I did not embark on this experiment lightly. I read everything I could find about what makes a chocolate chip cookie truly outstanding, and gained the most insight from the experiment that inspired this one
, performed by David Leite for the New York Times in July of 2008. Our results, however, differed, though the few secrets revealed in the article remain invaluable.
The key secret in making amazing chocolate chip cookies seems to be in how long you let the dough sit before baking
. Even Mrs. Wakefield employed this technique when she invented the original Nestle Toll House recipe - it just didn't make it onto the package
Leaving the dough in the fridge for 24-36 hours allows the ingredients to fully soak up the liquid, and result in a firmer dough which bakes to a better consistency.
A long hydration time is important because eggs, unlike, say, water, are gelatinous and slow-moving. And since butter coats the flour, it makes it difficult for the liquids to get through to the dry ingredients.
Another hint is to rotate the cookie sheet mid-way through baking
. This allows your cookies to bake evenly, regardless of where the hottest part of your oven is. This simple trick was a game-changer for me, and I'll never do otherwise again!
The NYTimes article suggests there's no substitute for a 6" cookie whose dough has been left in the fridge for at least 36 hours. But after this experiment, I care to differ.