You asked for it; we responded. How I came up with the ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe

The Los Angeles Times test kitchen staff reach for chocolate chip cookies.
(Stephanie S. Shih / For The Times)

After reading my “Quest for the best chocolate chip cookie” story from the fall, in which I compared nine chocolate chip cookies from our recipe archives, my mother (a retired caterer) commented that she never knew there was so much to say about chocolate chip cookies. One might think that chocolate chip cookies are not particularly remarkable, but they are America’s favorite cookie, and aficionados have distinct opinions about them.

I’m Julie Giuffrida, filling in this week for Ben Mims, and (surprise, Mom!) five months later I have even more to say about making America’s favorite cookie.

Back in October, I was in search of the best chocolate chip cookie recipe among the dozens in our archives. I tested nine reader favorites and, while there were many redeeming qualities among them, our tasting panel could not determine a single best, winning cookie. Instead we settled for the top three favorites and decided to ask our readers what is most important to them in a chocolate chip cookie.

Reviewing the survey responses I quickly understood why none of those nine cookies stood out above the rest. None had more than two of the top seven characteristics on the list. This seemed to me a clear call to action.

The task was to develop a recipe for a cookie with as many of the top-rated properties as possible, looking at features with more than 50% importance as the cutoff. The ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe was posted on the L.A. Times Food website last Thursday and published in last Sunday’s Weekend section. The cookie is chewy, gooey in the center (when warm), not too sweet with a hint of salt, crispy edges and chocolate chunks rather than chips (though I offer the option to swap in chips for the chunks if one prefers). I am pleased to be able to say that it was well received. One reader posted a photo on Facebook of a batch she made and noted, “They’re a keeper!!!”

Yet (and I should know better than to be surprised), there was still a bit of controversy. Turns out that while only 36% of survey respondents deemed nuts important, readers had a lot to say about their absence or presence. Comments ranged from, “No walnuts? That is not a real chocolate chip cookie. Go back to the lab. Try again.” to “Walnuts?! Why ruin a perfectly good cookie?!”; “Walnuts have no place in a chocolate chip cookie”; and “My great aunt invented the chocolate chip cookie in 1938. The nuts were optional, and the cookie is better without them.” One of my taste testers screamed, “NO nuts!” I should note that despite the low level of interest indicated from the survey, I did include them as optional in the recipe.

What makes this recipe different from all other recipes? After all, we are talking chocolate chip cookies here. The methodology and ingredients are pretty simple. The basic recipe on the back of the yellow bag — or on any bag of chocolate chips — will make a very good cookie. But this had to be more than just a very good cookie. I had nine very good cookies back in October. This one had to be good enough to merit being called the best.


I think the difference comes down to the intention while developing the recipe. Knowing that I was targeting several features of the cookie meant I couldn’t rely on one aspect of the cookie to compensate for deficiencies of other dimensions. For example, a cookie “with a hint of salt” and “not too sweet” requires balancing the sweetness with the saltiness. This is not merely a factor of how much sugar and how much salt, but also of what kind of sugar, what kind of salt and where and how they are incorporated. In addition, the type of chocolate used for the chips plays a large role in both the overall sweetness and the chocolatiness of the cookie. Making a chewy cookie is about managing moisture — in the ingredients, the baking equipment and even the baking temperature.

I found the trickiest part was balancing chewiness with crispy edges and a gooey center. I tried a variety of chocolate — dark, extra-dark, semi-sweet, bittersweet, chips, chunks and hand chopped. Darker chocolate tended to be less sweet but also did not get — or stay — as gooey as the semi-sweet chunks I ultimately used. White sugar tends to result in a crispier cookie. Brown sugar has more moisture and is less sweet. I used more brown sugar than white, and dark brown as opposed to light brown sugar because the additional molasses lends more moisture and a slightly bitter component to balance some of the sweetness from the chocolate. For the crispy edges, I wound up adding just a little baking powder in addition to the baking soda, relying on the extra bit of rise from the powder to crisp up the edges while baking without drying out the center.

If you are looking for a chocolate chip-like cookie, that is enhanced with additional ingredients and techniques, Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies With Halva and Cardamom may be just the thing for you. Halva candy melts atop these vegan, tahini-based chocolate chip cookies for a double dose of sesame flavor to complement the chocolate.

If you are of the camp that insists on walnuts in your chocolate chip cookies, Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies are chock full of them and they are boosted with oatmeal as well, to make a sort of hybrid chocolate chip oatmeal cookie.

Another variation on the basic chocolate chip cookie, Brown Butter Espresso Cookies incorporate bits of browned butter and espresso powder to make a rich, satisfying, decidedly adult chocolate chip cookie.

These cookies are exactly what readers want in a chocolate chip cookie (we asked!): chewy and gooey (when warm) with crispy edges and a hint of salt. They are not too sweet, not too thin, and the recipe calls for chocolate chunks, though if you prefer chips, feel free to switch them out. They use basic ingredients that are readily available in a typical grocery store, and once your butter and eggs are at room temperature, you can whip up a batch in less than an hour.

This is the cookie that our readers wanted. It hits their top five criteria for a great chocolate chip cookie and (did I mention?) it is delicious. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Get the recipe
Cook time: 1 hour

Times Test Kitchen staffers reach for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie

Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies With Halva and Cardamom

The combination of tahini and halva candy marks these accidentally vegan cookies with an unmistakable sesame flavor. The halva candy melts while baking, forming a delicious, sweet sesame pool on top of the cookies. Chef Zoë Komarin likes to use the Har Bracha brand of tahini, but use any good brand you have, as long as it doesn’t stay runny; it should always have the texture of peanut butter. Look for halva in the kosher section of your local grocery store or, to support a local brand, buy from Hebel & Co.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes plus 1 hour chilling

Halva Cardamom Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies, from a recipe by Zoe Komarin of Zoe Food Party
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Chunky with crunchy walnuts, chewy with oats, fudgy with chocolate, these bake into thick, craggy disks with crisp edges and tender centers. Chopping the chocolate by hand gives you the obvious joy of big melty chunks, but, as importantly, slivers as thin as splinters that season the dough throughout. Untoasted whole walnuts have a tannic edge to their nuttiness that balances chocolate’s richness while highlighting its bittersweet side. And oats — lots of them — add a nuanced natural earthy sweetness to the white-and-brown sugar base. Each bite gives you everything at once and also something new. You might hit a mother lode of chocolate or a walnut’s crackle, but always with the foundational oatmeal chew of a nicely salted buttery cookie.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour

Thick And Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies on a plate
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Brown Butter Espresso Cookies

Dry milk powder adds thousands more bits of browned nutty goodness to the butter in these cookies, an uber-rich chocolate chip cookie. The instant espresso powder also adds a depth that plays well with the browned butter and chocolate. Don’t use regular coffee grounds, though, since they won’t dissolve in the batter and would stay unpleasantly gritty.
Get the recipe
Cook time: 1 hour plus 6 hours chilling

Brown Butter Espresso Cookies from a recipe by Mei Lin of Nightshade
(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

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