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Chocolate Chip Cookies - What Am I Doing Wrong?

RogueFoodie Feb 3, 2014 06:58 PM

I'm a huge CCC fan. However, whenever I try to make them, they always turn out not-so-great.

Whenever I'm making sweets or baked goods, I try to cut down the sugar a bit - I know baking is a science of proportions, but for some recipes, it (magically) works.

But the CCC always eludes me. I go to recipes with multiple five-star reviews and read them. Most say how they're "soft and chewy" or "crisp and not-overly sweet."

I use the same amount of butter, flour, eggs, baking soda, etc., but use about 80% of the sugar. I know brown sugar gives the cookie the chewy texture and the white sugar actual sweetness. I usually use a little less of the brown sugar needed and hack the white sugar by half.

Is sugar an /absolute/ must for CCC? If not, is there anyway I can substitute it?


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  1. t
    tzurriz RE: RogueFoodie Feb 3, 2014 06:59 PM

    Yes, use the sugar. Enjoy the cookie. Remember, as cookie monster says: "cookies are a sometimes food. Nom Nom nom."

    5 Replies
    1. re: tzurriz
      RogueFoodie RE: tzurriz Feb 3, 2014 07:01 PM

      Great, thanks for the quick response.

      By the way, do you have any preferred CCC recipe? I usually go with Allrecipes's #1 recipe or Tyler Florence's recipe from FoodNetwork.

      1. re: RogueFoodie
        tzurriz RE: RogueFoodie Feb 4, 2014 05:59 PM

        The one on the Tollhouse package is unbeatable, IMHO.

        1. re: tzurriz
          MidwesternerTT RE: tzurriz Feb 5, 2014 07:43 PM

          Using half the cc and nuts listed in the recipe, this is the one we enjoy.

          1. re: MidwesternerTT
            jbsiegel RE: MidwesternerTT Feb 23, 2014 05:39 PM

            Funny...I double the chips and leave out the nuts!

            1. re: jbsiegel
              chowser RE: jbsiegel Feb 24, 2014 04:38 AM

              I cut chocolate chips and add heath bits.

    2. a
      autumm RE: RogueFoodie Feb 3, 2014 07:29 PM

      When I'm making them using the nestle bag recipe, I use one cup of white sugar, then I add about a quarter cup or so of molasses (I never measure exactly) which gives the moistness.

      I've found by cutting back on sugar, a lower and longer time seems to work better for baking in my oven.

      1. t
        tacosandbeer RE: RogueFoodie Feb 3, 2014 07:43 PM

        Sugar acts like a liquid in baking, brown sugar a little more so. Cut it proportionately, and you change the moisture content of the recipe. Is that the trouble you have with the cookies you've made?

        1. s
          sandylc RE: RogueFoodie Feb 3, 2014 07:49 PM

          What's wrong with your cookies?

          1. Ttrockwood RE: RogueFoodie Feb 3, 2014 09:11 PM

            You can't really tinker with the chemistry of baking. The reduction in sugar at the end of the day probably just saves a few grams of sugar and minimal calories once divided by all the cookies made.
            Don't mess with the recipe, just make smaller cookies to reduce the sugar/calories per cookie. And enjoy a really good one!

            This recent thread is helpful, the link to the serious eats article is really informative and the recipe is discussed.

            1. s
              sueatmo RE: RogueFoodie Feb 3, 2014 09:38 PM

              I usually use a scant measure for sugar when I make cookies. I like to cut out some of the sugar too, but you are taking out too much. Take out a tablespoon of the white sugar at the most.

              When doing a recipe for the first time, I think it is best to do it the way it is written for the first time. After that you will have a basis for comparison when you bake it with alterations.

              1. biondanonima RE: RogueFoodie Feb 4, 2014 12:58 PM

                If you want to reduce the sweetness of your CCC, choose dark chocolate (70% or higher) for the chips - that way you won't need to tinker with the dough but the cookie will seem much less sweet overall.

                ETA: I recently made a CCC recipe from Cook's Illustrated that was pretty great - they call for browned butter and a little less white sugar than some recipes. 72% chocolate for the chips.

                1. r
                  RogueFoodie RE: RogueFoodie Feb 4, 2014 03:27 PM

                  Thanks for all the tips.

                  When I make CCC with less sugar, they become kind of scone-y. Sort of dry.

                  But it makes sense that when the sugar melts in the oven, it'll give it more moisture.

