I'm not sure if admitting what I plan to admit will ruin my pastry reputation. I'm afraid that my baking teachers won't allow me the chance to justify myself before deleting me from their phones and that fellow baking bloggers are going to write me scathing e-mails. Any other foodie will disavow ever having met me.
Even you, dear reader, may become quite upset. You may take what I'm about to say personally or as an affront to your family and friends whose baking skills you so admire. I may even offend your sense of taste. Possibly so much that it will shatter and that the resulting chasmic void inside you will be filled with the anger of demonic chefs from the abysmal inferno whose only desire is for the blood of a blasphemer such as I to be spilled.
If that happens, don't worry. I understand. In certain cases I'm sure I would do the same.
Generally, though, I think most people involved in the creation of desserts have personalities as sweet as the tarts they bake. I simply hope you will bear with me long enough so that I can explain myself.
And, so, I make my admission: I love the Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe.
And - here is the part I felt the need to warn you about - I think it is unequivocally the best chocolate chip cookie recipe out there.
*please feel free to rage, troll, roll your eyes, scoff, and turn off your computer at this point*
Let me start out by saying that this recipe is the one that I grew up with. In fact, it is the first recipe I ever learned. My mom would gather up my brothers and me and she would have us cracking eggs and measuring sugar while teaching us how to properly turn on the oven and use oven mitts.
Throughout the process I would steal fingerfulls of cookie dough when my mom wasn't looking; though I'm pretty sure she knew it was happening. Even so, she would still let me lick the beaters clean once the dough was all scooped. She may have simply been wanting to keep us busy or needed satisfy her own cookie cravings, but I truly believe it was these lazy Saturday afternoons in the kitchen that instilled me a desire to cook. For me, this recipe defined my childhood as much as scraped knees and my attempts to haggle a better price with the toothfairy. ($5 on the last one!)
Knowing this, many of my friends have argued to me that it isn't the flavor of these cookies that I adore, but rather the nostalgia (one of life's greatest spices). I've considered this and must sternly disagree.
Take my mom's tacos. My mom makes amazing tacos. They're some of the best I've ever eaten; spicy, meaty, loaded with cheese, and lightly fried (yes, we fried our tacos). However, one vacation I had some tacos at a roadside in Zihuatanejo that can only be called epic. The tacos were filled with chunks of beef that had been marinated in lime juice and chilies, and the tortilla could barely contain the freshly cut cabbage and tiny boulders of cotija. After one bite I knew that never again would I have a better taco. Nostalgia makes my mom's tacos quite awesome and brings about sighs for simpler times, but nostalgia doesn't make them the best tacos I've ever had.
Not like these cookies.
I've gone through and tested other recipes. For example, when David Leite purported in the New York Times to have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever the food blog world went mad with home tests and comparisons. I did my own test and found that they were quite riveting with flavor. I appreciated the butterscotch flavor and flecks of salt of his cookie recipe, but no chocolate chunk epiphany had I. It still wasn't the Tollhouse.
(Incidentally, I'm one of David Leite's biggest fans. The man is an epic writer, comic genius, and skilled baker. Plus, he's one of the sassiest people I know and I appreciate genuine sass. If you're ever lucky enough to have lunch or a conversation with him you're in for a real treat.)
I tried recipes from every other cookbook and blog. Most tasted fine, some were amazing, and only a few were truly disappointing, but none quite matched up. Like a sugar-junkie Goldilocks I dismissed each for subjective reasons. This recipe is too crunchy. This one has too much chocolate. This one has too little salt. I still adamantly stand by my assessments.
For me, there was only one recipe that was just right.
In past years I've only made two changes to the Tollhouse recipe. The first is that I always add the baking soda separately from the flour. This results in a softer cookie. (Please, do not ask me why. I have been trying to figure this one out forever. Any chemists reading this please contact me.)
The second change I made is to always let the dough rest for 24 hours. David Lebovitz once advised me to do this and I have never gone back. The flavors have a chance to meld and deepen, which results in a more caramel flavor to the cookies.
These changes effectively make the Tollhouse recipe the Garrett House recipe, but so be it. The changes are so minor I hardly consider them changes at all.
It was only yesterday I made some drastic alterations, though not by intention but necessity. Partway through the recipe - the butter and sugars creamed and the eggs beaten in - I realized I was short about 1/2 cup of flour.
Panic set in. What to do!? Yes, I could run to the store, but damn, I was too lazy! I could send BF but he was playing video games and I had a better chance of success of sending Eat Beast with a note and some change tied to his collar. (And Eat Beast would probably eat the bag of flour anyways.)
Spontaneously, and without much consideration, I decided to substitute some buckwheat flour. I reasoned that it might make for an interesting change and give the cookies a bit more of a nutty flavor.
Of course, the result of this substitution also meant a reduction in the number of gluten bonds in the cookie, and, therefore, the cookies would likely spread a bit more. To counter this I also decided to freeze the dough into logs and then slices them into discs before baking.
See? Drastic. Near cataclysmic changes to the Tollhouse recipe! If this recipe were a movie directed by Michael Bay this would be the part where everything explodes.
That is, assuming that explode means explode in a fiery ball of buckwheaty deliciousness. The addition of the buckwheat seemed to highlight the toasted pecans and acted as a rugged backdrop to the chocolate by exemplifying its earthier flavors. The cookies themselves were soft in the middle and the crisp edges had a pleasant sandiness to couldn't be achieved with using just all-purpose flour.
A satisfying snap and good chew, plus plenty of flavor make these my new favorite chocolate chip cookie. This was a chocolate chip cookie that was just right.
Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Nestle and from David Lebovtiz' Room for Dessert
Makes 4 dozen
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1. Whisk together the flours and salt, and set aside. With an electric mixer cream together the butter, sugars, and vanilla on medium speed being sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each in for thirty seconds. Add the baking soda and mix in. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
2. On a lightly floured surface divide the dough into quarters and shape each quarter into a log about 9-inches long. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 24 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 350F. Slice the logs up into discs about 3/4-inch thick. Place them about three inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Cool on the sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.