Have You Met My Friend, Chocolate Chip Cookie?

It’s here! It’s finally here! What, you ask? The one year anniversary (or birthday?) of Cookie Talk. Yes, folks, I’ve survived one year of blogging. I’ve learned so much, particularly about photography, and it’s been great hearing all the comments and suggestions. Blogs are such a wonderful way to share and connect with others. So thank you for sticking with me!

And what to do for the 1st Anniversary? Cookies, of course. Not just one cookie, but three cookies. To be fair, I’ve done one before, it was one of my very first posts, the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever, which is a copycat of the Levain Bakery from Lisa Michele. I’ve been making this cookie for about two years, feeling as though no other chocolate chip cookie could ever take it’s place. But all over the food world I see two other popular recipes: The New York Times recipe from Jacques Torres, and the Neiman Marcus “$250,000” cookie, or however much the rumor goes.

I was curious, and thus, came the challenge. I’d make all three chocolate chip cookies and the hubby and I, as well as a few of our more-than-willing friends and co-workers (“Hey, want to taste some cookies?” is a great way to win some friends), would do a blind taste test. It’s a rough job blogging. Really, tasting all these cookies was such hard work! Fine, don’t believe me.

The blind tasting for hubby and I was actually challenging, but probably not in a way that will garner any sympathy. We knew what went into each cookie and what each one looked like. But we tried to make it as objective as possible and even went so far as to blindfold one while the other took notes. But it was still pretty easy to guess which cookie we were tasting.

I learned a lot from this experiment, and was a bit surprised as well. I’m also working on my own chocolate chip cookie recipe, combining our favorites from each. But that’s a post for another day. Making the perfect cookie doesn’t happen overnight.

And the winner is (drum roll)…… The New York Times Jacques Torres, with Levain as a very close second. In fact, my initial favorite was Levain, barely, because I just couldn’t accept that my favorite cookie was being replaced. The more I ate the NYT cookie (yes, I’ve had several, which is not good for the waist line. See the sacrifices I make?) the more I liked it and the more I realized the Levain wasn’t as special as I thought it was. It was like learning you and your best friend have grown apart and now you have a new best friend who is much cooler and more compatible. It hurts a little. Until you have another cookie.

Now, I must point out that I have never had a true Levain cookie, or a Jacques Torres cookie, or a Neiman Marcus cookie. The Levain is a copycat recipe, which could completely change the results. So it isn’t a completely true competition, but hey, we’re doing the best we can. Someday I hope to go to New York and have Jacques Torres and Levain all in the same day. Probably with a tummy ache on the side.

Now, let’s talk about the differences in these cookies. All three are basic chocolate chip cookies: flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, butter, chocolate.  But they are all very different cookies, as you can see in the picture above. I used the same scoop, 3 TB, for each cookie and they baked very differently. The first is the Torres cookie, the second Levain, and the third Neiman Marcus.

Let’s talk first about the least favorite: The Neiman Marcus. Really, this cookie had no business attempting to compete against the other two. It’s not even in the same category. Two people did say it was their favorite, but most didn’t even like it all that much. The only redeeming factor was the chocolate-y-ness of it (and also that was by far the fastest to make), which came from the insane amount of instant coffee. It almost tasted like a Coffee Chocolate Chip cookie. But it was kind of dry, almost crunchy, and really not that special. It had the least amount of butter, only 1 egg, and was mostly brown sugar, which should have been a good thing. But it just didn’t measure up. Sorry, Neiman Marcus, your cookie isn’t even worth $2.50.

Next, the runner up, the Levain Copycat. After I made this recipe for the umpteenth time, I noticed Lisa Michele had updated her recipe to include less flour and more brown sugar, which is exactly what we thought it needed after tasting the NYT recipe. I had always used less flour than she suggested, and I always add vanilla. I feel it is necessary in a chocolate chip cookie. This is a great overall cookie. It is cakey and well balanced between dough and chocolate. If you were forced to eat this cookie for the rest of your life, you’d still be darned happy. It does dry out quite a bit the next day, which is one of the reasons it was forced into second place, but a few seconds in the microwave can help fix that.