                  1. s
                    sandylc RE: RogueFoodie Feb 4, 2014 05:57 PM

                    What exactly are you looking for in your CCCs?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: sandylc
                      RogueFoodie RE: sandylc Feb 5, 2014 04:13 AM

                      I'm looking for a cookie with a good, middle chew. I also want some crisp edges. That being said, I don't want a dry "bite-into-it-and-everything-falls-apart-like-cookie-dust" cookie. I'd like something with a little body.

                      Does that kind of make sense?

                      1. re: RogueFoodie
                        eastbroadway RE: RogueFoodie Feb 5, 2014 04:25 AM

                        My technique for chewy, browned ccc's is to use basically the recipe from tollhouse, but melt the butter before you cream the brown and white sugars. I don't know the science behind it, but it works better for me then to just cream softened butter.

                        After the dough is mixed up, I put the whole bowl in the fridge for an hour. Seems to help the texture.

                        Also, cookies need room. I tend to put no more than 6 per sheet, 2 sheets at a time, one on the second highest rack, the other on the second lowest. After 7 minutes, switch the trays (top/bottom) and turn them 180 degrees. After 6 more minutes, they're out of the oven, and on to a cooling rack. Parchment makes it a piece of cake to remove from the tray.

                        1. re: RogueFoodie
                          biondanonima RE: RogueFoodie Feb 5, 2014 06:41 AM

                          Absolutely. Here's a slightly altered version of the CI recipe I made - they have lots of body, with chewy centers and crisp edges and bottoms. I actually don't like the crisp edges so much but my DH was in heaven with these.


                          1. re: biondanonima
                            biondanonima RE: biondanonima Feb 5, 2014 07:03 AM

                            BTW, make these fairly large - that gives you more chewy middle!

                      2. b
                        Bkeats RE: RogueFoodie Feb 4, 2014 07:20 PM

                        If you want to cut back your sugar intake by 20% in your cookies, eat 20% fewer cookies. If you are going to make and eat cookies, make good cookies but eat fewer of them. Or at least make them smaller as some one else suggested. Don't try to take that much sugar out. You will just end up with an unsatisfactory cookie.

                        1. e
                          Erika L RE: RogueFoodie Feb 5, 2014 09:44 AM

                          In baked goods, sugar = chew (as well as other properties). Sugar's in there for more than flavor. Here's another vote for eating fewer cookies that are made with all the butter and all the sugar. It's a cookie--it isn't supposed to be health food.

                          1. CCSPRINGS RE: RogueFoodie Feb 5, 2014 11:29 AM

                            I disagree with the statement about sugar measurement being vital. I reduce it all the time in my CCC's and they come out perfect. Or the way I like them might be better stated. Moist and a bit crumbly, not much crunch.

                            I use a recipe from a Cooks Illustrated Cookie Jar Favorite book and typically cut sugar back by 25%. I use an organic granular that is not pure white and a light brown.

                            I like sweet treats but most conventional recipes are heavy handed in the sugar department. When I cut back I eyeball the quantity. No hard science.

                            Use the fancy butter and see if it makes a difference.

                            Good luck.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: CCSPRINGS
                              sandylc RE: CCSPRINGS Feb 5, 2014 11:47 AM

                              I agree. I mess with lowering sugar amounts in baked goods all of the time. It is possible to do with good results, although it will of course change the character of the end product, but not in a bad way.

                              Most sweets recipes are too sweet.

                              1. re: CCSPRINGS
                                RogueFoodie RE: CCSPRINGS Feb 5, 2014 12:15 PM

                                When you say you cut back the sugar by 25%, do you do that for white sugar, brown sugar, or in general? In other words, what percentage of what type of sugar do you take out?

                                I'll definetely try the Cook's Illustrated version.

                                1. re: RogueFoodie
                                  CCSPRINGS RE: RogueFoodie Feb 16, 2014 08:53 AM

                                  RogueFoodie, whatever sugar is indicated I reduce. The results are better for my tastes. When sweet things are added, like chocolate chips, there is more reason to reduce sugar. If I add coconut I will use unsweetened raw.

                                  I use dark chocolate and raw coconut in place of milk chocolate and walnuts. A great cookie combo.

                                  1. re: CCSPRINGS
                                    RogueFoodie RE: CCSPRINGS Feb 22, 2014 05:15 AM

                                    I totally understand your point of view (since I do that too). But what balance do you use to ensure your CCCs come out perfectly? How do you compensate for the loss of sugar?

