Much has already been written on chocolate chip cookies, but it is a subject that will probably never be exhausted, so here are my two cents. I make a cookie that is chewy, but also baked dark enough that there is a nice caramelized flavor and crunchy texture on the sides and bottom.
I start with Dorie Greenspan's recipe from Baking From My Home to Yours. I would highly recommend that anyone interested in baking buy this book, but you can see the recipe on Amazon in its look inside feature (pg. 68). There is also a great discussion of chocolate chip cookie recipe tricks in this NYTimes article.
Besides following Dorie's recipe to a tee (i.e. paying attention to the temperature of the butter and eggs, preheating the oven, etc.) here are my tricks:
- I use the Pound Plus 72% chocolate bar from Trader Joe's. At about $5 for a 17.6 oz bar, this is an amazingly affordable and high-quality chocolate. I chop it with a large knife, angling it so that it creates both big chunks and smaller shavings of chocolate. The shavings create the dark look of the cookies and create an all around chocolate flavor.
- I recently started substituting about 1/3 of the chocolate with white chocolate chunks. Trader Joe's has a 3.5 oz white chocolate bar that is another great product. I use one of these and a little more than half of the Pound Plus bar. The white chocolate adds a creamy, sweet flavor to the cookie.
- I toast the walnuts in the oven while it is preheating. In pastry school, we were taught never to use nuts in a recipe without first toasting them (no matter what the recipe says). Toasting nuts intensifies their flavor. When chopping the nuts, unlike the chocolate, don't include the "dust" as it will detract from the texture.
- I use the larger salt amount that Dorie suggests.
- I chill the dough completely, for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight. This yields a thicker, more consistent shape and prevents over-spreading. Alternatively, I scoop the dough (see next trick) onto a pan and freeze in balls. The frozen dough can be put directly in the oven and will make the best shaped cookies. Having frozen dough ready to bake is also extremely convenient and great in a dessert emergency :). (I will upload pictures next time I do this as the pictures here are of a batch where I ran out of time to do this step fully and the cookies are thus not that round.)
- I use a scoop to portion the cookies. This creates cookies that are consistent in size and bake round. I drop them from the scoop onto the tray so the flat side is down, then give them a little pat so they look like hockey pucks. I recommend scooping the dough before chilling because it's a lot easier on the wrist.
- I always use Silpat liners on my trays.