hours. I wonder if a dough that is going to sit that long needs baking powder instead of soda so that it has some oomph left in the oven. I apologize if I sent you astray on the longer rest!

    Thanks,
    Michael

  10. Jennalee
    January 6, 2012 at 6:44 am #

    I always melt the butter for my choc. chip cookies! I did it by accident once when I was about 13…the recipe said softened butter, so I melted it (Momma wasn’t around to correct that). They ended up looking darker and tasting so very delicious.

  11. Sara Merkel
    January 15, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    I also refrigerated the dough over night. half way through the baking, they puffed up, but by the time they were done, they fell flat. spread out and flat. and even flatter once they were cooling on the table. i wonder also about adding a tsp or 2 of baking powder for that added oomph. Might have to try that next time. what’s the most amount of baking powder i should use, if i’m using baking soda also? Or, should i just use the baking powder only?

    • January 15, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

      If they puffed up and then fell, the problem isn’t too little leavening. If anything, it could be too much leavening, causing them to overinflate and collapse. But I know the amount of leavening in this recipe works, so I’m going to take a stab and say that you should check your oven temperature. If it is running a little low, that could cause you to underbake the cookies and they wouldn’t set properly. Let me know if that helps!

      • Sara
        January 20, 2012 at 8:57 am #

        Oven temp is accurate. Tried freezing some of the dough. Still puffed up during baking, then fell flat. Next time I’ll try a little less butter, or sugar or both. Maybe a little more flour and and extra egg or egg white.

        • January 20, 2012 at 9:58 am #

          Hmm, well if you figure it out, let me know. That recipe works like clockwork for me so I’m curious. Two more thoughts: my all purpose flour is from King Arthur, which I believe is a little bit higher gluten than average, so that might hold the shape more. Also, if you have a scale, try using the weight measurements in the recipe to make sure everything is accurate.

  12. January 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    Hey! I’ve been lurking on here for a while, but this is the first time I’ve tried one of your recipes. I had to use cheap chocolate chips, but they were still just about the best chocolate chip cookies I ever had! Fantastic recipe!

  13. Margaret
    February 29, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    “Thick and cakey” are just the words to describe the chocolate chip cookie recipe of my dreams. I’ve been playing with chocolate chip recipes for years in order to get a cookie of this description. I was very excited to find a recipe that promised to have the characteristics I’ve been looking for but so far I have not had success. I am a very experienced, careful baker. I’ve weighed the ingredients, have an oven I trust, use King Arthur flour, have new baking soda, have left the dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours and have not squashed the dough balls at all. The only direction I haven’t followed has to do with the salt. I’ve used 1tsp. of Morton’s salt, instead of two of Maldon. Could that make all the difference? My cookies have puffed up and then fallen flat when cooling. What am I doing wrong? I do have a convection oven and have used that setting when baking.

    • February 29, 2012 at 8:28 am #

      Well, this really has become a mystery. As we can see above in the comments, other folks have had the same problem, and yet I’ve made this recipe at least a dozen times and it always works for me as long as I let the dough chill. I don’t tend to suspect the salt, although I guess stranger things have happened. (But you should try the Maldon, it is a big improvement.) I haven’t often refrigerated it overnight, 1 hour is more common so you could try that to see if it makes a difference. Another thought – maybe try baking them one more minute? I like mine well browned, and that presumably gives the gluten and egg networks a lot of time to set. Please do let me know if you experiment more and can identify a factor I’m not calling out, I want to get this recipe to be reproducible for all the cakey-cookie lovers!

  14. Margaret
    March 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    I think next time I will let the dough rest for only a few hours. When I let it rest 24 hours, it rose and then fell flat. When I used the rest of the same dough at 48 hours, it didn’t rise at all!

    • March 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

      Ok, very good, that might well be the difference then. Please do let me know the results of your experiment, and I’ll try to replicate and update the recipe.

  15. American in London
    March 9, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    I followed this recipe very carefully and they still came out flat (in fact every recipe i have tried has come out flat!). I have been using self-rising flour though, could that explain the result? I also let the dough sit for about 8 hours and am curious if anyone who has had trouble has retried with only 1 hour of fridge time??

    • March 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

      Self-rising flour already has leavening agents in it, so it definitely won’t work in this recipe. You should only use self-rising flour in recipes that specifically call for it, or I suppose you could look up how much baking powder is in it and omit a corresponding amount.

  16. Lori
    April 4, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    Guittard makes delicious fair-trade chocolate chips, I can buy them at my local Whole Foods: link to amazon.com

    • April 4, 2012 at 8:31 am #

      Yes! We’ve been able to get those lately too, and I agree they are very nice.

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