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Chewy choc chip cookies all turning out cakey!

I need some advice from fellow chowbakers, please.

The whole chewy cookies crusade started off with my desire to replicate Jacques Torres' chocolate chip cookies, which I tasted on a recent trip to New York, and was definitely the best of many cookies consumed on that trip. Fortuitously, the recipe is in the public domain, here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/din...

To my disappointment, they turned out nothing like the cookies of memory: rather than having crisp, caramelized edges, chewy middle region and a meltingly tender centre, they were puffy and definitely cakey. I made the recipe three times: identical results.

So, I moved on. A week later I tried Pam Andersen's version of crispy-edges-chewy-centre choc chip cookie, recipe here:

http://www.travelerslunchbox.com/jour...

Exactly the same problem. They looked nothing like the glorious photos, but were puffy and cakey. Yuck. I made these babies three times, same story.

Today I made Alice Medrich's choc chip cookies from her new book, Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies. To paraphrase the recipe, since it doesn't seem to be available online:

MY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
p132.

10.125oz unbleached AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and still warm
5.25oz white sugar
5.25oz light or dark brown sugar
tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
12 oz chocolate chips or chunks
3.5oz chopped walnuts/pecans

She combines the soda and flour in a bowl, and in another bowl combines butter, sugars, salt, vanilla, then stirs in the eggs, then dry ingredients just until combined. Follwed by chocolate and nuts (I skipped the nuts). The dough must stand for 2-12 hours, and be softened again at room temp before use.

Scoop onto cookie sheets (ungreased and unlined), bake at 375F for 9-11 minutes, rotating trays halfway through. Sit for 2 min before removing to cooling racks.
Bake at 375 for 9-11 min (according to book intro, she bakes everything in a conventional oven without convection, so I left my convection setting off).

These were much better than the others, but STILL significantly cakey.

***

So clearly, I am either doing something wrong, or my ingredients in South Africa are not translating well from the US ingredients used to develop the recipes, which is a possibility but unlikely (surely I would have noticed this before in my long experience of baking US recipes here?).

Does anyone have any suggestions here? I've played around with oven settings, leaving the scoops of dough heaped vs squishing them a bit vs totally flattening them just before baking, and I'm just not sure what I'm missing here.

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  1. I was having the same issues and read around a bit here and other resources, and the solutions that worked best for me were

    1) mix the butter and sugar with a spoon or paddle rather than cream them with a mixer

    2) reduce the amount of flour by a tablespoonful or two

    3) fold/mix in the dry ingredients by hand rather than by mixer.

    *And if you were to use a mixer, I think a paddle attachment on a stand mixer would yield a different result, i.e., less airy, than a whisk attachment on a stand mixer or the blades of a hand mixer.

    Hope that's helpful. :)

    1. Use softened butter, not melted. Cream together with sugar.

      1. A number of Chowhounds have raved about these Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from the NY Times: http://events.nytimes.com/recipes/112...

        1. Yeah, I agree with rccola. Use softened butter, and do the whole thing by hand. That will do the trick I bet.

          1. If you want chewey cookies you need to use substitute 1/2 or all bread flour instead of the AP flour, and melt the butter. The liquid from the butter will combine with the bread flour to create gluten that is chewey. You can also swap the white sugar for all brown sugar.

            The batter should be refrigerated in a sealed container for a minimum of 2 hours but overnight is even better if you have the time.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Kelli2006

              One cannot make gluten. It is present in wheat flour to a greater or lesser extent depending on the flour.

              All Recipes lists this non-bread flour recipe that allegedly makes the chewy cookies some bakeries are famous for: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/best-big...

              Alton Brown uses some bread flour: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

              I've always found bread flour to make things dense and heavy without yeast (rather than other leavening.) But both recipes do in fact use melted butter, so you are right, there.

              1. re: rccola

                Protein is in flour and combined with water, it becomes gluten which can be developed by further mixing and kneading, as in making bread. The more you knead/mix, the more gluten and the tougher (or more texture) the bread will have. You could start out w/ AP flour knead a lot and end up with as much gluten as starting out w/ bread flour and kneading less. That's why it's important not to overmix flour/ water batters for things like biscuits and pie dough where you don't want a tough crust.

                I like the JT chocolate chip cookie in the OP that uses a combination of cake flour and bread flour. It has no yeast and uses room temperature butter.

                1. re: chowser

                  No, no and no. Gluten IS a protein naturally occurring in wheat products--nothing "becomes" gluten when combined with water. I'm a doctor. Have treated many celiac patients. From a medical source: "...gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten shows up in bread and pasta, but may also hide in many other foods, such as cold cuts, salad dressings, beer, and even licorice."

                  You give the impression that celiac patients could eat dry wheat grain. No, they can't. The gluten is already there. The gluten's tendency to give elasticity or "chewiness" is enhanced by kneading but its presence isn't.

                  At least check a source like Wikipedia if you still don't believe me.

                  1. re: rccola

                    The proteins in flour are glutenin and gliadin and when mixed with water will make sheets of gluten. The more you work it, the more it'll develop which is why you have to be careful not to overstir. Shirley Corriher covers it in both Bakewise and Cookwise,

                    http://books.google.com/books?id=b-iw...

                    "When you add water to flour and stir," she says, "these two little proteins - glutenin and gliadin - grab water first, and each other, to make these springy elastic sheets of gluten."

                    1. re: chowser

                      The Exploratorium also has a good article on gluten development:

                      http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/...

                      "This is because wheat flour contains two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, which, when combined with water, form gluten. As you knead the dough, the gluten becomes more and more stretchy. This gum-like substance fills with thousands of gas bubbles as the yeast goes to work during rising."

                      The Bread Science 101 pop up is interesting, if you'd like more details. And, if anyone else is a geek about the scientific details, like I am, this is a good discussion about the two proteins and how they combine to become gluten:

                      http://www.bakeinfo.co.nz/Facts/Gluten

                    2. re: rccola

                      As your patients go, unless they have no water in their system, eating wheat flour would mix with liquids somewhere in their system and I'd guess their digestive track does a fairly good job of mixing it so it would become gluten along the lines. So, no I wouldn't advocate a celiac patient eat wheat flour, even though I'm not a doctor.

                  2. re: rccola

                    Hi Rccola, does the allrecipes.com recipe make cookies like the picture next to them (I know they sometimes use stock photos)? Because those look a bit anaemic; I really want something more caramelized, like the Jacques Torres cookies I dream about!

                    1. re: Gooseberry

                      I honestly don't know. I like crisp, thin chocolate chip cookies--the only cookies I like. Most pale cookies are from baking time, rather than ingredients, though my thin, crisp cookies are browner because I use 2/3 to 3/4 dark brown sugar to white sugar.

                  3. re: Kelli2006

                    I find that using melted butter often makes the cookies greasy. While I do like the taste of browned butter in some cookie recipes, I usually cut it down somewhat to reduce the greasiness factor.