Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TWD: Dorie's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies - The Challenge


Most evenings, you'll find the television on in our house, and it's almost always turned to ESPN or Fox Sports World. I don't really pay attention; I mean I like sports and all, but I can't really sit still for too long or I fall asleep. But every once in a while a sports story will catch my attention, like the hair pulling soccer player, or the Krispy Kreme Challenge. And of course every year come late fall, I look forward to watching someone on TV rant about college football's BCS system:

{on the TV}
Bob: All I'll say is this Dan - the BCS is a mess. It's a complete travesty and it is hopelessly broken. And until we fix it by instituting some kind of playoff system, we will never be able to crown an Undisputed National College Football Champion!
Dan: I agree Bob.

{in the living room}
Cathy: Um, David? WHY do we have to crown an Undisputed National College Football Champion? Didn't it just used to be like somebody won the Orange Bowl, somebody won the Cotton Bowl, and then it was New Year's Day and the sun came up anyway?
David: Yes, but that was that a very dark era in sports history, even though nobody knew it at the time.

Recently, however, I've become unsettled by the fact that I don't really know which chocolate chip cookie is the Undisputed Chocolate Chip Cookie Champion. I've become borderline obsessed with finding the best chocolate chip cookie -- and suddenly I understand where the football people are coming from. No, it's really NOT good enough just knowing that there are lots of swell CCC recipes out there. I want to know which is THE BEST, dammit!! And there are a lot of other people like me out there. Be afraid, be very afraid.

On my quest for the perfect CCC, I decided to have a cookie taste-off.


Despite what the lighting in these pictures would indicate, I did not actually hold my chocolate chip cookie taste-off at 3 a.m.


The contenders:

(1) This week's TWD recipe, Dorie's Best Chocolate Chip cookies
(2) The New York Times CCC.
(3) Alton Brown's The Chewy.

Notes and disclosures:

(1) The NYT CCC and The Chewy are both famous among those of us who frequent chocolate chip cookie chat rooms (just kidding) (kind of). I've made both of these cookies before and am in crazy love with both of them. I was really looking forward to making them again and tasting them head to head so I could figure out which was better. Because not knowing was really bugging me, even more than that year that Auburn went undefeated yet got shut out of the National Championship game.

(2) Dorie describes her CCC as being a "Toll House cookies' kin," but with her own tweaks. While I love Toll House cookies -- they are probably the only thing I ever baked from scratch until I started baking from scratch maniacally last year -- I felt like recipes such as the NYT, The Chewy and others, with their unusual techniques and somewhat different ingredients, were created in an attempt to improve on the Toll House Cookie, and I personally like them better than the original Toll House. Therefore, based solely on her description of the cookie -- and this has never happened before -- I bet against Dorie. I really went into this thinking either the NYT or The Chewy would win.

(3) Dorie says her cookies are "thin and crisp and a bit chewy in the center." They certainly were thin:


In fact I pretty much had one large thin chocolate chip pancake on my silpat. I would not describe this as a "crispy" cookie, though (that's a good thing, in my opinion) - it had a little bite to it, but I thought the hallmark of its texture was its wonderfully chewy center.

We held the taste-off at David's dad's birthday party. The voters were provided with milk to cleanse their palates between cookie tastes:


One of our voters, Caroline, age 2, found the whole "Crowning of an Undisputed Chocolate Chip Cookie Champion" process to be a bit overwhelming, so girlfriend spent a lot of time on the floor:





THE RESULTS:

The Chewy did not fare well in the taste-off -- it only garnered one first place vote. David's brother described it as a "pre-scone." I'm pretty sure that's not what Alton was going for. Don't worry, *I* still love you, The Chewy.

The contest between the NYT and Dorie's CCC was almost too close to call, but in the end, the NYT won by one vote. But several people said that they had a hard time deciding between the two and really could have gone either way. When I started to explain the differences (the NYT uses a combination of cake flour and bread flour whereas Dorie's just uses all purpose, etc), David's mom (who voted for the NYT) said that she would never go out and buy cake/bread flour just to make the NYT cookies -- Dorie's were almost as good, so she would just make Dorie's with the all-purpose flour that she was certain to have on hand.

