Test Kitchen Essentials: Chocolate Chip Cookies
Over the course of a week, I mixed and baked off nine different small batch chocolate chip cookie contestants and learned a lot on the way to crowning our cookie queen.
Welcome to our new Test Kitchen Essentials recipe series! At Savory Spice, we believe spices make everything better, including each essential recipe in this series. Every home cook needs a trusted library of dependably delicious, consistently crowd-pleasing, and classically comforting recipes at the ready. In this series, we’ll be going through rigorous recipe testing and development to find those essential recipes and share them with you, along with spicy tips and tricks to take them to the next level.
First up, a recipe for the inner-child in all of us. Let's roll up our sleeves and bake a small batch of chocolate chip cookies--or nine.
Chocolate Chip Cookies!
Everyone has an opinion on what makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie– crispy or chewy? Nuts or no nuts? Milk chocolate or dark chocolate, and how big of chocolate chunks? Topped with flaky salt or a drizzle of marshmallow fluff? Can a perfect-for-everyone chocolate chip cookie even be achieved, and is Jamaican Allspice the answer to bringing us all together? I set out to find the truth.
The first step in identifying the perfect chocolate chip cookie involved a comprehensive survey (one question) of a carefully selected group of participants (whoever stumbled into the test kitchen when I happened to be thinking about this). “Can you please describe your perfect chocolate chip cookie?” I would ask, pen in hand. Some CCC non-negotiables from around Savory Spice HQ included: a balance of chewy and crunchy textures, a flavor-popping pinch of flaky salt on top, and simplicity– no nuts, pieces of candy, or marshmallow fluff finishers. We’re purists here.
With all this in mind, I scoured the internet for chocolate chip cookie science and used the data I found to concoct my own cookie recipe guidelines: all-purpose flour for softness, a higher ratio of brown sugar to granulated sugar for chewiness, baking soda and eggs for a little lift, and a healthy dose of vanilla extract for flavor (but which one of Savory Spice’s many vanillas would champion these cookies? Stay tuned).
Over the course of a week, I mixed and baked off nine different cookie contestants and force-fed them to tasters in the test kitchen. We learned a lot on the way to crowning our cookie queen.
Test 1: Vanilla Chip Cookies
Variables at play: caramelized white chocolate chunks, Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste, general first try at dough ratios
- Delicious! The chips were caramelized white chocolate mixed with Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste, which were nutty and complex.
- The texture of the dough was really soft and pillowy.
- Not actually chocolate chip cookies…but we had to get the idea out of our heads.
- While a soft cookie is the way to go, we want a crispier outside for some textural variety.
Test 2: Mexican Vanilla Extract + Ground Jamaican Allspice
Variables at play: Mexican Vanilla Extract, Ground Jamaican Allspice, increased granulated sugar
- Some extra granulated sugar gave us a shattery, crispy outside while maintaining the softness of the inside of the cookie.
- We used a mix of dark and milk chocolate chips, which gave us sweetness and bitterness for flavor complexity.
- While Mexican Vanilla Extract is great, we don’t think we’re reaching our full vanilla flavor potential.
- We like what the Ground Jamaican Allspice is adding, but want more from it.
Test 3: Pure Espresso Powder and the Battle of the Vanillas: Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste vs. Tahitian Vanilla Extract
Variables at play: Pure Espresso Powder, Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste, Tahitian Vanilla Extract, dark or light brown sugar
- A pinch of Pure Espresso Powder in the dough enhanced the flavor of the chocolate and made these cookies taste decadent.
- Tahitian Vanilla Extract won out in the battle of the vanillas: she’s floral, fruity, and almost marshmallow-y, and makes the cookies taste sweeter without any extra sugar.
- We’ve determined dark brown sugar is the way to go moving forward. The flavor of molasses just can’t be beat.
- We added an extra quarter cup of flour to these cookies to try and tighten up the dough. However, the extra flour sent these cookies into cake territory–an overcorrection.
- We also decided to switch from a final sprinkle of Mayan Sea Salt to French Fleur de Sel–we love Mayan as our go-to salt, but Fleur de Sel has a beautiful flaky texture that takes these cookies to the next level.
Test 4: Flour vs. Sugar for Texture + Increased Ground Jamaican Allspice
Variables at play: Increased or decreased flour ratios, increased or decreased granulated sugar ratios, increased Ground Jamaican Allspice
Flour for texture:
- Adding an amount of flour in between our lowest original amount and our highest previous amount didn’t really help with our texture problem. We kept the chewy softness, but still didn’t get that crispy crunch back.
Sugar for texture:
- An extra quarter cup of granulated sugar with our decreased flour amount gave us the texture we wanted: the crust of these cookies crumbles with the first bite, and is followed by a dreamy softness of the pillowy inside. This ratio is an absolute winner.
- The Ground Jamaican Allspice is becoming a bit too much, and we’re worried that the flavor is overpowering the essence of a chocolate chip cookie. We want to circle back to Pure Espresso Powder, and let the chocolate shine.
Test 5: Dehydrated Milk Powder?
Variables at play: Dehydrated milk powder
- In theory, this was supposed to give us a caramel-y flavor and keep the cookies soft for longer. In practice…it was a fun ingredient to experiment with.
- We didn’t really notice any difference in flavor or texture with the addition of dehydrated milk powder. We decided to leave it out in favor of keeping the ingredients simple.
Test 6: The Cookie Queen
- The re-addition of Pure Espresso Powder underlined the fruity, bitter notes in the chocolate chips and let these cookies shine.
- The perfected ratio of dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, and all-purpose flour produced a cookie that’s crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and so fun to eat.
- Tahitian Vanilla Extract adds the perfect floral vanilla sweetness to the dough, and compliments the chocolate chips perfectly.
- A generous sprinkle of French Fleur de Sel on top of the baked cookie balances out the sweetness inside and makes the cookie feel luxurious.
- Absolutely none. I ate these for lunch for three days in a row.
Nine batches of cookies in a week was good for the soul and fun for the scientist in me, but probably not great for my blood sugar. It was absolutely worth it to be able to present to you: Test Kitchen Essential Chocolate Chip Cookies.
If you decide to bake these cookies (and seriously, you should bake these cookies), tag us on Instagram (@savoryspiceshop). Look out for more Spice Merchant Essential Recipes coming soon!