Boston,  Cooking,  Joe & Rachael Projects

Cook’s Illustrated’s Perfect Cookies

Recipes go into the Test Kitchen (which publishes Cook’s Illustrated) and reappear as runway models of their former selves. Inefficiencies, widely accepted rumors of what works, weird unnecessary steps, and disproportionate ingredients are trimmed, firmly reprimanded, frisked, or tugged into place.

Their recipe for chocolate chip cookies is full of just these alterations, challenging everyone’s favorite back o’ the box recipe by Toll House. Lighter on the flour, more and darker brown sugar, higher oven temperature, one less egg white…everything focused with undivided attention upon creating the chewiest cookie possible, with flavors of toffee, butterscotch, and serious butter love hiding inside.

The result speaks for itself. In your mouth. While you debate eating three in a row.

You can get their detailed recipe to add to your repertoire (do) right here, and here’s a visual guide to the key elements.

This post is my entry into Cook’s Illustrated delightful blogging contest. Read more about it right here, and see the other contestants here, here, here.
UPDATE: E&D won! Joe and I get to visit the Test Kitchen next week! You can see the top finalists here, I love the judges’ comments. In true Test Kitchen fashion, they took the contest seriously and gave great commentary on what they liked. So fun to participate with all the other bloggers. Read about our visit to the Test Kitchen right here!


  • mfvr

    I’m eager to try these! The browned butter sounds tasty. I believe they suggested the same thing w/ their “best sugar cookie”.

  • jw2

    An excellent post, too bad that the cookies are only pretty good. I mean, they’re good, but not good enough to justify the extra effort. My favorite chocolate chip cookies came from Fine Cooking magazine about ten years ago… something about chocolate chip cookies three ways.

    Ah, there it is (thank you Mr. Google): Gorder-Hinchey, Bonnie Jean. “Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies Two Ways.” Fine Cooking. March 1, 2003, pp. 53-55. (Reference provided because while Mr. Google located the article, it is still behind a paywall. Which is sad because Fine Cooking consistently has better recipes than Cooks Illustrated, and, for a cook who knows her stuff, you can learn a helluva lot more from Fine Cooking than from Cooks Illustrated. When I graduated from chef school, I read FC religiously but cancelled my subscription to CI because I couldn’t stand the constant recycling of recipes, the constant condescension that we need EVERY DAMN STEP SPELLED OUT IN EXCRUCIATING DETAIL even when they’ve already spelled out that very unnecessarily complicated step a dozen times before and even though five minutes experience in the kitchen would have taught you that very technique anyway and probably more effectively. But FC doesn’t have Chris Kimball, so there’s something.) But, um, again, nice photos!

  • jw2

    It occurs to me that criticism of CI might be in poor form on a post that’s a contest entry to CI. My apologies: delete if necessary. (But do look up that FC article about the chocolate chip cookies two ways, because they’re half the effort and still a better cookie.)

    • Rachael

      Perhaps poor form but I liked the launch of the debate here, a worthy one. And thank you for the Fine Cooking recommendation, I’m always looking for more publications to stack up on my bedside table, and I’ve never picked that one up.

  • Kac

    Um….i don’t even LIKE chocolate chip cookies….but those look FABULOUS! And I love the images! love love love! I’m now hungry! thanks!

  • Emily

    Love this post– the best (wo)man definitely won! In brief response to the criticism of CI/ATK, I find the step-by-step directions in each recipe are the very reason why I subscribe. I am generally (read: not 100% of the time) confident in my cooking of CI recipes because I understand why something is done a particular way, and it doesn’t feel like mindless obedience. The directions are well thought out, and feeling like I grasp the foundation of a recipe makes me feel that much more connected to it. As a young baker (20 years old) with a serious interest in cooking, I can take baby steps with CI yet still produce incredible results– even the first time around.

    • Rachael

      Thanks Emily! I think your points are spot on for me too. I needed to know that all that work was going to pay off with perfect dinner-party-worthy results the first time I made it. Now that I’ve been cooking for a couple years, I feel more confident reading through more slipshod recipes and deciding if they are going to actually taste good.

      • Christi

        I agree that CI recipes almost always foolproof and have excellent “turn by turn” directions to follow. I just wish they’d cut down on the number of steps and mixing bowls needed to make the dish. There’s always a lot of dirty dishes when a CI recipe is on the menu!!!

  • Jillian

    Congratulations on winning the cookie challenge (I entered as well). I read your post and your opening paragraphs say it all…so beautifully written! Congrats! =)

  • Aimee

    Another fellow contestant passing on the congrats! I love how you kept your text minimal, but colorful. Step by step with text over it is also such a great touch.

    Enjoy the taping – be sure to tell us all about it!

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