I think what a lot of people liked about the NYT CCC was the sea salt that is sprinkled on the top before baking. Of course, nothing is stopping us from getting out the salt shaker before sticking any old CCCs in the oven.

In short, I should have known better than to bet against Dorie. Her chocolate chip cookie more than held its own in my taste-off. It is a delicious, classic chocolate chip cookie. While some people might prefer a cookie that's not quite so thin, it's hard to go wrong with her recipe.

Many thanks to Kait of Kait's Plate for choosing this wonderful cookie. I'm not sure I'm any closer to crowning an Undisputed Chocolate Chip Cookie Champion, but I'm sure having fun trying!

34 comments:

Leslie said...

Great post, Cathy! You really summed up the maniacal (with PERFECT sports analogies) pursuit of The Best that happened these last two weeks. As often as I felt like lying on the ground in the fetal position while going through it, it feels good to have a winner...I think I have a winner. But I may have to taste again and get back to you.

natalia said...

Ciao Cathy ! I love the 3 am contest ! And the little one was great at that early hour !:))
I'm not such an expert in the CCC business and I'll trust you mine were very thin but all the friends who tried it asked for the recipe !

mike said...

What a great comparison! Those are the best judges too - bipartial. :) I'm going to have to try that NYT cookie - heard so much about it! They ALL look wonderfully delicious - I enjoyed the thin cookie, but also like them cakey too. Excellent analysis!

Debinhawaii said...

Mmm...a tough job choosing between three CCCs. ;-) Caroline is cracking me up--it is sad when one reaches the age when you can't just lay on the floor when life gets to be too much-lol! Ilike a thin on the crispy side, cookie so Dorie's would have been right up my alley.

Jennifer said...

Wow-that's quite a taste test!

I thought these cookies were awesome!!!!

Kayte said...

I had no idea there was such a contender's title at stake for the CCC. You are all scientists with your research on these this week. Happy to hear Dorie's held their own as the guys loved, loved, loved these cookies b/c they were crunchy. I am always amazed that we all have the same recipe, and we all get differing results...how is that? My silpat didn't look like that at all, they all stayed separate and nice. Go figure. Anyway, it was great fun reading about all the research this week. The guys here like the NYT CCC very much as well. Alton's aren't their favorites, but they will eat them happily.

Di said...

Love the post, Cathy! Great pics of Caroline. =) You know, as of right now, I haven't tried any of those recipes. I might have to do a comparison of my own!

Cristine said...

I love how you held a taste competition between the three. I have yet to try the chewy or the nyt cookie. I think you have inspired me to hold my own taste test! :)

vibi said...

Loved reading about that taste challenge... You still kill me with stuff like "I'm sure that's not what Alton was going for!" LOL LOL LOL

Happy you finally got your answer... and made so many people happy! The cookies looked great on top of that!

Melissa said...

Love your idea to do the taste test! We agreed that these cookies were really good.

p.s. We do the Krispy Kreme Challenge every year here in Raleigh!

Nancy/n.o.e said...

I'm convinced that the quest for the Undisputed Champion of CCCs is a slippery slope indeed, and might lead us all to the refuge of the floor. In my less-scientific testing of CCCs, my tasters have pretty much dismissed the Chewy as a fairly standard - but good - Toll House type cookie. We always miss the salt now that the NYT CCCs have spoiled us, so I'm resigned to shaking some on all future contenders. Great job, and love the post.

Hanaâ said...

Wow, great job. I love taste-offs. Thanks for sorting it out for us. I would have thought AB's cookie would win too. I haven't made it yet but I heard so many good things about it. I'm biased though cuz I pretty much like anything AB makes.

This my first time visiting your blog. Will definitely visit again.

bakingwiththeboys said...

I feel somewhat validated by your post as I have never understood all the hoopla surrounding "the chewy." It has never been a serious contender for me. Now, the NYT cookie is another story. and, for the record, I am in favor of a playoff over the BCS.