                                    1. re: RogueFoodie
                                      CCSPRINGS RE: RogueFoodie Feb 23, 2014 07:30 PM

                                      I don't do anything to the recipe other than take out some sugar. End product seems to meet with family's approval. Mine too. Just lucky I guess.

                                2. re: CCSPRINGS
                                  chowser RE: CCSPRINGS Feb 6, 2014 04:48 AM

                                  It's not that you can't change proportions but you get different results when you do. If the OP wants a chewy cookie w/ crispy edge, he/she can't reduce the sugar by 20% and hope the result is the same texture. It won't be.

                                  That said, reducing sugar but increasing or adding molasses/honey/corn syrup and using more butter (melted) would help, as well as letting the dough sit overnight. But, it's not as simple as just reducing sugar.

                                  1. re: chowser
                                    RogueFoodie RE: chowser Feb 6, 2014 05:47 PM

                                    I reduce sugar because I'd like to avoid having too high of a glucose level - I'm almost borderline, but I still love my cookies!

                                    I will try out your methods of adding a vicious liquid or using butter. Thanks for the advice.

                                    1. re: RogueFoodie
                                      chowser RE: RogueFoodie Feb 6, 2014 08:22 PM

                                      Keep in mind that the flour is just as bad as the sugar, if you're worried about blood sugar. If you want a cookie, eat less and add nuts to it to help w/ blood sugar. If you're borderline, be careful. You could try agave nectar and replace some of the flour w/ nut flour. Look for low carb recipes.

                                    2. re: chowser
                                      CCSPRINGS RE: chowser Feb 16, 2014 08:55 AM

                                      True, you need a certain amount of sugar and butter to get the crunchy toffee effect.

                                  2. r
                                    ricepad RE: RogueFoodie Feb 5, 2014 12:04 PM

                                    What are you doing wrong? You're not following the recipe and therefore are not establishing a baseline. Do as the recipe instructs, THEN tinker.

                                    My personal favorite is from Cook's Ilustrated/America's Test Kitchen. They've had more than one over the years, but the one I like calls for browning about 2/3 of the butter, and also includes a minimum 10 minute rest of the combined butter and sugars.

                                    1. b
                                      BobbieSue RE: RogueFoodie Feb 5, 2014 03:28 PM

                                      I've tried several versions of ccc recipes, because I hated the toll house recipe. I wanted something less sweet as well. Every recipe had different proportions of sugar, flour, butter, and eggs.

                                      My favorite is Better Homes and Gardens had the least amount of sugar, with only 1.5 cups (1 cup brown, .5 cup gran.), and 2.5 cups flour, 2 eggs, and 1 cup of butter. Use less chocolate chips and make the cookies smaller if you want them less sweet.

                                      1. t
                                        toddrhodes RE: RogueFoodie Feb 5, 2014 06:09 PM

                                        My favorite CCC recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/the-best-c...

                                        It's adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, I believe. My mom has a copy and it's old, maybe from the 80's? In any case, it uses no butter, just shortening. We cut the amount of white sugar in half. It makes a very "crumb-y" cookie. Soft, but not chewy. I've loved them since I was a kid and have figured out how to duplicate them the way my mom made them in my own kitchen. They may not be everyone's preferred texture but for me? They are heaven. I use a mix of Nestle and Godiva semi-sweet chips, for whatever that's worth.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: toddrhodes
                                          sandylc RE: toddrhodes Feb 5, 2014 06:59 PM

                                          So, "old", from the "80s"....

                                          Oh, my!!!

                                          1. re: sandylc
                                            toddrhodes RE: sandylc Feb 6, 2014 11:05 AM

                                            Sorry! I was only 4 when I first remember my mom making these :) I honestly have no idea when the cookbook was published but, funny enough, I have a recent copy of it, given to me by my parents as a housewarming gift. I need to crack that baby back open and see what else is in there. The original recipe calls for walnuts in addition to chocolate chips. The recipe in the new book is different though, they added butter. Evidently I like a soft but dry texture in a cookie?

                                        2. chowser RE: RogueFoodie Feb 6, 2014 04:57 AM

                                          Why do you want to reduce the sugar? Is it about calories? If you cut 20% of the sugar, you're talking about 200 calories or so. Per cookie that's only five calories per cookie if you're making 36 cookies. For what you want, try this recipe.


