Tested: The Best Method for a Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

The idea for this post came after making a seriously disappointing chocolate chip cookie. I’m a sucker for chewy cookies, so when I saw a recipe promising “Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies,” I was eager to try it. This recipe uses vegetable shortening instead of butter to keep the cookies from spreading, and molasses for a little extra moisture to keep the cookies chewy longer.

Here’s the problem with baking chocolate chip cookies with shortening: They end up tasting exactly like cookies baked with pre-packaged dough. Let the cookies sit for a couple days and they taste like Chewy Chips Ahoy. That’s not exactly the homemade cookie taste I’m going for.

My wife recently gave me the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. At Milk Bar they have a very precise method for making cookies, but it comes down to this: After adding the eggs to the creamed butter, but before adding the flour, the wet ingredients are beaten on high speed for eight minutes. (Let’s call this the MMB method.)

I’ve never taken the time to mix the wet ingredients for that long – I wondered if that was the secret to super-chewy chocolate chip cookies.

I had already made one experimental batch of cookies – the ones with shortening. I needed to bake a control batch (using butter and my normal mixing method) and another experimental batch (using butter and the MMB method).

For all three batches, I left the other ingredients in the recipe the same.

This is a story best told in photos. First, note the progression of the wet ingredients when they are beaten for so long.

After beating the creamed butter and sugar with eggs for eight minutes, the mixture has been transformed. From left to right: After 15 seconds, the eggs are just integrated; after 90 seconds, the mixture has already transformed and is much smoother; after eight minutes the mixture has transformed again and is very light, airy and shiny.

Next, compare the final look of the wet ingredients in the three batches of cookies.

From left to right: Wet ingredients with shortening, short mixing method; wet ingredients with butter, short mixing method; wet ingredients with butter, MMB method.

Because the butter has been mixed so thoroughly in the MMB method, the dough isn’t ready to bake after the flour and chips have been integrated. The dough is very soft, and it is obvious that if these cookies were put in the oven right away, they would spread to form one giant cookie lake. Using the MMB method requires dividing the dough, then chilling it in the fridge for at least an hour.

Even the finished uncooked dough looks different for all three test batches.

From left to right: shortening, short mixing method; butter, short mixing method; butter, MMB method.

The final cookies look different, too.

From left to right: Shortening, short mixing method; butter, short mixing method; butter, MMB method.

Here’s the analysis: The cookie with vegetable shortening spread the least. The two cookies baked with butter look pretty similar. On close examination you can see that the cookie made using the MMB method has a bit more crinkly crust.

The real difference is in the taste and mouth-feel. The cookies with shortening are the most dense and taste flat – that’s because they’re missing the flavor from the butter. We’re all familiar with how traditional chocolate chip cookies taste. The cookies made with the Momofuku Milk Bar mixing method are most certainly the chewiest of the bunch. Taking a bite simply feels different. The taste is surprisingly different, too. These cookies have an extra caramel flavor that is completely missing in the traditional cookies (not to mention the ones made with shortening).

Using the MMB method will increase the time of any cookie-making project. Not only do you have to beat the wet ingredients for eight minutes, after dividing the dough into cookie portions you have to chill it for an hour.

Remember, this is a method – it’s not recipe-specific. Use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. You’ll get the chewiest, most delicious batch of cookies you’ve ever baked.

  • Haleak2

    Fascinating!  I never realized length of mixing could have such a big effect on the softness and chewiness of the cookie.

    • http://themanlyhousekeeper.com Mark Evitt

      It really is fascinating. Today, to pair with a mid-morning cup of coffee, I tasted the “regular” cookie and the MMB-method cookie again. The difference is really dramatic. The cookies that have been mixed longer taste SO much better! It’s one of those things you can only tell with a side-by-side comparison. By itself, the traditional cookie tastes just fine.

  • Anonymous

    You might also be interested in this blog post: 
    http://blogs.plos.org/speakeasyscience/2011/09/29/so-268-chocolate-chip-cookies-later/ or Shirley Corriher’s excellent book CookWise which covers the reasons behind tweaking all the various ingredients of a chocolate chip cookie or many other baked goods.  I got a copy of CookWise and her other book BakeWise when I was doing some serious chemistry of baking experiments in my own kitchen; they are great books.

    • http://themanlyhousekeeper.com Mark Evitt

      Thanks for the recommendation – I will definitely check out those books!

  • NJGuy99

    One other secret of great cookies – letting the dough rest at least overnight, if not longer. Something happens the longer they spend in the fridge, and usually after day two or three the flavors become intensely different. I wonder what might happen if you did two batches using the MMB method and let one sit for just a few hours and the other sit for a couple days?

    • http://themanlyhousekeeper.com Mark Evitt

      There was a NY Times article – http://nyti.ms/AcsLsr – that tested cookies after they had sat for 12, 24 and 36 hours. The 36-hour cookies were the hands-down winner. I’ve never had the patience to let them sit for that long. I wonder if the MMB method produces similar flavors. The 36-hour cookies are described as having “more bass notes of caramel and hints of toffee,” which is exactly how I would describe the cookies that had been mixed for 8 minutes. Time for another experiment, methinks!

      • NJGuy99

         You inspired me! So, I made up a batch using the MMB method on Saturday and it’s sitting in my fridge. I’m going to try baking it on Tuesday to see what happens. I don’t think I have the patience to make up a control batch too :)

        • http://themanlyhousekeeper.com Mark Evitt

          Great! Can’t wait to hear the results.

          • NJGuy99

             The results are in. I let the dough sit for 4 days before baking it this morning. The resulting cookies spread nicely and baked up golden brown. But, of course, you don’t care about that.

            The taste was, indeed, full of caramel and toffee notes. There was something extraordinary about it I can’t quite put my finger on.

            However, I will say the cookies did bake up extra-crisp and flatter than normal. I wonder if that’s because the whipping destroyed some of the structure of the butter? Paging any food scientists…

  • jen

    Who knew timing would be so important!

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