And finally, the star of the Cookie World, the New York Times recipe courtesy of Jacques Torres. This cookie is a real show stopper. It is everything you want in a chocolate chip cookie and then some. And I didn’t even use the chocolate “discs” as the recipe suggests, which I can only imagine would make it even more delightful. This cookie had a lower brown sugar to granulated sugar ratio than the Neiman Marcus, but for some reason the brown sugar really stood out in the Jacques Torres cookie.  I don’t know why it stood out more in this cookie. I’m baffled. I’m also completely baffled at how it baked. I fully expected a bigger rise on this cookie due to the cold butter and the extra baking powder. But it didn’t. It spread and wasn’t cakey at all like the Levain. Have I mentioned I’m baffled? This goes against my basic knowledge of baking. Anyone care to help me out here? It must have something to do with the ratio of butter to flour to leavening agents. Or maybe it is because it is made with bread flour and cake flour? Help. Where is Alton Brown when I need him? I need to watch his Chocolate Chip Cookie episode again!

And back to the cookie. It’s crunchy on the outside. Gooey on the inside. A rich chocolate flavor with a caramel tasting dough. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, how about sprinkling some sea salt on top to take you right over the edge into Chocolate Chip Cookie Heaven? Yup, that’s a winning cookie.

Let’s take another look at the cookies:

New York Times/Jacques Torres

Levain Copycat

Neiman Marcus

This was a fun experiment. It’s interesting to see how slightly different measurements can create a completely different cookie.  So what’s your favorite chocolate chip cookie and why?

Tips and Pointers: For each recipe I used Guittard chocolate chips, light brown sugar, unsalted butter, fine sea salt, King Arthur Flour, and a 3 TB scoop. I also could not bake and eat all these cookies at the same time, nor do I have enough friends to share all this dough. I recommend scooping each dough out, freezing the dough balls, and then baking when you are ready. If you freeze the dough and then try to scoop, you are likely to hurt your shoulder. Trust me, I learned the hard way. This also ensures that you can always have fresh baked cookies on a moments notice…which might not be a good thing.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

Neiman Marcus

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (doesn’t sound like much, but it is!)
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chip cookies

1) Preheat oven to 300F. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.

2) Beat in the egg and vanilla for another 30 seconds, or until combined.

3) In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in espresso and chocolate chips.

4) Using your desired cookie scoop, drop onto a parchment lined cookie sheet (or silpat) about three inches apart. Gently press down to flatten. Bake about 20 minutes, or until brown. I think 20 minutes is too long and only baked for about 16 minutes.

Levain Copycat

  • 2 sticks ‘cold and cubed’ unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups AP flour – Spoon and Sweep method. I usually stick with 3 1/4 cup.
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4-1 teaspoon baking powder (just under 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2)  In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter and sugars and vanilla until well blended and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time.. and beat until well incorporated.
3)  Add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and mix until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate chunks, or add to the mixer at the very end on very low speed.
4)  Using a scoop, place each on sheet pan lined with parchment paper or silpat and bake in the preheated oven until very lightly browned, taking care not to over bake, about 14 – 16 minutes depending on your preference.

New York Times adapted from Jacques Torres

  • 2 cups minus 2 TB cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cup bread flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 TB granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 2/3 cups chocolate chips or discs
1)  Whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside.
2)  Cream together sugars and butter until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing completely and scraping bowl after each addition. Reduce speed to low and very slowly add dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Add chocolate very carefully.
3) Scoop cookies onto baking sheet and chill for 24 to 36 hours. Wrap tightly.
4)  Preheat oven to 350F. Bake cookies 14 to 18 minutes depending on the size, until golden but still gooey.
5) Eat immediately and have another.
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17 Comments

Filed under Cookies

17 responses to “Have You Met My Friend, Chocolate Chip Cookie?

