Around 25 years ago (give or take a year or two), I ate the best chocolate chip cookie I have ever had in my life. I was young and spent time with an elderly babysitter during the summer and after school. My elderly babysitter’s mom, who, of course, was even more elderly, lived just down the road from her. On one occasion, I was able to visit my babysitter’s mom. Her house was the classic elderly home; it even smelled elderly. But it was a lovely home, and this aging woman was even lovelier (I, unfortunately, do not remember her name). I wasn’t allowed to touch anything, so instead I wandered about with my hands clasped behind my back. She had her front door blocked off with furniture, which I thought was odd. I think she had a birdcage hanging from a stand, but there wasn’t a bird inside. I don’t remember much about her home. What I do remember, however, and have remembered for 25 years, is what I ate there. This little old lady had been baking homemade chocolate chip cookies. She offered me one, lying the tray on the table and winking at me. I was shy, but my babysitter encouraged me, so I grabbed one off the tray and sank my teeth into the chewiest, meltiest, gooiest chocolate chip cookie that has ever existed. I might have even had two of them.
25 years later, I am still talking about these chocolate chip cookies. Every time I try a version of homemade chocolate chip cookies, or bake a batch myself, I always compare them to the cookies that my babysitter’s mom made upon my visit to her house when I was little. And in the past 25 years years, no cookie has ever compared. I’ve tasted wonderful chocolate chip cookies, of course, but none of them have brought me back to that time I took my first bite of the best chocolate chip cookie in existence.
Recently, on FoodGawker, I saw a recipe for chewy chocolate chip cookies. The cookies themselves looked completely unassuming and not exactly spectacular, but the description claimed that these were the most amazing chocolate chip cookies ever, thanks to a special ingredient. I shrugged the recipe off at first, but bookmarked it for future reference.
The secret ingredient was cornstarch. What good could cornstarch do in a cookie recipe?
I chose the cornstarch chocolate chip cookie recipe for my 7-year-old daughter to prepare on her own. She had been wanting to make chocolate chip cookies since she successfully prepared a wonderful batch of blueberry muffins last week.
And so, she began work on these cookies, with a bit of help from me now and then. The dough was so delicious that I kept stealing bits of it as she was dropping it onto the cookie sheet.
Yes, she learned how to use my digital scale to make sure all the cookies were the same size.
The first batch we put straight into the oven. While this batch baked, we refrigerated the rest of the dough. We discovered that we preferred the look of the finished cookies from the very first batch, rather than the refrigerated dough, so we left the dough out for the final batch (we had three batches go into the oven). Oddly enough, the chilled dough seemed to flatten out more than the unchilled dough! So we had some wider, flatter cookies and also some not-so-wide, thicker cookies. I mainly chose the thicker ones for the photos you’ll see below.
We used exact ingredients and only changed the preparation method slightly; instead of adding the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt separately, we combined them in a small bowl and whisked them together before adding these ingredients to the dough.
When measuring out the cookie dough, we used 30g of dough to make each cookie. We rolled them into a rough-shaped ball, and pinched the tops in a few different places to get a rustic look on the finished cookie, as you can see above. Our chilled dough didn’t hold the pinches as well as the unchilled dough.
We could barely wait to taste these. It was excruciating, waiting to take the cookies off the baking sheet and placing them on the cooling rack. My daughter got first pick. I saw the chocolate ooze out of the bite she had taken of the cookie. My turn! I chose my cookie and took a bite.
You know how on movies sometimes, when someone remembers something, and a flashback scene dramatically appears with flashes of light? That’s what happened to me when I took my first bite of this cookie. Everything about it, right down to the flavor, reminded me of my babysitter’s mom’s chocolate chip cookies. Warm, soft, chewy, gooey; in other words, perfect. I was shocked. And floating dreamily in heaven.
I couldn’t believe it. Now I’m left wondering if, perhaps, my babysitter’s mom knew the secret of using cornstarch in chocolate chip cookies. It couldn’t just be a coincidence that the cookies my 7-year-old daughter made ended up being my legendary cookie. I’ve eaten and baked dozens of chocolate chip cookies, none of them anything like the cookies I remembered, then a recipe appears that uses cornstarch as a secret ingredient and suddenly I am transported back in time, standing shyly in that old woman’s kitchen, with chocolate smeared on my lips, not even knowing that 25 years in the future that that moment would be one of the highlights of my foodie life.
I don’t know what cornstarch did to these cookies – did it make them chewier, fluffier, tastier? What would these cookies be like if I left out the cornstarch? No idea, but I’m not going to fix what’s not broken. For me, this recipe ends all other chocolate chip cookie recipes.
Upon the second day of life for these cookies, I can tell you that while they still tasted nice, they were nothing like they were on the day they were made. Upon the third day, despite having been in an airtight container, they began to taste and feel a little stale. So, my recommendation is to make these cookies on the day you want to serve them and make sure you’ve got friends around to eat them all up, fresh from the oven. They’ll disappear like Houdini.
- ¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line baking sheets with baking paper.
- Place flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy and light in color. Add egg and vanilla and blend in.
- Mix in flour mixture on low speed. Stir in chocolate chunks.
- Using a standard-sized cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. The tops of the cookies shouldn’t brown; it is imperative that you do not baking the cookies any longer than 10 minutes.
- Let cool, on the baking sheets, on a wire rack for five minutes. Remove from baking sheet and let cool completely.