Chocolate chip cookies two ways

A few weeks ago, I made chocolate-chunk cookies from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook. I was disappointed, since I had had these at the actual Flour bakery numerous times, and mine weren’t nearly as good. I discovered two significant issues. First, the explanatory text calls for 65% cacao chocolate or thereabouts, but the recipe itself says “semisweet”, and that’s what I used — few people would consider 65% to be in that category; in the supermarket, anything over 60% is normally “bittersweet”. Second, the recipe says to drop the cookies in ¼-cup balls — i.e., a #16 disher — but these are actually much too large to give the specified yield of the recipe. I queried Chang on Twitter about this, and she said that in the bakery, they actually weigh them, with the proper size being 60–65 grams (or about 2 ounces). By comparing the actual and predicted yield, I figured that the correct size was either a #20 or a #24 disher. (Disher sizes are measured in scoops per quart, so a #32 disher holds one fluid ounce, a #16 disher holds two ounces, and so on. Cookie dough is significantly denser than water, so 2 fl. oz. of dough weighs rather more than 2 oz. avoirdupois.)

Chang admits to being influenced by the Default Recipe — i.e., the Toll House recipe — and I suspect most Americans who have been baking for any length of time both have that recipe memorized and also have their own variations. Chang’s recipe deviates from the standard in a number of ways: she mixes in chopped milk chocolate in addition to the dark chocolate chunks, she swaps out some of the all-purpose flour for bread flour, and she bakes the cookies longer (18 minutes) and at a lower temperature (350°F). Like many modern bakers, she recommends resting the cookie batter in the refrigerator overnight. She doesn’t specify the actual chocolate she uses, but in the bakery the cookies are clearly labeled as using TCHO, a California-based company which makes many different chocolate blends (including, as I understand it, custom flavor profiles for large wholesale customers).

Photo showing six cookies on a wire cooling rack

This is how the Flour cookies came out when I tried to make them. They are about a third too large.

Since I wasn’t especially happy with my attempt at making Chang’s recipe, I figured I would go back to my own recipe, also a variation on the Toll House theme. This is a slight variation on a recipe I’ve had on my Web site for some time. I usually don’t specify brand names of ingredients in my recipes, but in this case I’m going to be very specific. Here’s the recipe, as I made it most recently:


Dry ingredients
170 g KAF organic unbleached all-purpose flour
100 g KAF organic unbleached white whole-wheat flour
1 tsp table salt (you can use less if you prefer)
1 tsp baking soda
10 oz (280 g) bag Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet baking chips
120 g toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)
Wet ingredients
½ lb (225 g) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
160 g India Tree dark muscovado sugar
145 g granulated sugar
2 large Country Hen organic eggs
1½ tsp Nielsen-Massey pure Mexican vanilla extract


  1. In a food processor, pulse together brown and granulated sugars to break up clumps and mix thoroughly.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, salt, and baking soda. Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. In a small bowl, beat eggs and vanilla together using a fork.
  4. Using a stand mixer with paddle beater, cream together butter and mixed sugars on medium speed for 3–5 minutes, stopping half way to scrape down the bowl and beater. Add egg mixture and beat for another minute or until smooth, then scrape down bowl again.
  5. With mixer on low speed, slowly add flour-chocolate mixture and stir until combined, scraping down bowl one more time. Fold in nuts, if using. Transfer to an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Set oven rack in middle position.
  7. Scoop out balls of dough using a #20 disher onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, 5 inches apart on center. (Nine cookies fit on a standard standard baking sheet; eight on a standard half-sheet pan.) Cover the sheet with plastic wrap or waxed paper and flatten the balls with the palm of your hand.
  8. Bake for 10–12 minutes, until the edges of the cookies just start to turn golden. Let rest in the pan, on a cooling rack, for another 5 minutes, then remove to a separate cooling rack until completely cool.
  9. Store in an air-tight container.

When I made these last, I divided the batter in two and only added walnuts to half the batch — I have a coworker who is allergic to walnuts and she makes a sad face whenever I bring something in that has walnuts in it. The yield and nutrition information below, however, are based on putting walnuts in all the cookies. I was pretty unhappy with the performance of my #20 disher (by Oxo); although it measured the right amount of dough (verified by scale), I found it very difficult to get it to release the dough ball intact. I let the dough warm up for about an hour before forming the cookies; I’m not sure if that helped or hindered. (When the batter is left in the refrigerator overnight, the butterfat recrystallizes, making it quite stiff and very difficult to portion.) Maybe next time I’ll try lubricating the disher with baking spray. In any event, here’s what mine look like out of the oven and mostly cooled:

Photo showing twelve chocolate-chip cookies on a wire cooling rack

The chopped walnut pieces are clearly visible in these cookies, which isn’t always the case.

The chocolate chips take a long time to recrystallize, and are often still liquidous by the time I’m ready to clean up the kitchen and put the cookies away, as shown in the following photo:

Photo showing the bottom of a chocolate-chip cookie

This cookie, shown bottom-side-up in my cookie jar, was made without walnuts, and was also slightly underbaked. It’s not uncommon for the chocolate chips to end up denser at the center than at the edges, resulting in a liquid chocolate center that is difficult to lift with a spatula, thus the hole.

Note that my cookies are actually quite flat, and do not have the layered structure that the Flour cookies do; I’m not sure what the reason for that is: it could be chips versus chunks, whole-wheat flour vs. bread flour, or even differences in the leavening. It might even be due to the fact that I let the dough warm up a bit before baking, or that I used the traditional time and temperature rather than Chang’s lower, slower procedure. Lots of things to play with here; it would be fair to say that my cookies never come out exactly the same, since I’m constantly fiddling with the procedure or the ingredients. In any event, I actually really like the layers in the bakery version, but on the other hand, I also like the deeper color and extra molasses-y punch of the dark brown sugar in my recipe.


Well, nobody ever accused chocolate-chip cookies of being good for you. This is for mine; due to the measurement issue mentioned up top, I don’t have useful numbers for the Flour cookies. Reducing the size further, to a #24 disher, would reduce all of these numbers by about 17%, and should make about 26 cookies. (The target weight would then be 50–55 g.)

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 cookie (about 63 g uncooked dough)
Servings per container: about 22
Amount per serving
Calories 279 Calories from fat 155
% Daily Value
Total Fat 17g 26%
 Saturated Fat 6g 30%
 Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
 Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 39mg 13%
Sodium 171mg 7%
Potassium 20mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 29g 10%
 Dietary fiber 1.5g 6%
 Sugars 18g
Proteins 3.5g 7%
Vitamin A 6%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0%
Iron 4%
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