Chocolate Chip Failures

Welcome to another segment of me making something and having realistic problems along the way and being unashamed I fucked up a little bit!

I told my dad that I wanted to bake something, and he recommended cookies. I asked what kind, and he showed me Claire Saffitz’s chocolate chip cookie video that was just uploaded last week, which you can watch here:

So chocolate chip cookies it was! Which is fine, because who doesn’t love them?

This recipe uses brown butter, which I have only used once before, and it was also in a chocolate chip cookie recipe! Honestly, making it is a bit time consuming, but it’s not difficult. I was nervous I’d mess it up or burn it since it was only my second time doing it, but I managed to nail it. It smells so good when it’s on the stove!

Not only does it use brown butter, it also uses dark and milk chocolate! I love a variety of chocolates in my sweets. Like ice cream that has dark, milk, and white chocolate chunks throughout.

The batter for these cookies was actually incredibly easy. Like I was shocked how quickly it came together, and how little effort it took! Besides browning the butter, it really only ten minutes to throw together in a stand mixer. The recipe calls for discs of chocolate, but I wasn’t really sure where to find those, so I just used half a bag of milk chocolate chips and then chopped up a 60% cacao Ghirardelli bar and threw them both in.

The dough turned out so perfect. Honestly, I always eat at least a bite of cookie dough before turning it into actual cookies, and let me tell you, this dough was amazing, Like obviously cookie dough is always delicious, but this dough was so good tasting, I could’ve eaten the whole bowl if it wouldn’t have (maybe) given me salmonella. Cookie dough always tastes better to me than actual cookies, so I almost didn’t even want to bake this dough, that’s how good it was.

But, I did bake them! And I kind of maybe burnt them. Like, all of them. Even though I timed all the batches differently. The video said 18-22 minutes, but I made them a little smaller than the size she did in the video, so I decreased the time to 17 minutes. And they came out way too dark. And hard.

So, next batch, same size, fifteen minutes. Still too dark. Still too crunchy.

Last try of the same size, twelve minutes. Almost exactly the same.

This is the twelve minute batch, and it’s so dark! I started to think it was because of the browned butter that they looked so dark, but the bottoms of them (and the other ones) were black, and they were too hard. I just couldn’t get them right.

So, I made them exactly the size she did in the video. I used a 1/4 cup and spaced them out as evenly as I could, then baked them for 13 minutes.

LOOK AT THESE!

Ugly AND burnt. Utter disappointments.

How could they all turn out so poorly when I’d adjusted the times? I get that I messed up the first three batches by making them smaller than what she did in the video, but I thought that the fourth batch would turn out, at least.

I totally goofed on these! I’m a little bummed out by it, because I really did want to chow down on some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. But, I might just try again and bake them for way less time, and experiment with different sizes more.

Anyways, yeah, there’s my fail of the day. But at least I learned something!

What’s your favorite kind of cookie? Do you prefer dark or milk chocolate for your chocolate chip cookies? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

-AMS

71 Comments on “Chocolate Chip Failures”

  1. I’ll just note, as a consumer of several of said cookies, across all batches, that they tasted fine. They were merely very well baked. I blame our oven. It is a finicky beast.

  2. I was going to suggest the oven as culprit. Sounds as though it may be running hot.

    One can find really simple thermometers to place inside the oven at most grocery and all kitchen specialty stores (expensive is not generally better).

    A quick check of oven temp before putting the cookies in might be instructive.

  3. Yup, that’s the oven, not the cook. :)

    A good set of thermometers is a your best friend in the kitchen. Why guess when you can know?

  4. Mart – The Hague, The Netherlands – 38-year old IT-geek and BOFH. Interests include Wargaming, History, IT, Cooking, Travel, and Historical European Martial Arts
    Mart

    Since Claire specifically mentions that the bottom of the cookies get less heat than the top, she’s using a conventional oven.

