Can we agree that the chocolate chip cookie is one of the greatest culinary innovations ever to be birthed from a human mind? Is that too much? Of course, I’m not talking about cookies in a bag that disintegrate into dust when you bite them, and I’m not talking about boxes of “fresh” cookies from your local chain-grocery that bear about the same resemblance to a real, fresh cookie that I bear to a Himalayan red panda. I’m talking about warm, melty-chipped, gooey chocolate chip cookies.
Perhaps you, a regular reader of this blog, are feeling surprised to see cookies mentioned here. After all, why would the blog for a thermometer company be writing about cookies? Because temperature matters for cookies, too.
Read on and learn the thermal secrets to cookies and get one heckuva good recipe, based on Stella Parks’ recipe over at SeriousEats.com.
Do cookies have a doneness temperature?
Baking is the most exacting branch of cooking that is undertaken by the home cook. Measurements are more exact in making bread, pastries, cookies than they are in, say, soup. It is an art that hinges on both measurement and dexterity. And it is measurement about which we need to think.
If I were to start making a batch of cookies and, on a whim, add an extra 3/4 cup of flour the recipe, the chances of those cookies turning out at all well are slim. Certainly, they won’t turn out like the last time I made them, assuming they work at all. The same goes for leaving a half cup of flour out—the cookies will not have enough structure and will spread out too much.
No one expects to be able to add ingredients to or subtract ingredients from a cookie or cake willy-nilly.
Consider though: cooking can be defined rather well as the controlled application of heat to food in order to produce chemical and physical changes that improve the enjoyability, safety, and/or nutriment of the food. That definition can be quibbled with, but it stands up pretty well. Given that definition, we can consider heat to be an ingredient in any recipe. You would no sooner add an extra 15° to a recipe than you would an extra cup of flour. If you like cookies done a certain way, then you need to add a certain amount of heat to them. If you want them crispy on the edges, add more heat, if you like them almost doughy, add less, but there are limits to how far you can take that and still have a good cookie.
Cooking cookies solely by time assumes identical starting conditions and identical cooking conditions from cook to cook, and that’s really not the most reasonable assumption, especially if you’re cooking them at someone else’s house!
How to know when cookies are done
As I said before, how much heat to add depends on what you like in a cookie—but within that range of preference, you can still cook your cookies consistently. Rather than gauging by color or how squishy the cookie feels, take its temperature! The eggs coagulate at certain temperatures, the starches gelatinize at certain temperatures, and the proteins from the flour are temperature dependent, too. Once you reach a temp where those things are accomplished, your cookie is done!
Chocolate chip cookies are done between 175 and 185°F (79 and 85°C). With a good thermometer, you can play with the doneness and note your preferred temperature in your recipe. To measure doneness in a cookie, you can go one of two routes. you can either start checking temps with a Thermapen® Mk4 after a certain number of minutes, or you can use a Chefalarm® with an optional needle or 4.5″ probe and actually probe the cookies and set a high-temp alarm for doneness. Cooking cookies by temperature ensures you get the same results every time. We tried both methods, and the ones we checked with a Thermapen came out a little bit more done than we liked. That’s no fault of the Thermapen, but rather our fault for not checking them earlier. If you use the Thermapen to check the temp, be sure to start checking the temp at about 20 minutes. (For smaller cookies, check sooner, starting at about 10 minutes.)
To temp the cookies with a ChefAlarm, lay a probe on the pan, with the probe tip in the lower part of the cookie. As the cookie melts out fo ball shape and into a disc shape, the probe will be partially enveloped by the expanding cookie dough, but will continue taking the temperature. With the ChefAlarm, our cookies came out perfectly.
Notes on the recipe:
The recipe calls for assorted chocolate chips, and that’s great advice. Use two or more different strengths of chocolate to add interest and variety to the cookie. Be sure to use chips, not chunks, which break up the structure too much.
Take the butter out of the fridge at least a half-hour before you begin so that it can come up to temperature. Using properly temped butter will help the initial creaming process. And, speaking of creaming, be sure to cream the butter and sugar together for the full eight minutes. Doing so whips more air into the butter mixture, giving the cookies structure.
This recipe makes 6 huge cookies. You can divide it into smaller portions if you like.
Super Thick, Super Chocolatey Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
This recipe is based on Stella Parks’ interpretation of the hugely-popular Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookie, from SeriouEats.com.
- 4 oz unsalted butter, softened to about 65°F (18°C)
- 1/2 C light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1/2 C white sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp (8g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight (plus more for sprinkling, if desired)
- 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Pinch of grated nutmeg
- 2 large eggs, straight from the fridge
- 10 oz all-purpose flour
- 15 oz assorted chocolate chips (about 2 1/2 C)
- 8 1/2 ounces raw walnut pieces or lightly toasted pecan pieces (optional)
- Combine butter, sugars, salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment.
- Mix the ingredients on low speed for a minute or so, to barely start to combine, then increase the speed to medium and beat for a full 8 minutes, scraping the bowl down after 4 minutes. (Using a TimeStick® can help.)
- Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next.
- Turn the mixer speed to low and add the flour all at once.
- Once the flour is incorporated, add the chocolate chips and, if using, the nuts.
- Mix until the chips are well-distributed.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal portions (about 6 oz each), form them into balls, and wrap each in plastic wrap. For the very best results, refrigerate the portions for at least 12 hours before baking. If that just won’t do, refrigerate them while you preheat the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the cookies in the pan, evenly spaced. (Cooking in two batches with 3 or 4 cookies per pan is a very good idea.) If you want a little extra salt, sprinkle it on now. You won’t regret it!
- If using a ChefAlarm, insert the probe into one of the cookie balls and set its high-temp alarm for 180°F (82°C).
- Bake the cookies for until the alarm sounds, about 22 minutes. Verify the temperature with your Themrapen Mk4. If using the Thermapen to check the temps, start checking at about 20 minutes.
- Let the cookies cool to below 100°F (38°C) before eating—use your Thermapen to make sure they are cool enough.
- Enjoy warm with milk!
Nothing says comfort and nostalgia like warm, real, home-made chocolate chip cookies, and these ones are real doozies! By adding the right amount of heat to your cookies, you can be sure they’ll come out right every single time, no matter the weather or the oven. So buck tradition and go for perfection by temping your cookies with your ChefAlarm or Thermapen Mk4 and make some cookies that are worthy of your loved ones.
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