Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies

Did you know that the TV version of Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies is different than the one published online?  Get the recipe that actually works!

Did you know that the TV version of Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies is different than the one published online? Get the recipe that actually works!

The Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe That Actually Works

(…and why his doesn’t, if you follow the TV directions.)

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I had a hankering for some really thick, really chewy chocolate chip cookies.  What better way to ring in the new year than a pile of chocolate chip cookies, right?

So, although I already had a recipe for thin and chewy chocolate chip cookies (and even a recipe for whole wheat chocolate chip cookies), I decided to search for a new recipe.  One that would produce luxuriously thick yet still chewy cookies.

In my search, I found many references to the Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies, particularly the “Chewy” recipe.  This recipe was one of three chocolate chip cookie recipes that appeared in an episode of Good Eats titled “Three Chips for Sister Marsha,” in which Alton made a chewy chocolate chip cookie, a puffy chocolate chip cookie, and a thin chocolate chip cookie.

I carefully read through the reader reviews of each recipe on the Food Network website, quickly discarding the “thin” cookie recipe and focusing in on the puffy versus the chewy.

Did you know that the TV version of Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies is different than the one published online? Get the recipe that actually works!

The puffy chocolate chip cookies didn’t seem to fit the bill.  They were made with butter-flavored shortening (I’m an “real butter” gal, myself) plus cake flour, indicating that these cookies would be more on the cake-like and tender side.

Zeroing in with laser-like intensity on the chewy recipe, I noticed a certain trend in the reviews.  Astute readers had noticed that the online recipe in written form differed from the recipe demonstrated on TV.

What’s different in the video than in the written recipe published on the Food Network website?  I’ll tell you.

  1. In the video, the measurements are given by volume (i.e. cups) rather than weight.
  2. The written recipe whisks the liquid ingredients together before adding them to the mixing bowl.  In the video version, Alton just throws them in.
  3. In the video, we see Alton pop the cookies directly into the oven.  In the written recipe, we’re instructed to chill the dough for an hour before baking.
  4. The dough in the video looks remarkably firm, when in fact the dough (when made according to the written recipe) is extremely soft and gooey.
  5. In the written recipe, there are some instructions regarding placing oven racks at the top and bottom of the oven and baking multiple sheets at the same time.  In the video, the rack is located in the bottom third of the oven, and only one baking sheet at a time goes in the oven (and that one sheet is specifically limited to just 6 cookies).

Did you know that the TV version of Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies is different than the one published online? Get the recipe that actually works!

Needless to say, these inconsistencies caused consternation among the reviewers.  Bakers who followed the multiple rack instructions were often disappointed by inconsistently baked cookies.  I found this to be true not only for the reviewers on the Food Network site, but also on various blogs in which a blogger tested out the Alton Brown chocolate chip cookies.

Others who skipped chilling the dough found that their cookies spread too much, preventing them from being as thick as desired.

In order to troubleshoot these issues, I went to work on reverse engineering what the culinary authorities had to say about chocolate chip cookie recipes.

By doing so, I found a pattern of what works to make chocolate chip cookies properly chewy and thick.

Did you know that the TV version of Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies is different than the one published online? Get the recipe that actually works!

Here’s the list.

What Makes a Chocolate Chip Cookie Chewy

  • Brown sugar.
  • Using bread flour, which has more gluten, which adds chewiness.
  • Including enough liquid to activate the gluten in the flour.
  • Chilling the dough to give it time to develop the gluten.

Source: ChefTalk.  The debate on ChefTalk demonstrates that some of the very things that encourage chewiness also encourage spreading.  Leading us to the next point…

How to Keep Chocolate Chip Cookies Thick by Preventing Spreading

  • Not adding too much butter or sugar; both can cause spreading.
  • Chilling the dough.
  • Raising the oven temperature slightly.
  • Not greasing the pans.  Using parchment or Silpats.
  • Avoiding baking powder.
  • Not overbeating (it adds air, which causes spreading).

Sources: David Lebovitz and Sweetopia.

Now that we know how to keep chocolate chip cookies both thick and chewy, which of Alton’s recipes do you follow?  The TV recipe, or the written recipe?

After studying both, I went with the TV version of the ingredients because it uses volume measurements.  After all, not everyone has a kitchen scale.  I used the instructions from both sources that most closely fit with what we already know about what makes cookies both thick and chewy.