    So the question: is the Scalzi oven a convection oven by chance? These tend to need to be set 10-20% lower than conventional ovens because the fan setting up a hot air vortex in the oven tends to warm things more evenly and faster.

    Otherwise I’m going to agree with other posters: check your oven thermostat with a thermometer.

  5. We have a longtime family recipe for chocolate chip cookies that has a quirk that might be relevant here. The cookies take about 12 minutes to cook and, at that time, don’t look like they’re quite done, so the temptation is to leave them in the oven until they look cooked. This is the wrong thing to do and invariably results in over baked cookies. The quirk is to pull them out despite their appearance, and give them 5-10 minutes out of the oven but still on the sheet, to finish cooking there. Results in nicely baked cookies every time. You might experiment with that timing to see if it helps.

  6. The cookies sound delicious. My personal favorite cookie is oatmeal raisin. I like soft or chewy cookies rather than crunchy ones, so I get why you were disappointed with how yours turned out.

  7. Hank Roberts – California – I'm Nobody! Who are you? Are you --Nobody --Too? Then there's a pair of us? Don't tell! they'd advertise --you know! How dreary --to be --Somebody! How public --like a Frog -- To tell one's name --the livelong June -- To an admiring B[l]og! [Parody, with apology to] -- Emily Dickinson____ http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/711.html ____ Avatar stolen from illustration by James Donnelly of THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY by Carlo M. Cipolla, www.cantrip.org/stupidity.html or http://harmful.cat-v.org/people/basic-laws-of-human-stupidity/ or 'oogle it. _________________________ DISAMBIGUATION: not Hank Roberts the Internet Guy/Vlogger; not the cellist [hankrobertsmusic]; not the camping stove maker; not the angler; not British [hankroberts.org.uk]; not a corporate nor a union officer; not from Chicago; not at Southern Pacific; not the award-winning educator at peacemakersinc. You see the pattern. => If you may know me, ask; likely I owe you a long-borrowed book, an apology, thanks, and applause.
    Hank Roberts

    I always eat at least a bite of cookie dough

    You are, I hope, aware there’ some risk of salmonella from uncooked eggs.

  8. Do you have a baking pan that’s hollow in the middle? It’s a good investment if you have problems with things getting too done on the bottom. Or have your dad buy you a convection oven with his next advance, they are wonderful. Cooks things more evenly and faster to boot, often times at a lower temperature.

  9. I agree with others regarding the oven. Get a thermometer as mentioned above and them look up instructions for how to calibrate your particular oven. All your future baking projects and consumers of baking projects will thank you.

  10. To echo what others have said: 1) get an oven thermometer if you don’t already have one; and 2) get AirBake (or equivalent) cookie sheets. These have two layers, separated by a quarter inch or so, and are specifically made to avoid overcooked or burnt bottoms.

  11. Airbake sheets might help, but you can get a similar effect by using two sheets under the parchment or other liner.

    Also if you’re baking two sheets at a time, switch them halfway through the baking. And try using the upper rack positions. Classic advice is to divide the oven into thirds and put the sheets into the lower and middle thirds. Try using the middle and upper thirds.

  12. The airbake sheets are one thing I was going to mention, but others got to it first.
    Another is that if you are using a sheet that nearly fills the rack, or 2 side by side nearly filling the rack, you can limit the airflow, and in a oven that is heating from the bottom(most non-convection at least), that will result in overcooking the bottom of the items. Heat is trapped underneath, and thermostat is at the top, so oven gets even hotter.

  13. Totally agree with the comments about the oven. Reducing the time for smaller cookies is absolutely right, but when that didn’t work, reduce the temperature setting.

    But mainly I came here to say that none of those cookies looked burnt, and unless they were actually charred black on the bottom, I would have fought your father off for a chance to eat some.

  14. Words to live by: Cooking is art, baking is science.
    When you’re baking, precision matters. Measure by weight. Check your temperatures. Trust nothing & nobody. ;)
    Athena, my gut response to your travails is that your oven is much hotter than it says it is, which is a very common problem. Get a quality oven thermometer & check your oven temp before trusting it.