Flourchild said...

Im glad you enjoyed this recipe. I loved it! Your cookies look great!

Lady Baker said...

Great post, Cathy--I love the fact that you did the taste test!! That's something I would think "I should do that" but never really do--so kudos for you for doing all of that baking! And y'know..I sorta 'get' the BCS thing now that you put it into terms to which I can relate!

myfamousrecipe said...

Why, oh why, can't I live next door to you? How I would kill for someone to call me up one day and say, "hey, get over here, we're having a chocolate chip cookie championship taste-off"! Brilliant!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

What fun! I love a throwdown. Good to know the NYT came in well - I will have to give them a go.

Mary said...

Great idea! I should do the same, but am too busy watching the Olympics!! I gave all mine away, and am really regretting it as I read these delicious posts!

Tracey said...

I wish I had half of your writing talent Cathy! Always so witty and fun over here :) I love that you had an "official" taste-off. I should really do a side by side comparison one of these days, but I'm just not a big enough fan of CCC's to warrant the effort... Great photos - all of the cookies look terrific!

AmyRuth said...

Oh Part of the Quest......the Tasting!!!! Ah yes, and who cares about the testosterone laden football championships when you have warm, aromatic, chocolate beckoning you to enjoy its lusciousness. Right? hehe Very nicely done Cathy! I love how you and Leslie have stepped into the mad scientist hat. So far you two have won the prize. Step aside, Alton! hehe
AmyRuth

Susan said...

What a great post! Loved the "playoff" between the three cookies. I am looking up Alton's recipe right now to give it a try. My Dorie cookies turned out flat, flat, flat!

Amanda said...

HILARIOUS!! I haven't had the other two, but I LOVE The Chewy. I am really crying from laughing right now. I love the sippy cup of milk.

jillbert said...

You really got down to business with this! I doubted these cookies, but I really liked them and was thrilled that they were chewy. I've many times thought about making the NYT cookies, but it hasn't happened yet. Someday!

Kim said...

Wow. I'm impressed. Sounds like a fun cookie taste-off. Great post.

Liz said...

Wow, there's some dedication! I thought there were good but not exceptional, but I know some other people loved them.

Just a comment on the NYT recipe--I've actually made it multiple times with all AP (instead of the bread flour/cake flour mix) and it still turns out great. I imagine the protein content of the AP flour is pretty similar to the mix. So no need to forgo these cookies if you don't have specialty flours.

AppleC said...

I have never come across a chocolate chip cookie I didn't like.
Good post.

TeaLady said...

So many of us on the quest. I like AB's puffy and chewy, but not the thin. (Taste test coming soon!!)

Nothing like a little scientific experimentation to help solve the problem of the elusive 'best' CCC.

The Blonde Duck said...

That's so funny. The cookies I make for Ben are AB's the chewy. They're the only ones he'll eat!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)

Maria said...

I love that you did a taste party. I need to do that. My hubs LOVES the NYT cookie. It is his favorite. I am still undecided. I need to bake them all at once like you and make the call. The NYT were really good, but I have a few other favs too:) I have made Dorie's but it has been awhile, maybe I should try them again. They were too thin for me last time, but I guess that is what people like. Great post!! And what is wrong with chatting about cookies online..ha!

Anne said...

I love the comparison! I agree that buying cake flour just for a cookie is silly but I'm going to try the NYT recipe again just in case.

All I know for SURE is that chocolate chip cookie experiments are way better than any science I did in college!

Katrina said...

Fun post and you'll never guess what I'm craving now? Yep, milk. JK---CCC's!!!! The NYT is by far my favorite go-to recipe. I keep cake/bread flour in stock JUST for those cookies.

Anonymous said...

I am reading this article second time today, you have to be more careful with content leakers. If I will fount it again I will send you a link

Pierre said...

The WWW.TheGrinningGourmet.com tested 12 different CC cookies and the NY Times cookie came out ahead. The runner-up cookie (David Lebovitz CCC) was almost as good but does not require cake flour.

 
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