Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from usa weekend magazine) 
to make these impossibly delicious treats, mix the ingredients 
carefully, freeze the dough and vary the oven temperatures. 
recipe: "perfect chocolate chip cookies" 
of all the recipes i've tried to perfect, the one i worried about most 
was chocolate chip cookies. i already had watched one very calm, 
rational woman turn as obsessive as a gambler on a losing streak in 
her quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. did i really have any 
business tampering with a time-tested recipe? what was i looking for, 
anyway? for starters, a big, puffy cookie with a wrinkled, rugged 
surface. a cookie as chewy on the inside and crisp around the edges as 
the fresh-baked toll house kind. but one that would stay pliable -- 
unlike a toll house cookie, where the chew quickly turned crisp. 
melt the butter, then add the sugar 
how the fat and sugar are mixed makes a big difference when baking 
cookies. so, using the classic nestle toll house cookie formula, i 
made three batches: first, i creamed the butter and sugar together 
with a hand mixer before adding the other ingredients. for the second 
batch, i melted the butter, then stirred in the sugar. finally, 
following a tip i got off the internet, i heated the butter and sugar 
together. although none of the cookies was ideal, adding melted butter 
to sugar was the simplest of the methods (no mixer required, no 
cooling-off period necessary) and produced cookies with the best chew. 
having made these cookies with various quantities and brands of 
chocolate, i actually prefer chopped chocolate bars to chips because 
they naturally break unevenly into small shards as well as big chunks. 
i also like toasted nuts, but not everybody does. they bring balance 
to a cookie that is otherwise very sweet. this dough base works for 
almost any nut, chip or candy. 
frozen dough in a hot oven 
mixing the dough may have been simple, but forming and baking the 
cookies became a little trickier. to achieve a beautiful, puffed 
cookie, oven and dough temperatures are as key as the formula itself, 
i found. you can make the perfect dough, but if it bakes too slowly or 
too quickly, you can end up with flat, burned or hard cookies. i used 
melted butter in the dough, so i refrigerated the dough to firm it up 
a bit before forming it into rounds and baking the rounds in a 
375-degree oven. at that point, the cookies still were spreading more 
than i wanted, and the bottoms of the cookies were darker than ideal. 
when i reduced the oven temperature, however, the cookies spread even 
more. two things i did helped: forming the dough into balls and 
freezing them solid before baking kept them from spreading. to portion 
the dough, i used a small spring-action ice cream scoop. 
after much temperature and time testing, i finally determined the 
cookies were at their best when baked at a relatively high 400 degrees 
until set, 8 to 10 minutes, then finished at 350 degrees for another 
10 minutes. the higher temperature caused the starch to set before the 
fat melted, resulting in a cookie that puffed without spreading. the 
lower temperature allowed the cookies to crisp up and turn 
golden-brown without the threat of burning. after baking several 
batches where the cookies on the bottom rack spread more than those on 
the top, i finally realized they had to be baked one sheet at a time 
(or in two ovens). 
this chocolate chip cookie recipe may not be for everyone. making the 
dough couldn't be simpler, but the baking requires a little thought 
and care. for me, the extra steps are well worth a cookie that 
delivers the impossible: puff, crisp and chew all in one bite. 
pam anderson is the author of how to cook without 
a book (broadway) and the perfect recipe (houghton mifflin). 
2-1/4 cup  bleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp  baking powder
1/2 tsp  baking soda
2 large  eggs
1 tsp  vanilla
3/4 tsp  salt
14 Tbsp  butter (2 sticks minus 2 tbs.), cut into chunks
3/4 cup  dark brown sugar
3/4 cup  granulated sugar
2 Tbsp  flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola
1-1/2 cup  chocolate chips or 8 ounces good-quality bittersweet or
  semisweet chocolate cut into 1/4-inch chunks, about 1 1/2 cup
1 cup  each chocolate chunks or chips and 1 cup toasted nuts (pecans,
  walnuts, unsalted peanuts or macadamias)
hot tip: if you have a 3/4-cup measuring cup, it's the only one you'll 
need. the sugars measure 3/4 cup each, the chip quantity is 1 1/2 cups 
(3/4 cup times 2), and the flour is 2 1/4 cups (3/4 cup times 3). 
mix flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside. 
mix eggs, vanilla and salt in a small bowl; set aside. microwave 
butter on high power until just melted but not hot, 30 to 45 seconds; 
set aside. mix brown and granulated sugars in a large bowl. add butter 
and oil; stir until smooth. add egg mixture and stir until smooth and 
creamy. add dry ingredients and stir until smooth. stir in chocolate 
and optional nuts. using a 1 1/2-ounce (3 tbs.) ice cream scoop, spoon 
16 dough balls onto a pan that will fit in your freezer. (don't worry 
if the dough balls are crowded. they pull apart when frozen.) freeze 
until dough is hard, about 30 minutes. (once dough balls are frozen, 
they can be stored in freezer bags up to 3 months and baked as 
meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 400 
degrees. working in half batches, place 8 frozen dough balls onto a 
parchment-lined cookie sheet. bake until set, but not brown, 8 to 10 
minutes. reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. continue to bake until 
cookies are golden-brown around the edges and lightly brown on the top, 
about 10 minutes longer. let cookies cool on cookie sheet. repeat, 
preheating oven to 400 degrees again before baking second batch. cookies 
can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days. 
(ID: 12752) Mirror: Sun, May 11, 2003

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