  15. The usual suspect: the oven. Temperature control is not that precise (“not even close” said a process control engineer), and then there’s all the issues around heat loss when you open the oven when moving trays in and out and how fast the oven heats up again, what temperature the dough was, etc. Temperature and time values from the recipe are just starting points for dialing in the process parameters specifically on your process and environment.

    The other suspect: variability of ingredients. I know nothing about how that’s organized in your part of the world, but Claire specifically mentioned different qualities of butter, and flour is a science in itself (to the point where you can’t really make french baguette with german flour and many german breads don’t really work with french flour types, etc). Again: needs experimentation.

    If it’s any comfort: I needed several years to get my christmas cookies right after I moved into a new appartment (there’s only one opportunity per year for that kind of experiment, because christmas).

  16. Yes to all of the above—oven temperature, type of cookie sheet, placement in oven (middle shelf is best), air circulation around the cookie sheet. Dark bottom of cookie suggests it’s too close to the heat source.

    For baking I prefer an electric oven, not convection. If I make a batch of cookies, and the recipe says 7-8 minutes but the first batch takes 9, they will all take 9. I like consistency.

    Bonus for you—the best sugar cookie recipe I know of, which I’ve been making for more than 50 years. Flavorful and delicate.

    https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/classic-sugar-cookies/90993177-b5fe-4cc7-a6b6-8f58913d36e8

  17. My mother always said they’re better burned.

    I actually like slightly burned cookies. I like the crunchy and caramelized sugar even if it’s a little bitter. You could send them my way!

  18. barryingram47 – Aspiring writer, cat herder, believer in the good of humanity. Twitter feed under username bigmoneygrip.
    Barry

    Nah, they look fine! I’m sure they were delicious. I moved, within the last two years, from sea level to almost 5,000 feet in altitude, and that affects EVERYTHING about cooking, from the time it takes water to boil to roasting chicken. I love to cook so it is a nice problem to have to figure out. Good luck on future projects!

  19. I won’t repeat everyone else’s excellent oven-based advice. Instead, I will simply applaud your perception for realizing that three chocolate types in a cookie is better than one.

  20. I don’t bake much at all, but chocolate chip cookies are the one area where I do know a few things.

    The first thing that jumped out is that 18-22 minutes is a long time to bake chocolate chip cookies at 350, even if they’re a bit bigger than normal. Most recipes I’ve worked off of use about half that time (for smaller cookies).

    The second thing I noticed: Claire says to make chilled dough, but her example batch used frozen dough, and the video wasn’t really clear whether “18-22 minutes” was for the first or the second. Googling, using frozen dough normally adds about 2 minutes to baking time – but that’s for smaller cookies; it might be more with larger. Maybe that’s the 4-minute variation? Not clear to me, I haven’t worked with frozen dough.

    The third thing is that, as others have said, ovens vary a fair bit in what they actually heat to, and often don’t distribute that heat uniformly, so “know your oven” is super-helpful.

    I hope your next batch is more satisfying to you! I think experimentation sounds like a great idea; you’ll end up with more cookies and more knowledge!

    (FWIW, Claire’s description of when to stop baking them – “pale, slightly shiny interior” – is great, and worth paying attention to. The centers really shouldn’t look quite done yet when you pull them out.)

  21. As others have said, lower your time a lot. 8 – 10 minutes. You can always add more time but you can’t take it away.

    My favorite cookie recipe is one I created that I call my healthy chocolate chip cookies (it isn’t) because it contains wheat germ, oat bran, and some other stuff like that. It makes the cookies have a more interesting texture.

  22. Mmmm chocolate chip cookies. Like everyone else, it sounds to me like the culprit is your oven. I recently moved, and both the oven and stove in my new place are TERRIBLE at maintaining correct temperature. And my stove scorches pretty much everything. It’s super frustrating.

