And the winner is …
NEW YORK TIMES' CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Reason to bake: Where to begin? This recipe is perhaps the ultimate in bake-at-home chocolate chip cookies, and so worth its various hassles. Yes, the dough requires a 24- to 36-hour chilling period (to fully hydrate the dry ingredients), but patience pays off, big time. No, that’s not a typo in the ingredients list: Both cake flour and bread flour are essential. Plan on buying (some might say “investing in”) a lot of bittersweet chocolate. And don’t forget the sea salt.
Tip: By all means, splurge on the (not-inexpensive) Valrhona fèves — they’re available at Kitchen Window (3001 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-824-4417, www.kitchenwindow.com) and at Amazon.com — but rest assured, far more affordable (and widely available) bittersweet chocolate bars and chips from Ghirardelli work just fine, and they’re a fraction of the cost. One premium bar definitely worth trying is the Divine brand, available in the candy aisle at Whole Foods Market.
PECAN-CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Reason to bake: It’s easy to fall head-over-heels for these sturdy, decidedly chewy cookies, and the pecans contribute a resonating flavor that complements the predominant chocolate-butter notes.
Tip: Corn syrup may sound off-putting in a cookie, but even this small amount (which, liquids-wise, pretty much replaces the missing egg white) contributes to the caramel-ey appeal of the final result.
A chef’s solution
THOMAS KELLER'S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Reasons to bake: Leave it to a top chef to improve upon the time-tested Toll House method. Keller’s easy-peasy solution encourages impromptu baking, even eliminating the half-hour required for room-temperature butter. The lack of vanilla extract helps to accentuate (in a sneakily delicious way) the molasses lurking within dark brown sugar.
Tip: Shaking the loose particles from chopped chocolate is a handy — and quintessentially Thomas Keller-ey — suggestion, resulting in a tidy cookie.
Home sweet home
THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Reasons to bake: The ultimate in nothing-fancy, lunch-box comfort. Oh, and their small size — and heart-healthy oats — makes for a guilt-free (well, not-so-guilty, anyway) indulgence.
Tip: Skip the butterscotch chips. No cookie is improved by their phony flavor and equally artificial color (even a premium brand, such as Guittard, isn’t all that), so go with a tastier, more natural alternative, such as toasted pecans.
Follow the French
EDUOARD'S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Reasons to bake: This French formula is a pale and pleasingly plump diversion from le Toll House tradition. Ground almonds add visual and textural appeal, as well as a mellow, nutty bite. And yes, the dough is crumbly — the high flour content is the culprit — but don’t fret. It works, beautifully.
Tip: The mid-baking press-with-a-spatula step is odd, but useful. Just be sure to keep the spatula clean, or the chocolate might streak.