In my quest to find the greatest, most beloved, reliable back-of-the-box recipes, I knew I’d come to chocolate chip cookies eventually.
But even I will attest to the glory of the Nestle recipe above most others. Many bakers swear by the cookie recipe printed on the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip bag (and Phoebe Buffay made them even more famous in an episode of Friends).
To solidify my stance, I tested the Nestle recipe alongside another highly-acclaimed recipe: Jacques Torres’ chocolate chip cookies. (I thought about testing them side-by-side with two other famous back-of-the-bag recipes, Ghirardelli's and Guittard's, but the differences between the three recipes seemed minimal.)
In the interest of research, I made more chocolate chip cookies than I care to admit. I did it for you! My freezer is packed with bags of frozen cookie dough balls; they’re crowding out the frozen peas and the ice cube trays of pesto.
And here’s what I determined: If you have to choose two chocolate chip cookie recipes to make forever, choose these two. Though very different, they cover everything I want in a perfect cookie.
Let’s start by talking about the differences between the two recipes.
- The Nestle recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour. Jacques Torres uses about 2 2/3 cups of flour, and it's a combination of cake flour and bread flour.
- Both rely on approximately a 1 1/2-cup blend of brown sugar and granulated sugar: equal parts of each for Nestle, and slightly more brown sugar for Jacques Torres.
- Nestle has 2 sticks of butter. Jacques Torres has 2 1/4.
- You’ll use semisweet chips for the Nestle cookie and a whopping 1 1/3 pounds of bittersweet disks for the Jacques Torres cookie (more on the chocolate later).
The biggest difference is resting time. The Nestle cookie is baked as soon as the dough is finished. No resting. Jacques Torres asks you to practice extreme patience and rest your dough for a minimum of 24 hours (or up to 72).
Why bother? Chilling the dough is actually important here. The flavor is concentrated (the dough dries out slightly, the caramelized sweetness intensifies); the texture is firmer; the cookies spread less. There’s plenty of science behind this to read up on; my general layperson’s takeaway is that resting the dough makes for a more nuanced, complex-tasting cookie.
The Jacques Torres recipe brings to mind words like "epic" and "decadent" and makes you want to whip out your camera phone. Alluringly rumpled on the surface, this cookie has a pleasingly chewy but firm texture. Using wafers instead of chips creates melted puddles of chocolate throughout the cookie. A sprinkle of sea salt on top intensifies the chocolate flavor.
A note on the chocolate: Jacques Torres is the chocolate man, so far be it from to question his technique—but I did. I made the recipe with all bittersweet chocolate. Then I tried it with a mix of 50% bittersweet, 25% unsweetened, and 25% milk chocolate. The cookies were even better: The different types of chocolate mingled in each bite. Whichever type you choose, make sure to use wafers, discs, or fèves, not chips. The wider shape is responsible for those big, addictive pockets of chocolate.
This cookie is what you make when you want to really impress. It’s not so decadent that you can’t finish an entire one in a sitting, or packed with novelty ingredients, but it is sexier and bolder and more intense than the Nestle cookie.
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
- 1 2/3 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 pounds bittersweet chocolate discs
- flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
Which is not to say you should forget the Nestle recipe, which yields the cookie of your childhood dreams. Simple and uncomplicated, it has a lightly crisp edge and a soft middle. The brown sugar gives it a caramelized sweetness, which is really what brings this cookie to greatness. It’s easy to make. It’s deeply satisfying and just buttery enough. It begs for a cup of milk.
This is the cookie you imagine when someone says “chocolate chip.” My taste testers swooned over the first bite, and were shocked when I told them it had no secret ingredients or special techniques. It’s just that good.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped, toasted nuts (optional)
Both of these recipes are incredibly good. I’ll make them over and over again in the years to come. I know they’ll turn out reliable results, and please even the most discerning crowd.
To decide which to make, consider what you’re looking for. A simple, perfect, satisfying cookie for a picnic lunch, a light snack, or a gaggle of children? Nestle is your recipe. An impressive, can’t-take-just-one-bite cookie to bake for a third date, a bake sale, or to fill a chocolate craving? Jacques is your man.
Name your go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe in the comments below.