                                          Cut the cook time to about 12 minutes.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: chowser
                                            sandylc RE: chowser Feb 6, 2014 10:53 AM

                                            I reduce the sugar because most recipes, especially older ones, are far too sweet for our taste. I consider the source of a recipe when deciding whether to reduce the sugar or not. Most high-end bakery books don't need to be reduced, at least not as often as, say, an old church cookbook recipe.

                                            One exception is Milk Bar recipes - I don't think I would even make these, because they seem like they're almost all sugar!

                                            It's not about calories, it is just a bit about health, but it's mostly about taste (for us).

                                            1. re: sandylc
                                              chowser RE: sandylc Feb 6, 2014 08:25 PM

                                              I was asking the OP so it would help in suggestions. If the preference is for less sweet then the answer would be different than if it's about calories or sugar or something else (apparently about borderline high blood sugar and not about taste).

                                            2. re: chowser
                                              CCSPRINGS RE: chowser Feb 16, 2014 08:58 AM

                                              My motivation for cutting sugar is not calories, just too sweet. I just shoveled snow for a hour, can use plenty of calories now.

                                              1. re: CCSPRINGS
                                                chowser RE: CCSPRINGS Feb 21, 2014 05:53 AM

                                                Try something like this recipe but cut the white sugar to jut under 1/2 cup to start. Use melted butter and then refrigerate the dough overnight.


                                                1. re: chowser
                                                  CCSPRINGS RE: chowser Feb 21, 2014 01:53 PM

                                                  I will, thank you!

                                                  1. re: chowser
                                                    RogueFoodie RE: chowser Feb 22, 2014 05:17 AM

                                                    I will try this out.

                                                    But can you explain to me why I should melt the butter and refrigerate overnight?

                                                    1. re: RogueFoodie
                                                      chowser RE: RogueFoodie Feb 23, 2014 05:35 PM

                                                      Melted butter and letting it sit allows the flour to absorb the liquid/fat better. A more scientific explanation on letting it sit overnight (and melted butter does the same):


                                              2. girloftheworld RE: RogueFoodie Feb 6, 2014 05:54 PM

                                                you cant cut the sugar..unless you are replacing it with somthing that will act like a gluclose...try agave..

                                                13 Replies
                                                1. re: girloftheworld
                                                  sandylc RE: girloftheworld Feb 6, 2014 06:32 PM

                                                  Of course you can often cut the sugar quite successfully without replacing it. I've been doing it for decades.

                                                  1. re: sandylc
                                                    RogueFoodie RE: sandylc Feb 6, 2014 07:07 PM

                                                    What's your method?

                                                    1. re: RogueFoodie
                                                      sandylc RE: RogueFoodie Feb 6, 2014 07:33 PM

                                                      Put in less sugar.

                                                      Sorry, that sounded abrupt. I have just left out some of the sugar from countless recipes over the years.

                                                      I have in the last couple of years, however, started from about six famous CCC recipes and created my own from an amalgam of them all.

                                                      1. re: sandylc
                                                        RogueFoodie RE: sandylc Feb 22, 2014 05:18 AM

                                                        sandylc, do you mind if you could share one of those six recipes please?

                                                        1. re: RogueFoodie
                                                          sandylc RE: RogueFoodie Feb 23, 2014 05:47 PM

                                                          Hi! Just saw this - here's mine:

                                                          Chocolate Chip Cookies

                                                          o 1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, divided use
                                                          o 4 oz. brown sugar (about 1/2 cup)
                                                          o 4 oz. granulated sugar (about 1/2 cup)
                                                          o 1 large egg
                                                          o 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                                                          o 8 oz. unbleached flour (a shy 2 cups)
                                                          o 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
                                                          o 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
                                                          o 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
                                                          o 1 cup pecan halves
                                                          o 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
                                                          1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
                                                          2. Set aside 2 T. of the butter to soften. Brown the remaining butter over medium heat. Meanwhile, mix the sugars in a large mixing bowl. Throw the 2 T. of butter in with the sugars. When butter is nicely browned, run it through a fine strainer over the sugars and regular butter. Stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is somewhat uniform. Set aside to cool a bit.
                                                          3. Toast the pecans at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes. Put on a cool plate to cool. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
                                                          4. When butter-sugar mixture has cooled slightly, throw in the vanilla and the egg. Mix. Stir together the flour, BS, BP, and salt. Dump the dry stuff into the gooey stuff and stir to blend. Throw in the chips and nuts and stir again. Chill dough for 20 minutes or so. Age it in the refrigerator for a day if you have the time.
                                                          5. Use a 1-1/4" scoop to portion dough - it won't hold together, so you will have to squeeze it gently in your hand to form slightly flattened balls, 12 to a sheet.
                                                          6. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until nicely browned.
                                                          7. NOTES: The dough can be aged for 1-3 days in the fridge for a more caramel-y flavor. Also, I have had recent success with making a log from the dough and wrapping it for its chill time, then doing a slice-and-bake with it.
                                                          8. WARNING: If you like those chewy, underbaked, or soft cookies, DON’T bake these….

