A Chocolate Chip Cookie Secret You Want to Know - E verybody wants to achieve perfection when baking chocolate chip cookies. It is the quintessential cookie. The cravings evoked at the mere mention of its name are powerful. Therefore, it is always so disappointing when they come out of the oven far less than perfect.
There are so many factors that come into play that affect the end baking result it is hard to know what went wrong. Ingredients, mixing process, and even the length of time the cookies were baked could thwart your best efforts and ruin your anticipated Utopian cookie. However, there is one simple little tip that could so drastically alter the results of your chocolate chip cookie, you will slap your forehead that you did not try it before. That is to chill your dough before baking the cookies. So simple and yet so important is this one overlooked step. We are always in such a rush to get to hot, gooey confectionery bliss that taking the time would be torture. But, a few hours in the fridge will promise that blissful moment to be even greater than imagined.
Chilling chocolate chip cookie dough does a couple of things. First, it marinates the flavors that go into a cookie dough. Have you ever noticed that lasagna tastes better the second day? Well, the same principle applies here but we are talking about cookie dough. The flavors will really pop and deliver a richer experience after sitting in the fridge for a bit. According to a New York Times article titled Perfection? Hint: It's Warm and Has a Secret (July 9, 2008), there are some interesting and yet dramatic physical effects on the cookie the longer it is chilled. They found that a thirty-six hour period in the refrigerator produced cookies with deeper shades of golden brown without longer time in the oven.
Second, the flour will really drink up all the moist ingredients that went into the dough after a prolonged time in the chill box. The longer the dough sits, the drier the dough gets, and that is actually a good thing. The chocolate chip cookie will have a better consistency right out of the oven. This is because of the hydration effect of sitting in the refrigerator and also because cold dough will spread less in a hot oven making a thicker cookie. And, don't worry about dry dough. The baked cookie will actually be moist and delicious.
There is one more factor to take into consideration when chilling the dough. Because the dough gets so dry during this time, it is best to form your cookies before you chill the dough. Try to scoop the dough after it has been thoroughly chilled and you will have a crumbly frustrating mess on your hands. Scooping them and chilling them on a cookie sheet is good. If you are going for the big chill and waiting the optimal thirty-six hours, an airtight container is best. You don't want those cookies to taste like last week's meat loaf.
Apparently Ruth Wakefield, inventor of the chocolate chip cookie, knew about this handy little tip from the very beginning. The New York Times also reveals that it was a regular practice of the Toll House Inn to chill their cookie dough. Somehow this piece of information failed to meet the final edit when the recipe went on the backs of Nestle's Chocolate in the 1930's. We should not feel too betrayed. Most great cooks are happy to share recipes, but rarely share all the tricks of the trade that make the end product great.