I guess, this post was kind of unavoidable… So, let’s get over with it right now!
You know what they say about opinions, don’t you?
When it comes to the big C, this is so true. Everyone has one. There are mainly two schools: the crunchy, crispy, flat and the chewy, gooey, soft. And then, there are those who want a crunchy bite on the outside with a soft, gooey inside.
These are the eternal caviler. They will always know a place that offers a better chocolate chip cookie. Popular favorites are Levain Bakery, Jacques Torres, their mom’s kitchen or a friends mom’s (aunt’s, girl/boyfriend’s) kitchen. Especially with the latter, nostalgia plays an important part; chances are, it simply was the Tollhouse recipe from the backside of the Nestle bag and time blurred the memory. Chances are also, that, after blind-testing that exact same cookie, they would tell you, they had a better one at exactly the place you got the test cookie from.
Fact is, there is no point in trying to come up with THE best chocolate chip cookie because it doesn’t exist. Or rather, it exists only for you, only in your head (Smart-ass alarm: It’s pretty much Roland Barthes signifier/signified thing if I can recall my master thesis from back in the days right). How good a cookie is depends on your personal preferences as much as on the moment you have it, the memories you connect with it and thousands of other tiny little reasons, technical baking matters included. Last named, can be minimized but never fully controlled. Out of my own experience, private home kitchens will never enable you to come up with the same results as a professional bakery.
That said, the following recipe, doesn’t claim to be the best chocolate chip cookie. It might be a good one, for what it is, but there’s always room for improvement. The reason I came up with it is simply because I was talking to a friend of mine the other day – the lovely Angela Padilla – who besides being awesome and super-talented also happens to be sensitive to gluten – and she mentioned how she has problems finding tasty gluten-free baked goods and hence ends up eating regular ones which are not good for her. You don’t have to tell me things like that twice to awaken my inner bloodhound…
Here’s the thing: Gluten-free baking is tricky. A lot more than just vegan baking. It’s like driving a car without fuel. Since filling the tank isn’t an option, you have to remodel the whole thing to make it work. You literally have to invent a hybrid.
Sure, there are plenty of gluten-free flours available – rice, amaranth, sorghum, millet.. – but they only do half of regular flour’s job. What they don’t do is gluing your cookies ingredients together. What they do is adding unwanted flavor and texture. Most of us didn’t grow up gluten-free so we have a pretty precise idea about how things should taste and feel. Imitating these flavor and textures is, to be honest, almost impossible. All you can try is getting as close as possible to the original. Or, and this might be the better way in the end, trying to use the original as an inspiration and create something delicious and new.
The following recipe is a variation of Alton Brown’s gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe and actually really good. I tweaked it a little, made mine big (4 OZ) and baked them at a low temperature, at 300 F for 20 minutes. That way the really developed a slightly crispy edge with a soft, moist center, a chewy bite and oozing puddles of chocolate.
1)You’ll need some ingredients (all natural, but still) a normal kitchen cabinet might not usually accommodate.
2) BUMMER-ALERT: The cookies should get chilled… overnight!
Here’s my version of the recipe:
I made a half batch of the original recipe which yields exactly six 4 OZ cookies and one 1 OZ test cookie. Just in case you can’t wait and/or want proof of my theory about down-time improving flavor.
4 OZ butter, room temperature, cubed
5.5 OZ brown rice flour (I’m guessing you could use white as well, but the brown adds some nice nuttiness)
0.7 OZ Cornstarch
0.3 OZ Tapioca flour (often called Tapioca starch)
1/2 ts Xanthan gum (This is crucial!!! It’s the glue, don’t skip it!)
1/2 ts Salt
1/2 ts Baking Soda
5 OZ Brown sugar
1 OZ Sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 ts Vanilla Extract
2 TS Almond Milk (I didn’t have regular at home)
6 OZ good, dark chocolate (I used 72%) cut in pieces (I prefer rather big chunks instead of morsels for my cookies)
Sift (!) together flour, cornstarch, tapioca, xanthan gum, salt and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attached, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until smooth. Once smooth, add the flour mixture and the milk and mix only until the flour is incorporated. Lastly, fold the chocolate chips under, cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill the cookie batter in the fridge overnight.
BUMMER, right? But do it, really!!!Not only does it improve the flavor of the cookies, in this particular case, it also helps texture-wise. I feel like, after the cookies got chilled overnight, the gritty (sandpaper, as one of my friends called it) texture of the rice flour was mellowed out and (almost) gone (I guess, it’s a matter of hydration).
Once you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 F line a baking sheet with parchment paper, scoop/roll 4 OZ balls (damp hands help) and place them on the sheet about 4″ apart (don’t forget they are big and will spread a lot).
Bake until browned at the edges but still moist in the middle, about 20 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a little bit (remember the sheet is hot and they will go on cooking) until you can safely transfer them onto a cooling rack. Give them some time to set and cool and enjoy them right away or store in an airtight container.