Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I love happy accidents in the kitchen. The other night, I was testing out apple crisp topping recipes. I was playing around with ratios for the perfect, crumbly, buttery, lovely crisp topping. One batch of topping felt more like cookie-dough than the crumbly mixture I was looking for. I could have tried to salvage the mixture by adding more flour, but instead I thought, "what if I add an egg, some baking soda and some chocolate chips to this... will it make a cookie?"

The answer is a BIG yes. Not only did it make cookies, it made delicious cookies. It made the kind of cookies I'm always going for: crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.

Usually I make cookies by creaming room temp (or melted) butter and sugar together, then adding dry ingredients to that. What I discovered with these cookies is that you can actually use super cold butter, and make the dough similarly to how you make pie or biscuit dough. No creaming of sugar and butter first. No waiting for butter to come to temp. No stand-mixer. This recipe doesn't make a huge batch of cookies, but because the recipe is so easy, it's the perfect thing to whip up for a small group of friends or family when you're craving cookies and want them fast. Of course, you can also double or triple the recipe.

One note about my brand preferences - I'm a big fan of Ghiradelli's semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips. They're a little larger than most of the mainstream brands of chocolate chips. I think they have deeper chocolate flavor, and a silkier texture. I'm also a fan of Guittard. I always pick up a bag when I see it on sale. Regular semisweet chocolate chips will do just fine. You can also swap dark chocolate for milk or white chocolate chip. I'm not a big fan of white chocolate, but if you are and want to make this recipe festive, you could also add dried cranberries to the mix. You can also add your favorite spices to the batter, or omit entirely.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 12-14 medium-large cookies

1¼ cup all purpose flour (can substitute with gluten free flour)
½ cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
good pinch of kosher or flake salt
8 tablespoons (½ a cup or 1 stick) of COLD unsalted butter, cubed small
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup good quality dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, oats, sugars, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir until evenly mixed.

Cube the butter into small pieces. Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients. Using your hands, combine the butter and dry ingredients together until the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture resembles a coarse pea-sized meal.  Don’t worry too much about perfection here… you’re looking to just break apart the butter as you mix-in the dry ingredients. It takes a little elbow grease, but it’s not hard. If you are nervous you can use a pastry cutter or a food processor instead.

Next, add the beaten egg and vanilla extract. Mix until just combined (be careful not to over mix at this point). Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Scoop out heaping spoonfuls of dough. Flatten slightly so the dough is2-3 inches in diameter (as shown below). Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the sheet pan for 2 more minutes, than transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

If you prefer smaller cookies, you can use heaping teaspoons and bake the cookies for 8 instead of 10 minutes.

The cookies should be crispy on the edge and chewy on the inside. They will look a little undercooked when you first take them out, but don’t worry, they’ll harden and firm up as they cool.

The best chocolate chip cookie

People tend to fall into two camps: those that like crisp chocolate chip cookies, and those that prefer them chewy. For me, I want a cookie with a slightly crisp edge that is chewy in the center. I don't want a cookie that's too doughy, hard, or crunchy. We can agree to disagree if your preferences don't align.

In the quest for the perfect cookie, I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably continue to pursue a flawless, un-improvable chocolate chip cookie recipe. True perfection may take years to master, and my definition of perfection may change. However, I'm getting pretty close...

A number of things are crucial to the success of this recipe:
1) Cooking time and temperature
2) Equipment
3) The size of your scoop of cookie dough
4) Butter in addition to shortening
5) Starting with ingredients at room temp

Those things matter a lot, but it's important to note that your results will differ based on the fact that every egg is different, the way each person scoops their flour differs, the lightness or darkness of your baking sheet affects the cookie, the quality and type of your sugar matters, the type of chocolate chip you use makes a difference, and so on and so forth. Just like pizza, your cookie will taste good even if it doesn't always match up to your dreams. But if you're unsatisfied with the results, keep fiddling with those things until you arrive at your cookie nirvana.

The one thing that everyone says makes the biggest difference is baking the cookies on a baking stone. I don't own a baking stone (yet), but my stubborn side also feels like there has to be a way to create cookie perfection on a baking sheet. I've done it before with other recipes, so why should this type of cookie be any different?

There are a lot of similar recipes on the Internet, and I have tried so many that my own recipe is derived from all of them. Most recently, I have been using this recipe as my starting point, sent along to me by my friend. After I made these cookies, I found this post which has a similar recipe, and if you want to get super technical it has all the info you need. I'd like to thank all the chocolate chip cookie makers who have come before me and already discovered these ratios... I'm happy I'm catching up.

Classic Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 36 cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (table salt, which has a different sodium content than kosher salt)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup organic vegetable shortening, at room temp
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 10 oz bag chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate baking chips for their size and flavor) - I also am a fan of mixing 1/2 dark and 1/2 milk chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/176°C.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together your flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat together the room temp butter, shortening, white and brown sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, no less than 3 minutes, and you can go as long as 5 minutes. You can't over beat your dough at this point.

On medium low, add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract. Beat for a minute.

On low, slowly add your flour mixture to the egg mixture a little at a time. Mix until just incorporated. You can over-beat your dough at this point, so don't let the flour mix too long. If you're nervous, stop the stand mixer, take the bowl out, and finish mixing up the wet and dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Fold in your chocolate chips until they are evenly incorporated. Again, be careful not to over mix. Place your dough in the fridge for 20-30 minutes (truthfully, it didn't make THAT much of a difference whether or not I chilled the dough first, but lots of people swear this step is crucial... so there you go).

At this stage, an inexpensive piece of equipment makes a huge difference in the outcome of the cookie. I use a 1.5 tablespoon ice cream scoop to make even balls of cookie dough. I use that same ice cream scoop for meatballs, matzoh balls, and for ice cream (of course). It's a good investment and really helps these cookies become the right shape and size.

Scoop out 12, 1.5 tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Space each piece of dough a few inches apart. Resist the urge to flatten the dough. The cookies come out less chewy when I've done this.

Bake the cookies in the oven for 8-9 minutes or until the edges are just slightly starting to turn golden. Your cookies will look a little underdone. Don't worry about that. If you want a chewy cookie, err on the side of under-doness. Also, the cookies will continue to cook as they cool. Keep the cookies on the baking sheet for 2 minutes (no more). Transfer them to a cooling rack so that they can cool properly. This final step is as important as any of the ones that came before it. If you leave the cookies in the pan, they will continue to cook and will potentially become too dry and won't stay chewy. That would be a bummer. A cooling rack is another great inexpensive investment, and a must for anyone that likes to bake things.

Let the cookies cool for 8-10 minutes, or for as long as you can resist biting into one. Serve with milk. Cookies will stay chewy and great for 3-5 days after baking, but they probably won't last that long. You can also scoop and freeze the dough. If you are baking frozen cookies, make sure the dough comes to room temp (about 30 minutes) before you bake them in the oven.

Happy cookie baking!