Monday, June 20, 2011

Perfect Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I get one magazine in the mail: Cook's Illustrated. It comes out six times a year from America's Test Kitchen, just outside of Boston. When they publish a recipe, it's not just a recipe pulled out of their archives or a favorite old recipe with an ingredient or two changed. The premise is that they scientifically test recipes to come up with the best iteration of a recipe possible. I read it cover to cover (even recipes like "Rescuing Grilled Beef Teriyaki," which I never plan to do).

They baked over 700 cookies to come up with their Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. There's so much about this recipe that is better than the recipe on the back of the Tollhouse Chocolate Chips. There's more brown sugar than white sugar, which makes the cookie chewier, and dark brown sugar is used, which has a richer flavor. Instead of softened butter, the butter is melted and browned, giving it a nuttiness. An egg white is removed to make the cookies a little chewier. The cookies are larger than usual, which makes them chewier in the middle.

Best of all is the "whisk and wait" technique that Cook's Illustrated discovered (by accident, initially, when the dough was left to sit when the phone rang). The sugar, egg and vanilla mixture is whisked for 30 seconds and then left to sit for 3 minutes. This process is repeated four times. As the batter "waits," the sugar dissolves in the melted butter, vanilla and egg mixture. Dissolved sugar caramelizes at a lower temperature, creating rich flavors in the finished cookies. Moisture from the sugar burns off at the edges of the cookie, while the moisture simultaneously collects in the middle.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe yields the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. The only problem was that I wanted to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies on Wednesday night, and I wanted them to be just as good.

I searched hard, and just couldn't find an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe that lived up to my expectations (I still love this one, but it's just not the same when you know that perfect oatmeal chocolate chip cookie could be out there).

So I decided to create one. I compared America's Test Kitchen's chocolate chip cookie recipe to their oatmeal cookie recipe. The oatmeal cookies seemed to use 1 part flour to every 2 parts oatmeal. I scaled back quantities to match the smaller batch the perfect chocolate chip cookies called for, and I kept the butter and dark brown sugar and the "whisk and wait" technique that I loved.

The result was a cookie that I am delighted with. It's perfectly chewy in the center with edges that are slightly crisp. The bottom is browned, and the flavors are rich. I like it more than the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I shared a few weeks ago.

Perfect Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Cook's Illustrated, May and June 2009

The recipe yields 16 three tablespoon cookies or 24 two tablespoon cookies. I recommend making two tablespoon cookies because they're just more manageable. Ghiradelli 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate chips won the Cook's Illustrated chocolate chip taste test in the same issue, and they're my go-to choice for cookie baking.

The text of this recipe is very true to the original Cook's Illustrated recipe because they take such pains to make the recipe exact.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

Adjust oven rack to middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, oats and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons of butter (cut into small chunks) into the hot butter until completely melted.

Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter, and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times (four times total!) until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.

Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

Divide the dough into 16 or 24 portions (about 3 or 2 tablespoons, depending on the size desired). Arrange them 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet.

Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


  1. I've never browned butter before. Does it burn easily? sue

  2. Sue,
    It doesn't burn too easily. You definitely have to watch it though. I stay at the stove while I'm burning the butter, and I swirl it constantly. It helps to use a pan that doesn't have a brown bottom because it's easier to see when the butter is browned!

  3. These look great, so definitely going on my "to bake" list! Thanks for stopping by Bread and Whine! I love the name of your blog. I try to make Michael Pollan proud, too :)

  4. Thanks Jen! I'm definitely excited to make a list inspired by yours. My own problem is that there are so many things I want to bake this summer. I don't even know where to start my list!

  5. Oh, I love trying new techniques and sounds fun to try these...the end result looks wonderful. Will try guys are cookie loving guys...Mark eats them for breakfast all weekday mornings...the oatmeal in these makes them perfect for breakfast, right???

  6. Kayte, I am all for baked goods for breakfast. The oatmeal definitely makes them suitable breakfast fare. That's how I justified the strawberry-rhubarb crisp I had for breakfast this morning!

  7. This really looks delicious. I'm definitely craving for a plate of that right now. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. This is definitely a must do recipe this weekend since I got my Alcohol Training.

    1. Glad I could help. These are really addictive!

  8. These are amazing!! If making them regular chocolate chip cookies, how much flour would you use?

    1. I would think about a cup more flour, starting with that and then adding a bit more as you go if necessary!

  9. I just made them, and so of course just ate one. These are the perfect oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. The ones on my counter are every bit as good as those my sister made from this same recipe, and that makes me happy.

    1. Oh, thank you! I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed them. I always like recipes that consistently turn out well!

  10. I've been told that chilling the dough keeps the cookies from going flat which mine often do... Could I chill the dough or does that negate the melting of the butter?

  11. If I just want to make Oatmeal cookies, and leave out the chocolate chips. Do I have to add more flour or oatmeal?? I have made the CI version of The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, it is wonderful!!! :) :)