I’m not going to lie to you – this is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, EVER.
I know that’s a bold statement, but I’ve tried lots of chocolate chip cookies in my day. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but trust me, once you’ve tried this recipe, it will forever be your go-to recipe to impress, delight and devour.
For me, a great chocolate chip cookie is comprised of a few factors. Crispy around the edges with an irresistible chewy and bendy center, the cookie would have the perfect balance of buttery nuttiness, the right distribution of chocolate in every bite and the butterscotch, toffee-like complexity that comes from caramelization of sugar. While not the most beautiful cookie, it’s craggly texture and golden color flecked with bits of chocolate and a sprinkling of maldon sea salt that balances the sweetness.
This cookie is all that and more – it’s a grown up version of the traditional Toll House cookie. The additional step of browning the butter creates a warm nuttiness, adding to the complexity of the cookie. The bread flour makes the cookies extra chewy, and a combination of brown and white sugar provides caramelization, deepening the flavor. Using a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients provide accuracy and reliability, and resting the cookies allows the flour to relax – creating a deep, brown color and a more intense butterscotch flavor.
So I know what you’re thinking now. “This is too much work for a simple chocolate chip cookie! I can buy a package of cookie dough from my grocery store freezer and have amazing cookies in 10 minutes!” I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. If you think those cookies are good, just wait until you try these. I’ve made these cookies dozens of times over the years. For those who have tried it, they will forever remember it. It’s my go-to, all-occasion cookie. The recipe is adapted from the repertoire of a top secret pastry chef in San Francisco, where my sister did an externship after finishing pastry school. I’ve been asked for the recipe many, many times. and I’m finally here to share it with you, so that you too can indulge in what I consider one of life’s greatest pleasures.
First, let’s start with the basics. You’re going to need some time and a few specialized tools and techniques to make these cookies at a highly professional level. Some of you might already own these tools, and some of you might want to consider purchasing these tools after reading this article. To make things easy, I’ll explain the tools first, then the techniques, and finally, I’ll share my top secret recipe for the BEST salted brown butter chocolate chip cookies EVER.
The first item you’ll need for this recipe is a kitchen scale. This recipe uses weight measurements instead of standard American cups. The reason for this is accuracy. When you measure ingredients using cups, you often incorporate air into the cup, resulting in a potential inaccurate measurement. Using a kitchen scale is easy, and you can pour ingredients directly into a bowl without using extra utensils. In fact, using weight measurements makes baking so much easier that I actually prefer them in recipes. Especially when it comes to 1-2 bowl recipes, being able to directly dump everything into the same vessel makes for easy clean up. They’re also extremely affordable, with most kitchen scales going for about 10-15 dollars.
The second is a stand mixer. As a caveat, you can make this recipe without a stand mixer, but I highly recommend using one. Alternatively, you can use your strong arms, and the strong arms of your friends, family, or whoever happens to be around for turn-taking purposes. The reason for this is that you will need to cream the brown butter, water and sugars together until it forms a nice, creamy and soft consistency.
The third item is a small or large ice cream/cookie dough scoop. Using a scoop to measure out the dough provides consistency in cookie size, meaning that all of your cookies will bake evenly and uniformly. I have both the small and large sizes from Crate and Barrel.
The first unique technique is browning the butter. Brown butter, also known as beurre noisette, has a rich, nutty taste and an aroma that is out of this world. It’s so potent that your neighbors might actually start to resent you. It requires some concentration and time to make, but it isn’t hard at all. This article really clearly lays out how to brown butter, so I won’t go into too much detail here about it.
The second unique technique is to scoop and then freeze the dough. Resting the dough after it’s been scooped helps the flour to relax and the flavor to deepen. Chocolate chip cookie dough freezes very well. In fact, I often will make a batch and keep the scooped cookie dough in freezer for unexpected guests or events. There’s nothing like the smell and taste of freshly baked off, warm, gooey cookies to wow your guests.
The third and final technique is to bake the cookies straight from the freezer with a sprinkling of maldon sea salt. Because of the brown butter, the dough tends to get pretty soft at room temperature. Freezing the cookies not only makes them easier to handle, it also spreads more evenly and holds a tighter, more compact shape. Sprinkling maldon sea salt prior to baking (and after, if you desire), adds that bit of crunch and salt that balances out the sweetness of the cookie.
Okay, enough talk about tools and techniques. Let’s get to the good stuff – the recipe.
Salted Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: approximately 35 large cookies or 90 small cookies
Total Time: at least 2-3 hours (for resting, freezing and baking)
Active Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy – Medium
- 3 sticks unsalted butter (12 oz or 339g)
- 45g water
- 80g granulated white sugar
- 380g light or dark brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 50g whole milk
- 10g vanilla extract (I prefer Nielsen-Massey)
- 470g bread flour (I prefer King Arthur)
- 10g kosher salt
- 7g baking soda
- 700g chocolate chunks, chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
- Sprinkle of maldon sea salt
Note: you can vary the type and amount of chocolate that you use. You can also substitute other ingredients. I’ve used pistachios, dried cranberries, almonds, walnuts, white chocolate, toffee bits, etc)
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Gently swirl the pan constantly for about 5-7 minutes. As the butter continues to melt, it will bubble and foam. When the foam particles turn brown and a nutty aroma emits from the pan, remove from heat and allow the browned butter to cool completely. Transfer the warm butter to the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and cool in refrigerator for about 5 minutes, so that some of the butter becomes solid.
- While the brown butter cools, measure out all of the dry ingredients: bread flour, baking soda, and salt in one bowl. In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk and vanilla.
- Once the brown butter is slightly chilled, add the brown sugar, sugar and water to the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium-high speed for about 2-3 minutes until the mixture becomes light and fluffy and lighter in color.
- Add the wet ingredients and mix for another 30 seconds on medium-high speed, scraping the bowl down as you go, then add the dry ingredients all at once. Be careful not to overmix once the dry ingredients are added.
- Add the chocolate chunks, chips or chopped chocolate (or any other inclusions), Mix on low speed for about 15-20 seconds, then remove the bowl and continue to fold the mixture with a rubber spatula until fully combined. Set the dough in the fridge to chill for about 20-30 minutes.
- Using a small/large ice cream/cookie dough scoop, scoop out the chilled dough onto a sheet tray covered with parchment paper. It doesn’t matter if the cookie dough is tightly packed as the cookies will be frozen prior to baking.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set the frozen cookies on a parchment covered sheet tray approximately 1-2 inches apart. Sprinkle each cookie with a generous amount of maldon sea salt, and bake for 8-11 minutes for small cookies and 13-16 minutes or large cookies until the edges of the cookie are golden brown, but still very soft.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and cool slightly for about 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Devour immediately or cool completely before storing in an airtight container or plastic bag. Cookies will remain fresh for about 4-5 days.