                                                          1. re: sandylc
                                                            RogueFoodie RE: sandylc Feb 23, 2014 06:37 PM

                                                            Thanks for the quick reply, sandylc!

                                                            Could you tell me what the original sugar measurements were?

                                                            1. re: RogueFoodie
                                                              sandylc RE: RogueFoodie Feb 23, 2014 06:41 PM

                                                              Wow, no clue. It was a work in progress over a period of months - I adjusted all of the ingredients more than once.

                                                              1. re: sandylc
                                                                RogueFoodie RE: sandylc Feb 23, 2014 07:08 PM

                                                                Anyhow, thanks for your recipe -- I'm sure you worked uber-hard on perfecting it. I will definitely give it a test and let you know how they turned out.

                                                                1. re: RogueFoodie
                                                                  sandylc RE: RogueFoodie Feb 23, 2014 07:40 PM

                                                                  I still think they might be a little too sweet - next time I'm cutting it back a bit more. It helps to use bittersweet chips.

                                                    2. re: sandylc
                                                      chowser RE: sandylc Feb 6, 2014 08:27 PM

                                                      You can cut anything out of a recipe since success is in the eye of the beholder. I interpret the OP question as how to do it w/out affecting the final product.

                                                      1. re: chowser
                                                        sandylc RE: chowser Feb 6, 2014 09:11 PM

                                                        Of course it will have an effect on the final product - but not necessarily a bad one.

                                                        1. re: sandylc
                                                          chowser RE: sandylc Feb 7, 2014 04:33 AM

                                                          Definitely. If I want a cakey cookie, I will reduce the sugar. But if the OP wants chewy w/ crisp edges, sugar is important.

                                                          1. re: chowser
                                                            sandylc RE: chowser Feb 21, 2014 09:55 AM

                                                            My CCC is crisp and light throughout, but a lot less sweet than most.

                                                  2. WhatsEatingYou RE: RogueFoodie Feb 21, 2014 09:43 AM

                                                    I always reduce the sugar and the butter when I bake cookies. I do not notice a significant difference. But try making them smaller or flattening them out before baking so that they are not so dense. You can also use some honey or molasses for some of the sugar and peanut butter for some of the butter.

                                                    1. e
                                                      Eachna RE: RogueFoodie Feb 24, 2014 04:32 AM

                                                      A different option is to replace the butter with olive oil (to try to improve the healthful qualities).

                                                      I use this chart: http://thepassionateolive.com/wp/baki... and adjust per recipe as needed. No, they don't taste/smell like olive oil :D.

                                                      It also helps to post the recipe you're trying to alter. For example you say you cut the white sugar in half and used "a little less" brown sugar. In the Toll House recipe that would probably be closer to reducing the sugar down to 70%. But maybe you're using a different recipe.

                                                      The absolute best way to alter a recipe is to figure out what the basic recipe is. Then, find a version of it that fits your needs and add the chips (and possibly nuts) back in. In this case, Wikipedia informs us that chocolate chip cookies are "drop cookies". I'd look for drop cookie recipes with butter or oil, and white and brown sugar, that have less total sugar for the same number of cups of flour. Then figure out how to add the chips and nuts back in; usually you just need a little extra leavening to hold up the structure. Since they're only cookies you may not have to do that like you would with a cake.

                                                      1. dave_c RE: RogueFoodie Feb 24, 2014 02:46 PM

                                                        I'm just trying to figure out if it's the recipe or the cook.

                                                        Have you tried making a batch of CCC as printed without making any changes? Do you get the same results?

                                                        1. SIMIHOUND RE: RogueFoodie Mar 25, 2014 08:19 PM

                                                          Here is a link from an old post that I have kept. This explains everything..

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