Sometimes I crave different aspects of chocolate chip cookies, resulting in a situation where there is no *perfect* recipe for me. But I want to know which things to change in order to get what I want. So I've been experimenting.
~ I live in Colorado, not in the mountains, but considerably higher altitude than sea level. If your altitude is lower, you might want to reduce the amount of flour you use.
~ Parkay margarine makes Stephannie cookies. She's my sister, and around our friend circles, they are famous. But I don't like margarine. I want my cookies to have butter. This brings up problems. Because butter makes cookies flat. In any case, Parkay is saltier than unsalted butter. Use salted butter and/or add extra salt.
~ Use enough salt.
~ Adding flour does not fix flat cookie recipes. I mean, if you add enough, they're not flat anymore. But they're barely cookies anymore.
~ I read in some awesome cookbook at a friend's house one time, and it has changed my baking forever, that it is very useful to add other forms of fat than butter. Go figure. My first attempt has been to add an extra egg *yolk* (I think the recipe book suggested this). I've tried a bit of coconut oil, which is supposedly a dough conditioner anyway. I can't tell a difference. I'm starting to wonder if I use a higher-quality butter if it would yield better (fluffier, but still tender) results.
~ If you brown at least some of the butter before using it, it adds a nutty and/or caramel dimension to the flavor.
~ Play with adding just a hint of spice, like cinnamon or nutmeg. Add some flavor and warmth. Everyone I know experiments with vanilla amounts, too - that is, they splash it instead of measuring. Some brands of vanilla extract have a funny flavor; use a vanilla that you like.
~ Use a good kind of chocolate. Dark, semi-sweet, and bittersweet, are by definition basically the same thing; different companies apply the terms to distinguish their products, but they don't have a definite meaning. Different companies use varieties of ingredients. I don't know what you like. If you're a normal American, you might just want to go with Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips for the comfort of familiarity. I read recently that Guittard melts very smoothly. 70% bitter is not sweet enough, I know from my most recent experiment - especially when you're experimenting with reducing the sugar.
~ Don't reduce the sugar. 1 1/2 c. sugar (brown and white mixed, in different proportions), 3 c. flour, 2 sticks butter. Those are the basics. Don't skimp.
~ Use enough chocolate. Chocolate helps the cookie to have structure. Don't let your dough be too warm when you mix the chocolate, or it will melt.
~ Other firmer ingredients can also help the structure of the cookie, like other kinds of chips - toffee, for instance. Or you can add dried fruit. I also like some recipes that have uncooked oatmeal mixed in.
~ I'm curious, based on an article I just read whether the darkness of the brown sugar affects raising. Does darkness describe levels of acidity? If you added just a touch of a different sweetener, could that help? Particularly, I'm thinking about a tablespoon or less of molasses.
~ Leavening: the Toll House recipe calls for baking soda. My favorite oatmeal cookie recipe has baking powder. My most recent attempt had both. The jury's out, but I suspect baking powder gives a better rise, especially if you're letting the dough rest in the refrigerator for a while.
~ You must refrigerate your dough. It enhances the flavor mixtures. But the main reason is that it keeps the cookies from spreading too quickly. Flat cookies mean all sorts of unpleasant things like crispiness, only one layer of chocolate chunks, or not fitting as many on a pan without them running into one another.
~ I've learned that baking powder, at least, responds quicker in a slightly hotter oven. I'm considering starting hotter (425??) for a minute or two, then reducing the heat (350). It's all about helping the rise.
~ The pan you use matters. I think the metal, the shape, the color all contribute to how your cookies bake. I don't know your oven or your pans, but if something works for you, take note and keep using that!
~ Do *not* over-bake. Take your cookies out when the centers aren't jiggling, and the edges are beginning to brown. Do not wait until the tops of your cookies are brown if you want a soft gooey cookie. You can let the cookies rest for a bit on the pan before removing to cool. Another thing you can try is to squish the edges of your cookies towards their centers after removing from the oven, to keep them from setting so flat.
~ If all else fails (and sometimes just because), supplement your cookies with cheesecake dip, ice cream, salt, milk, hot drinks - to complement the tastes.
~ Also if the cookies get stale for some crazy reason, carefully re-hydrate using steam (or butter?).
~ Try freezing extra cookies, and remove about 15 minutes before eating, for a cold chewy treat. You can freeze the dough, too, but I have very little experimentation with that.
~ To reheat in a microwave, make sure you use power settings below 5 to prevent crunchy burnt spots. I find that about 30 seconds on power 3 works best in my microwave.
To God be all glory.