  1. Natasha

    Hi! I love this post. I love that you’ve made them all at once to figure out which ones you like best! And I agree, NYT is the BEST cookie ever.
    I did notice though, that the recipe you used for the Neiman Marcus cookies is not the actual “mythical” $250,000 recipe, but one that Neiman Marcus have posted on their website as a response to the myth.
    I didn’t like the Neiman Marcus website cookie either, but the original “myth” recipe is delicious! Different from the rest of these though, because it has ground up oatmeal inside. You have to try it! Here’s a link if you like:
    http://butterbaking.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/oatmeal-chocolate-chip-cookies/
    Natasha

    • Hey thanks! I had no idea there were two different NM recipes floating around out there! I bet the ground oatmeal would make a huge difference! Sweet…more cookies to make 🙂

  2. I did a similar cookie project! I tried 5 different recipes and only one of them reached the level at all but still not the best. And after reading your post I actually went to the kitchen and made a Jacques Torres cookie batch! It is chilling happily in the fridge and I really really hope the cookies will turn out as you raved about them! Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  3. I just blogged about the Jacques Torres cookie, and it is really good, but I still ended up liking my “favorite” recipe more. The thing that disappointed me most about them was the fact that, like you said, they didn’t rise like I expected. Also, I noticed that the baking time is finicky. It’s funny because when I looked at your photos, the NM one looks the tastiest because it’s so thick and chocolatey, but it ended up being the opposite! My sister loves the Jacques Torres cookies though. Really goes to show you that not all chocolate chip cookies are created equal!

    • I froze the dough after baking the first batch and they rise a wee bit more after freezing vs refrigerating. Baking time is finicky. I think the first time I baked them a little too long for my liking so I scaled back a couple minutes. Amazing how different recipes can be!

  4. huntfortheverybest

    Great post! I have to agree with alexandra that at first glance, I thought the NM cookie looked best. Just goes to show, don’t judge a book by its cover! Would love to experiment as well.

  5. I was going to say the same thing Natasha did – I have a Neiman Marcus recipe with ground oats. What is funny is that I have seen the same recipe for it, and story, labeled as a Mrs. Fields cookie!

    I really need to make the Torres cookies. I have no patience, however, for the wait time. Some day!

    Thanks for experimenting!

  6. Ann

    Nothing beats the ol’ toll house cookie in my book.

  7. I love this post. Found you from Tastespotting.

    Congrats on 1 year! I just posted a cookie recipe today…loosely adapted, very very loosely from the Cooks Illustrated recipe. Next up in the NYT recipe. I have a post coming out next week (cant reveal it yet) but I go into the full chemistry of cooking baking, eggs, flour, sugar types and ratios. I could geek out w/ you and Alton B any day!

  8. Tiffany

    I’ve also tried both recipes, but I have to say, the Levain one is still my favorite. The Jacques Torres one was too sweet for me. I used chocolate disks from the Jacques Torres store, and while I loved how chocolate-y the cookie was, I wasn’t as impressed with the texture and taste of the dough.

    Btw I live in NYC and have tried the real Levain and JT cookie (they are a block away from each other!), and you must try the original Levain if you ever get the chance. It blew JT out of the water for me. Lisa Michele’s recipe is fantastic and very close, but still not as magical as the original.

  9. Casey

    OH.MY.GOSH. I have been waiting for a blog like this. I LOVE to cook/bake and I have been in search for the best chocolate chip cookie ever for the past 4 years… for a while I have relied on Martha Stewart’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe (love her), and that has definitely sufficed. I agree with you that Neiman Marcus cookies are somewhat dry and, in my opinion, never contain enough salt….they’re too sweet (don’t know where all the praise comes from)… and I feel that chocolate chip cookies must contain salt. It almost makes people finish the cookie and even reach for another (I’ve noticed). Anyways, I tried the Jacques Torres recipe two days ago to see if it was comparable to Martha’s and OMG so good. The bread and cake flour help. Also, it was interesting that there’s no vanilla added… but still so good. I LOVED how much the brown sugar was emphasized in every bite. The only thing I didn’t do is freeze the cookies before….is that essential? They still turned out AMAZINGGGG. Like you said, perfectly crunchy on the outside and gooey in the middle. Thank you SO much for sharing because I have been searching for the best chocolate chip cookie for so long!! There’s just so many recipe’s out there, so thanks for testing a few famous ones out for us cookie connoisseurs!

  10. The Levain Chocolate Chip Cookie can be ordered from their website – I sent myself 4 for my birthday! The cookie really is amazing…each one weighs a whopping 6 ounces and is both gooey and crunchy and hands down, the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever had.

  11. Anne

    Mmmm, Jacques Torres’ CCC recipe is DEFINITELY the best. ❤
    I just finished baking some today. They are delicious, and the texture is just soooooo perfect!!! Crispy around the edges and delightfully chewy near the middle.
    I have found CCC heaven.

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