A few days ago it was a miserably rainy day and all I could think about was whipping up a batch of warm, gooey, chewy, chocolate chip cookies.

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles my son actually sat in his high chair long enough for me to make these cookies and bake them (all the while I fed him his dinner – yes, I’m a good multi-tasker).

I came across this recipe a few weeks ago, during my online travels searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie (see my previous posts on David Lebovitz’s chocolate chip cookies, and Amy Lewis’ ultimate chocolate chip cookies).

On one of the forums discussing the best chocolate chip cookies, there was a heated debate in which several people praised the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for perfect chocolate chip cookies. I was intrigued because in this recipe, unlike traditional chocolate chip cookies, you must brown the butter, a step that brings out the rich, toffee flavour of butter.

Makes 16 large cookies or 32 medium-sized ones. Published May 1, 2009. From Cook’s Illustrated.

Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

Instructions:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop) or 1 heaping tablespoon for 32 medium-sized cookies. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. (If you prefer smaller cookies, aim for 8-10 minutes depending on how chewy you like them). Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Substitutions: I ran out of dark brown sugar so 1/4 cup of the brown sugar was light brown sugar. I also used semi-sweet chocolate chunks and chopped pecans.

Would I make this again? Yes, when I am in the mood for rich, moody, luxurious chocolate chip cookies. But I did find these a touch too salty for my taste, so I may use kosher salt rather than table salt next time. Don’t skip the step of browning the butter, it did wonders for the depth of flavour. You may never look at butter the same again. I also slightly underbaked these cookies, as is my preference, and they were moist and chewy and full of goodness.

Grade: Five stars out of five. Let’s put it this way, my son doesn’t like chocolate. But when he saw me taking a bite out of these cookies he licked his lips and pointed at them and forcefully said “maahm,” which in our secret language means “I want to eat that.” And lo and behold he took one bite, and another, and another, and then – he clapped. Before I start getting emails about what a horrible mother I am, homemade cookies are a heck of a lot better in my books than the store-bought stuff.