To be on the safe side: I whisked the liquids before adding to the bowl, I chilled the dough, and I only baked one cookie sheet at a time.

Why the TV Recipe for Alton Brown’s Chocolate Chip Cookies Failed

You can see for yourself how the first attempt turned out: flat as a pancake.

Did you know that the TV version of Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies is different than the one published online? Get the recipe that actually works!

What the heck happened?  They’re flat, greasy, and spread all over the place.  Not a bit like the thick cookies pictured on Food Network.

A closer look at the recipes revealed a big problem.  The video calls for 2 1/4 cups of flour.  The written recipe calls for 12 ounces.  Guess what?  12 ounces does not equal 2 1/4 cups!  It’s actually closer to 2 3/4 cups.

That much of a difference in flour makes a huge difference in how cookies turn out.  So, even if you followed the recipe exactly, you’d end up with flat and greasy cookies because there’s simply not enough flour in the recipe.

That explains why my cookie dough was wet and gooey, and why the cookies looked like they’d been run over.

How I Fixed the Problem with the Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies TV Recipe

The next round, I used the weight measurements, and the cookies came out like this.

Did you know that the TV version of Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies is different than the one published online? Get the recipe that actually works!

See?  Enough flour equals thick and chewy cookies.  Since most of us measure with cups, I’ve carefully measured the true and correct amount of flour needed for this recipe, so you can be confident that it will work.  I’ve also added a little garnish that I learned from the famous New York Times chocolate chip cookies: salt!  Trust me when I say that salt is magical on chocolate chip cookies.

Alton, and Food Network, if you’re listening: please test your recipes before airing them on national television.  My recipe testing rates are reasonable, so just have your people call my people.  I’ll be waiting by the phone.

Dear reader, if you enjoyed this recipe exploration, you’ll also enjoy my investigation into Chick-fil-A lemonade, which includes the most accurate recipe for recreating it at home.  You might also be entertained by learning the true origin of “slutty” brownies.

Thanks for stopping by!

– Katie

Did you know that the TV version of Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies is different than the one published online? Get the recipe that actually works!
5 from 9 votes
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Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies

Did you know that the TV version of Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies is different than the one published online? Get the recipe that actually works!

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 24
Calories 228 kcal
Author Katie Moseman

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter equal to two sticks, or 16 tablespoons
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour plus more, see next line down
  • 3 tablespoons bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus extra for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Set aside to cool slightly.

  2. Sift the all of the flour, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl.  Set aside.

  3. In a pourable bowl or cup, whisk together the egg, the yolk, the milk, and the vanilla extract until combined.  Set aside.

  4. Add the melted butter to the work bowl of your stand mixer.  Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar.  Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

  5. Reduce speed to low and slowly pour in the liquid mixture.  Mix for about 30 seconds, or until incorporated.

  6. Add the flour mixture a little at a time (still on low speed), stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl occasionally, until incorporated.  Don't overmix.  The cookie dough will be very soft and gooey.

  7. Stop the mixer.  Add the chocolate chips to the work bowl and stir in.  Press plastic wrap to the top of the cookie dough to prevent drying, and seal the top of the bowl with more plastic wrap to make sure the batter doesn't dry out.  Chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

  8. Preheat to 375 F.  Scoop out 1 1/2 ounce portions of cookie dough on parchment paper lined cookie sheets (limit the number of cookies to 6 per sheet).  The cookie dough mounds should be tall, not flattened (the shape of short cylinders standing on end works best).  Garnish each mound with a little sea salt, very gently pressing the salt on to make it stick.

  9. Bake for about 15 minutes. Slide the cookies on the parchment on to racks to cool.

Recipe Notes

Measure carefully for best results.  For flour, baking soda, or salt, gently spoon it into the measuring cup or spoon, then level the top by scraping across with a knife.  For brown sugar, fill the measuring cup and very gently press down to lightly pack it in.

Nutrition Facts
Alton Brown Chocolate Chip Cookies
Amount Per Serving (50 g)
Calories 228 Calories from Fat 112
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12.4g 19%
Saturated Fat 7.9g 40%
Cholesterol 40mg 13%
Sodium 221mg 9%
Potassium 82mg 2%
Total Carbohydrates 26.9g 9%
Dietary Fiber 0.8g 3%
Sugars 16.8g
Protein 2.8g 6%
Vitamin A 6%
Calcium 4%
Iron 5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

35 Comments

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