The Best Chocolate-Chip Cookies Ever. Welcome To The R29 Bake-Off!

It started with banana-bread smack talk. Jessica Teves, our managing editor, was pondering making a loaf one weekend, and I pointed her toward last year's post on The Best Banana Bread Ever, featuring my own carefully crafted recipe. Teves took one look at my bread and scoffed. And, by that, I mean she opened her mouth, threw back her head, and scoffed at my time-tested, perfectly honed, ass-kicking banana bread. It was on. BAKE-OFF, PEOPLE.
In the next 30 seconds, Jess and I created, pitched, and got our latest series approved. Welcome to R29 Bake-Off, featuring our team's most hard-core bakers (myself and that loser, Jess) going head-to-head on classic baked goods to see who can produce the best recipe. Every month, Jess and I hit the kitchen, tackling a beloved baked good, and bring our best batches into the office. A panel of judges is selected and then subjected to a blind taste test. After each sample, they'll rate the baked good from one to five stars. The stars are then added up to reveal the winner. First up: chocolate-chip cookies.
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Both of these recipes got raves, and, as you'll see, they're very different. A lot depends on whether you're a chewy or a crunchy fan, prefer dark or milk chocolate, and if you're a good person like me or a total cheater like Jess. Read on for this epic cookie battle, and see who emerged the victor — however unjustified.
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Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
First Place: Jessica Teves

Here’s the deal: I love chocolate-chip cookies — no getting around it — but I'm also a huge advocate of healthy eating, so I don't indulge all that often. But, when I do, I want them perfect. (Read: ultra thin and chewy, with just the right amount of decadent dark chocolate and cinnamon.)

Never one to shy away from a good competition, I brought my A game to this bake-off and also dialed in a modern-day Betty Crocker ringer, who helped me craft the perfect recipe that's a bit of an iteration on Tate's signature recipe (found years ago online).

The results? A cookie that tastes sinfully delicious but, in truth, isn't all the sinful. So, ignore the smack talk, courtesy of Miss Miller, and make 'em yourself — I promise you won't regret it.

The Best Chocolate-Chip Cookies, Ever

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup white sugar
¾ cup dark-brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract (no imitation!)
½ tbsp cinnamon
1 cup Smart Balance butter
1 large egg
1 egg white
¾ cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate
1½ cups milk-chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients — be sure to be precise in your measurements. Separately, add the Smart Balance butter to a saucepan, and melt slowly on low heat. Immediately remove pan from heat, and transfer the melted butter to a medium bowl — set aside and let cool to room temperature. Add all of the wet ingredients to the bowl, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Using a plastic spatula, combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, and stir for 30 seconds, making sure everything is combined.

Tip: If you want an even chewier consistency, refrigerate the dough for an hour or two. Scoop half-dollar-size portions, making sure to space out everything at least two inches from one another.

Bake for roughly 15 to 18 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven, and cool on a baking rack. Best served with an ice-cold glass of organic milk. Bon appétit.
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Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Second Place: Kelsey Miller (Editor's note: Recount!)

There are two chocolate-chip-cookie recipes I'm completely obsessed with. I have no idea which one is better — I just know they changed my cookie world when I discovered them. The first is adapted from an old New York Times recipe and involves two different kinds of flour and a 36- to 48-hour waiting period to let the dough chill. The second recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated (with a couple of personal tweaks), uses browned butter, and makes the most delicious dough I've ever tasted.

Rather than make this Sophie's choice myself, I whipped up both batches, baked them at the same time, and left it to my friends to choose which one I entered in the competition. The hands-down winner on baking day was the Cook's Illustrated recipe. These make a crisp-edge-and-chewy-center cookie, with a little more vanilla in the batter than usual. I swapped out semisweet chips for big, milk-chocolate chunks that I added sparingly to the cookie. With a dough this scrumptious, you don't want the cookie to be overwhelmed by the chocolate. My signature move (on pretty much every dish) is Maldon sea-salt flakes.

Here's where I went wrong: Cookies are different on the second day. While the Cook's Illustrated batch was still delicious, the New York Times cookies had turned AWESOME overnight. I brought that batch into work as well, and we all dug in after the judging was over. Suddenly, everyone wanted to change their votes (including Jess!), but it was too late. Still, you can learn from my mistakes and try that recipe as well — I wrote it up for this Valentine's Day post a couple of years ago. If you're baking cookies in advance, make those. But, if you need cookies in your face STAT, make these:

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated:

Ingredients
1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
14 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup dark-brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1¼ cups Ghirardelli milk-chocolate chips (or other large chips)
1 tbsp Maldon sea-salt flakes (in a pinch: coarse kosher salt) for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease sheets).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda, and set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat until melted. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma — about one to three minutes. Immediately remove skillet from heat, and transfer the browned butter to a large bowl. Stir the remaining four tablespoons of butter into the hot, browned butter until completely melted. Set aside, and let cool to room temperature. (Cheaters: Pop it in the fridge for a few minutes, but don't let butter solidify.)

Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to the bowl with the butter, and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the egg and egg yolk, and whisk until the mixture is smooth, with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture stand for three minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat the process of resting and whisking two more times until the mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just combined, about one minute. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough into 16 even portions, each about three tablespoons, and arrange them two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. You can use a cookie scoop or ice-cream scoop if you want them to be perfectly round. Sprinkle lightly with sea-salt flakes.

Bake 10 to 14 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown and the edges have begun to set but centers are still soft. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack, and allow cookies to cool.
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Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Printer-Friendly Version:

First Place:
Ingredients


2 cups all-purpose white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup white sugar
¾ cup dark-brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract (no imitation!)
½ tbsp cinnamon
1 cup Smart Balance butter
1 large egg
1 egg white
¾ cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate
1½ cups milk-chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients — be sure to be precise in your measurements. Separately, add the Smart Balance butter to a saucepan, and melt slowly on low heat. Immediately remove pan from heat, and transfer the melted butter to a medium bowl — set aside and let cool to room temperature. Add all of the wet ingredients to the bowl, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Using a plastic spatula, combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, and stir for 30 seconds, making sure everything is combined.

Tip: If you want an even chewier consistency, refrigerate the dough for an hour or two. Scoop half-dollar-size portions, making sure to space out everything at least two inches from one another.

Bake for roughly 15 to 18 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven, and cool on a baking rack. Best served with an ice-cold glass of organic milk. Second Place: Ingredients
1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
14 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup dark-brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1¼ cups Ghirardelli milk-chocolate chips (or other large chips)
1 tbsp Maldon sea-salt flakes (in a pinch: coarse kosher salt) for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease sheets).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda, and set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat until melted. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma — about one to three minutes. Immediately remove skillet from heat, and transfer the browned butter to a large bowl. Stir the remaining four tablespoons of butter into the hot, browned butter until completely melted. Set aside, and let cool to room temperature. (Cheaters: Pop it in the fridge for a few minutes, but don't let butter solidify.)

Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to the bowl with the butter, and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the egg and egg yolk, and whisk until the mixture is smooth, with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture stand for three minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat the process of resting and whisking two more times until the mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just combined, about one minute. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough into 16 even portions, each about three tablespoons, and arrange them two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. You can use a cookie scoop or ice-cream scoop if you want them to be perfectly round. Sprinkle lightly with sea-salt flakes.

Bake 10 to 14 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown and the edges have begun to set but centers are still soft. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack, and allow cookies to cool.
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