Recipe Review

I Went in Search of the Perfect High-Effort Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. Here’s What I Found.

updated Feb 13, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

If you ask me, the world of chocolate chip cookie recipes is divided into two camps. There are the easy, no-frills recipes that we frequently turn to because they satisfy every time. (We’re partial to Alton Brown‘s version.) And then there are the fancy chocolate chip cookie recipes.

The fancy chocolate chip cookies are the ones that take a bit more time, effort, or technique — or all of the above. These high-touch (and admittedly, often higher-cost) recipes claim to produce the best chocolate chip cookies imaginable — an elevated version of the humble classic that’s designed to impress. And these are the types of recipes that get me excited.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

I’ve been an obsessive baker since culinary school. To this day, I bake at least one batch of cookies almost every single week — and it’s both a blessing and a curse that I won’t settle for subpar versions. I want the best ones — the ones that people tweet about, write about, confess their love for. But I’ve also baked enough cookies in my lifetime to know that sometimes certain beloved recipes don’t live up to their hype, so I wanted to see which of these high-touch (and high-end) recipes were actually worth the effort and time that go into making them.

After plenty of research, I picked four elevated recipes that go above and beyond the typical cookie-making process — then spent a weekend baking all of them. I picked recipes with fervent followings, and ones that use distinctive techniques that fellow bakers swear by. From recipes that have taken over social media, to ones with layers of chocolate “laminated” right into the dough, these are the recipes I put to the test in search of the perfect cookie — plus what I really thought of each one.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Meet Our 4 Fancy Chocolate Chip Cookie Contenders

1. The Recipe You’ve Probably Seen All Over Instagram: Sarah Kieffer’s Pan-Banging Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’ve been on social media in the past year, chances are you’ve come across Sarah Kieffer’s pan-banging chocolate chip cookies. This recipe uses a special technique of removing the cookies from the oven as they bake and repeatedly banging the sheet tray against the counter to deflate them. This gives the cookies defined waves and dramatic crinkles that make them strikingly beautiful; but were they actually worth the effort?

In short: yes, but only if you like very crispy chocolate chip cookies. (Which, full disclosure, I don’t.) While the inside of the cookies remained a tad bit chewy, these were definitely the crispiest of the four recipes I tested. The pan-banging really did result in beautiful crinkles, and the flavor was spot-on. So as long as you love crispy cookies, you’ll love these. (Fans of Tate’s Bakeshop, I’m looking at you.)

Difficulty to Make: 5/10

Overall Rating: 7/10

2. The Interesting Technique That Wasn’t Quite Worth the Effort: Sarah Copeland’s Thousand-Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe uses a lamination-like technique to create thin layers of chocolate throughout the cookies. The dough is pretty standard, but you break it into three sections, sprinkle chocolate on top of each slab, stack them, and roll them out. (Similar to how you make croissant dough, only using chocolate instead of butter.) This process evenly distributes the chocolate throughout the dough and creates thin shards … or so I thought based on the name.

To be honest, these cookies didn’t actually have many (or any) layers. While the technique sounded like a good idea, it wasn’t worth the effort that went into them. That said, the cookies tasted pretty good and had a delicious, balanced flavor — but the results just didn’t live up to the name. The texture was pretty typical of a standard chocolate chip cookie and there was nothing uniquely different about them.

Difficulty to Make: 7/10

Overall Rating: 6/10

3. The Chocolate-Lover’s Dream Cookie: Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

In the realm of fancy chocolate chip cookie recipes, Jacques Torres’ is arguably the most famous. I had heard so much about these cookies but hadn’t actually made them before — so my expectations were high. The recipe itself was fairly straightforward, but instead of chocolate chips it calls for large chocolate discs to create giant pools of chocolate throughout the cookies. It also relies on a resting period to help ripen the dough — and the end result certainly lived up my expectations.

However, I would only recommend these if you really, really love chocolate. Since the recipe uses large discs of chocolate (and lots of them), the cookies are very chocolate-forward. They have large pockets of melted chocolate that are delicious, but can be a bit overwhelming if that’s not your speed. The high chocolate content also changed the texture of the cookies, making them more like candy bars than a typical cookie. While I personally loved the cookies, I could see how they would be overwhelming for some. My roommate noted that she could only eat one due to the richness. That said? If your favorite part of a chocolate chip cookie is the actual chocolate, this recipe is for you.

Difficulty to Make: 6/10

Overall Rating: 8/10

This cookie recipe uses every trick under the sun to make them. It browns the butter, chills the dough to further develop the flavor, and rips apart the dough balls to create the perfect craggly texture (among many other unexpected asides). Admittedly, the recipe was the most work and took some serious time to pull off, but the results were completely worth the effort.

The cookies had a rich, caramel flavor, thanks to the brown butter, dark brown sugar, and generous amount of vanilla that went into them. It was as if you were eating caramel-flavored chocolate chip cookies with hints of bourbon magically creeping in — a complex flavor that was much greater than the sum of its parts. The texture was also spot-on and was the perfect combination of crispy and chewy. While the recipe was a bit of a project, the final product exceeded my expectations. If you’re looking for a chocolate chip cookie that will seriously impress, this is the one.

Difficulty to Make: 8/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Your turn! What’s your favorite chocolate chip cookie that’s worth the time and effort?