Slow Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m working on a book called Cookie: A History: From Animal Crackers to Zwieback which will be published later this year by University Press of FL. An important part of the book is the chocolate chip cookie, which was invented by Ruth Wakefield of Toll House Inn fame. As part of my research, I read Ruth’s book with her original recipe (different than the “original” one you get on the Nestle chocolate chip bag). One interesting thing about the recipe is that it says to refrigerate the dough overnight.

A recent NY Times article discussed this method as the secret to making the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. I decided to try it and see what happened. I made the traditional Nestle recipe from the back of the bag, however I don’t use Nestle chips  – I use Ghirardelli chips. I made the dough in secret. If anyone else in this house knew there was chocolate chip cookie dough in the house that wasn’t baked there would a) be a riot and b) be none left to bake once they got their paws on it.  I let my dough sit in the refrigerator 36 hours – the optimum time suggested in the Times piece.

Let me just say that I find chocolate chip cookies to be pretty darn perfect to begin with, so it was really hard to imagine that refrigerating the dough could make them any better. But it was. These were the BEST chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. The cookie attained the the three rings described in the Times piece. The outer ring of the cookie was very crisp. Then there was a ring that was almost toffee-flavored, slightly crunchy and slightly soft. The inner ring was soft. The cookies baked up to a beautiful toffee color.

I’m quite stunned at the how good these were. This method is worth its weight in gold. The only problem, of course, is that chocolate chip cookies are often an impulse bake in this house – someone gets a craving and we make a batch. It would be hard to decide you wanted them, then wait 36 hours! I can definitely do this when I do holiday baking, though.

Next on my list of experiments is to try different flours. When Wakefield was baking, flour had a different protein level and it is believed that influenced the cookie in a big way.


29 Responses to Slow Chocolate Chip Cookies

  1. Kerry says:

    great to know — I always wondered about the three rings of flavour and how they came about.

    U of F press doing your book on cookies? interesting choice of publisher…

  2. Babette says:

    Annie Logue swears by this method, too–I wanted to try it, but DD forgot to make the batter on I’m rushing to bake some (for her Bday today) for school…but I WILL be holding back some dough for this experiment.


  3. marthaandme says:

    I’m really stunned at what a huge difference it made and am now wondering if I should try w/ other cookies, like PB or molasses to see what happens.

  4. marthaandme says:

    You don’t exactly get a “choice of publisher”! You put it out there and hope you get some bites! This is who bit.

  5. Frugal Kiwi says:

    Never heard of this technique. It would definitely require stealth. Ninja bakers!

  6. Shannon says:

    I’ve made the NY Times recipe before. It is definitely my favorite.

  7. Meredith says:

    I’ve already forwarded this recipe to friends – one was particularly intrigued by the slow factor!

  8. marthaandme says:

    Thanks – it is something that I had never heard of.

  9. Alexandra says:

    Thanks for this tip. That book you’re working on sounds interesting. The best chocolate chip cookies I ever had were in France where a French company added chopped walnuts and nougat, and the result was delicious, although I know a lot of people swear by the Tollhouse recipe …

  10. marthaandme says:

    That does sound good!

  11. Susan says:

    Sounds like a great book! I have to admit that I sometimes cheat on recipes due to lack of time. I’ll start a batch of cookies two hours before a party, not realizing that you’re supposed to refrigerate the dough overnight or for a few hours. Shame on me!

  12. marthaandme says:

    Susan, I am the queen of cheating on recipes. How else do you think I got through a year of cooking Martha almost exclusively? I also think that once you get to be an old lady of 41 (like me!) you know exactly where you can cut corners and still get things to turn out. Last night Teen Martha had to make risotto for an International Club dinner later today. The recipe she chose said to first heat the broth. I thought she was going to get whiplash when I told her I don’t bother with that step! My kids have finally learned that I NEVER sift dry ingredients for baked goods either, and I almost always dump all the eggs in at once.

  13. rachelbirds says:

    Thanks for the chilling tip. Have you tried making CC cookies with ground oat flour?

  14. marthaandme says:

    No, I’ve never tried that. What’s your take on it?

  15. rachelbirds says:

    The ground oats is what is in the famous $250 Nieman Marcus chocolate chip cookie receipe (great story here — google it). A friend of mine made them and they were outrageously good.

  16. marthaandme says:

    The story is in my book:) This ingredient is not in the recipe Nieman has on their site when they address the legend.

  17. rachelbirds says:

    Hmmm. I couldn’t find the recipe on their website but I know my friend used one that substitutes 5 cups of oatmeal pulverized in a blender instead of flour.

  18. Sheryl Kraft says:

    Congrats on your book, Brette! These cookies sound wonderful.

  19. I’ve read about the refrigeration technique before Brette but now I’m convinced hearing it from you. I actually usually FAIL at making choc chip cookies (I make a mean granola though) because I like to make them with whole grain flour and a natural sweetener like honey or agave. I will have to try these and see if I can make a DECENT chocolate chip cookie for once in my life… I heart NYT recipes…

  20. marthaandme says:

    I will interested to see how it turns out with your alterations. I do sometimes use whole wheat flour for part of the white flour. You should try whole wheat pastry flour – it works much better.

  21. marthaandme says:

    Here’s the link to where Babette tried this for herself – thanks for the link Babette!

  22. Alisa Bowman says:

    I love these cookies, too. I didn’t know about teh fridge technique. Gotta try it.

  23. Lisa says:

    If I could just figure out a way to hide the dough? Perhaps if I layered broccoli on top?

  24. marthaandme says:

    Ha ha! If you take it out of the bowl and just make a disk shape, wrap in plastic then wrap in foil you can easily lie and claim it is many different items – lard, pate, squid, etc!

  25. 36 hours. I wonder if I can resist dipping into the dough bowl for that long. I’ve been reading up on bread techniques–currently flipping through Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a day. Their philosophy seems much like what you’re suggesting–the longer things sit, the better the flavor. I’ll have to try this. Love the Ghirardelli chips–are there any better? I think not! Would you suggest this then with any chocolate chip cookie recipe or would you stick to the Tollhouse one?

  26. marthaandme says:

    I could not resist having a little taste once a day! Yes, the Ghirardelli chips rock! The NY Times article does not use the Tollhouse recipe, so yes, I would do this with any choc chip recipe you normally use. I’m going to experiment with other cookie types too and report back on that, as well as different protein content flours.

  27. Donna Hull says:

    Chocolate chip cookies are my downfall. If I had dough in the refrigerator, I’m afraid the cookies would never see the inside of an oven. Actually, I have refrigerated cookie dough overnight from the Toll House cookie recipe before baking the cookies. It was more a matter of lack of time than improving the cookie’s performance but I didn’t notice much of a difference.

  28. marthaandme says:

    I know what you mean- I could eat the whole bowl myself. 36 hours is the magic time frame, although the NY Times piece detected some difference at 12 and 24 hours.

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