Ever since Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Crunch Cookie was featured on her Massachusetts restaurant’s menu in the late 1930s, lovers of sweets have been smitten with the chocolate chip cookie — and 80 years later, Nestlé’s Toll House brand endures as a household name.
“Chocolate chip cookies are pretty quick and easy to make and the perfect-sized dessert for a regular treat,” she says. “For me they just bring back so many happy memories of my childhood.”
On her site, Arias offers a dozen versions, including a basic recipe for Quick & Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies that she describes as “crisp at the edges, chewy throughout and slightly gooey in the center.”
Sound perfect? We asked the baker for tips and tricks to turn your next batch into something special. Because the chocolate chip cookie may be basic, but boring? Never.
The ingredients are simple: butter, white and brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt and, of course, chocolate chips. But one great thing about the chocolate chip cookie is that some simple ingredient additions can tailor it to your specific liking.
“If you want chewier cookies, try adding in an extra egg yolk,” Arias says, noting that the fat in the yolk acts as a tenderizer, which lends softness without the addition of extra butter.
For thicker cookies, it’s all about chilling things out. “Try freezing the balls of cookie dough while the oven heats before baking,” she says.
And if softer cookies are your jam, Arias suggests adding in 1 to 2 teaspoons of cornstarch along with the other dry ingredients. She’s also been known to add cream cheese, which, she says, keeps the cookies soft, without being cakey.
Another way to easily upgrade your basic chocolate chip cookie recipe is to switch out the add-ins, according to Arias.
“So if the recipe calls for 2 cups of chocolate chips, you can swap in the same amount of any mix-in that’s relatively similar in size and shape,” she says. “Other baking chips like white chocolate, butterscotch or peanut butter chips are perfect. Chopped nuts or candy like M&M’s work too!”
Want to mix chips, candies and nuts? Go crazy!
And once you’ve added in those yummy extras, try chilling your cookie dough for 24 to 72 hours before baking, Arias advises. “Think of it like ‘marinating’ your dough,” she says. “The resulting cookies will be even tastier with a pronounced butterscotch flavor as well as thicker and chewier. It’s worth the wait!”
Common cookie mistakes
Of course, despite following the recipe, most home cooks have at some point faced the shameful disappointment of pulling their sheets of cookies from the oven, only to find them flat, burned or unevenly baked.
“One of the biggest mistakes I see is that people use butter that’s too warm when baking cookies,” Arias says. “This usually causes the cookies to spread and flatten out too much. It should be at a cool room temperature, about 67°F. It’s perfect when it gives slightly when pressed with your finger but still holds its shape and isn’t greasy.”
Rubbermaid Stainless Steel Oven Thermometer ($7, originally $17.30; amazon.com)
Oven temperatures that you set on your stove can be off — sometimes by as much as 20 degrees. Make sure you have your temperature set correctly with this thermometer designed for ovens, toaster ovens, grills, smokers or any heat-based food appliance.
Greater Goods Digital Food Kitchen Scale ($11.85, originally $13.85; amazon.com)
Arias points to inaccurate measuring of ingredients as another reason for cookie fails. So she suggests using a a digital scale to measure your flour, which can be easy to over-measure, since it can get compacted down in your measuring cup. This highly rated food scale is inexpensive and easy to store and features a digital readout and accuracy within 1 gram.
Another common mistake when it comes to cookie baking? Not having the right baking tools, which, Arias says, are as important as the ingredients.
“The tools you use can mean the difference between mediocre cookies and ones that rival your favorite bakery,” Arias says. First on her essentials list is a half sheet pan.
Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Half Sheet ($24.91 for two; amazon.com)
“A good quality unlined aluminum half sheet pan can make a world of difference in how your cookies bake,” she says. “I like Nordic Ware or Chicago Metallic. Whatever you use, avoid pans with a dark nonstick coating as they’re more likely to scorch the bottoms of your cookies.” Arias is a big fan of this basic aluminum baking sheet, and says it’s the kind found in professional kitchens.
Oxo Good Grips Nonstick Pro Half Sheet ($24.99; amazon.com)
She also likes this Oxo version as a nonstick option, citing its two-layer coating that allows for the cookies to be easily released from the pan.
Oxo Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop ($14.99; amazon.com)
You’ll want a spring-loaded cookie scoop as well, Arias says. “These make portioning your cookie dough quicker and easier and ensure every cookie is the same size so they bake more evenly and beautifully.”Get uniform-sized cookies with this spring-loaded scoop that holds about 1.5 tablespoons of dough. Hint: Use it for ice cream, too.
Smartake Precut Parchment Paper ($14.99; amazon.com)
And to keep those cookies from sticking, stock up on parchment paper. “I much prefer parchment to silicone baking mats for ensuring cookies don’t stick to the pan,” Arias says. “Not only is it one less thing to clean, but those mats can actually lead to too much spreading and browning in cookies.” She recommends precut sheets rather than the rolls of parchment you’ll find on supermarket shelves, which can be difficult to flatten and cut evenly.
Measuring Cups and Magnetic Measuring Spoons Set ($30.99; amazon.com)
This best-selling set of colorful measuring cups and spoons has silicone, nonslip grip handles, a leveler for exact measuring and double-ended spoons whose narrow end will fit in just about any spice jar.
KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer (starting at $299.99, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
KitchenAid mixers are the gold standard for home bakers everywhere. This 5-quart model will whip up cookies, crusts, creams, cakes and other delicious confections with ease. And the appliance comes in a rainbow of colors to coordinate with any kitchen.
Le Creuset Craft Series Spatula Spoon ($11.95; amazon.com)
A spoonula is a handy combination of spoon and spatula that’s perfect for folding ingredients together and then scraping them out into a dish for baking. This one comes in almost as many colors as the KitchenAid mixer, so color coordination is a breeze.
Ultra Cuisine 100% Stainless Steel Wire Baking and Cooling Rack ($20.98, originally $29.98; amazon.com)
A cooling rack is an essential cookie baking tool that can just as easily act as a bacon rack when inserted into a half-sheet pan in the oven. (Yes, bacon is delicious when made in the oven.) The gridded wire means most things won’t slip through the cracks.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.