    I love chocolate chip cookies. I’ve been using the same recipe that I inherited from my mother, which she got some time in the late 60s. I definitely prefer semi-sweet to dark (60% cocoa) chips in my cookies.

    Though my favorite cookies are shortbread. I don’t make them often since I eat them too quickly.

    Now I want cookies.

  23. It’s the oven, as everyone else has noted. You either have a convection oven, or it just runs hot. If you don’t have a thermometer, an easy fix is to adjust your temperature down by 25 degree increments until you get the correct result in the shortest bake time. So, if the first batch is burned in 18 minutes at 350, try baking the second batch at 325 for 18 minutes. Make a note on the recipe for future reference. My oven runs cool, so I generally up the temperature 25-50 degrees. Residential ovens aren’t precise. Professional ovens are better calibrated.

  24. They say charcoal is good for the digestion…

    With me it’s gingersnaps. My personal recipe has lots lets sugar and lots more ginger than the recipe I started with — kids don’t like them much but adults scarf then like crazy. I like to refrigerate the dough and bake small batches in the toaster oven — a plate of fresh warm cookies goes over very well when somebody drops by for coffee. (Which will hopefully be happening again soon.)

  25. Dry cookies make dunking mandatory. There are worse fates (like not having the dunking liquid of your choice handy.)

    The next batch will be better, and the one after that better still.

  26. I’ve used various recipes including “the recipe on the chocolate-chip bag”, which is of course chosen to be dead easy. Lately, I’m using a recipe from Serious Eats — can’t find the page now (I’m working from a printout), but this one features shaving pieces off a block of chocolate. So you get mostly streaks of chocolate instead of lumps. I like to use dark chocolate.

    My secret variation to any chocolate-chip-cookie recipe though, is to add cardamom, replacing the nutmeg if any (this particular recipe didn’t have any spice to start with, so I add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp.).

  27. The baking times are too long I think. One thing that made me a better cookie baker was acquiring Air Bake cookie pans. The pans have a double hull so that the cookie bottoms never burn. Another thing I learned from Mrs. Fields was to use a slower oven. All of her cookies take longer to bake but the temperature is only 300 degrees. Cookies are the Universal Language so don’t give up.

  28. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are my jam. Found a recipe that I modified to suit me over thirty years ago. I bake them for holiday parties mostly. Mini chocolate chips, real butter, vanilla and cinnamon, Mmmmm. Damn, now I want cookies too.

  29. Myself, I would research other brown butter chocolate chip cookie recipes and use the new found knowledge to adjust Claire’s recipe.

    At least you have a rational justification for baking more cookies.

  30. Dear Athena,

    Tres palabras!

    Infrared kitchen thermometer!

    Seriously, best thing ever. Very accurate and you can check all sorts of things for temperature, different spots in the oven, the cookie sheet itself. Heck, if you’re heating water for tea that doesn’t take boiling water, it’ll even tell you how hot the water is.

    Also good for spot-checking your fridge/freeze for hold/cold spots.

    Best $20 I ever spent in the kitchen!

    https://www.amazon.com/ThermoPro-TP30-Thermometer-Temperature-Adjustable/dp/B07VTPJXH9/

    pax / Ctein

  31. I think these cooking people should look at viewer videos and help them with any mistakes that were made. I would watch that!

    Since your dad Commented about the finicky oven, have you tried “monitoring” your oven by putting a slice of white bread in it with whatever you’re baking?

    (Your cookie saga is why I’m a bigger fan of cookie dough, than cookies. Someone should develop a way of “presenting” cookie dough so it looks more civil than digging your finger in the bowl.)

  32. As people have already said sounds like your oven is running hot. Also I would expect cookies like this to take around 12 mins to cook (I freeze cookie dough, and cook from frozen a couple of cookies at a time, and even then 15 mins is enough). When baking always worth cooking for less time and then keep checking on them. Once you have figured out the right timings write it on the recipe for next time, so you don’t have to watch it so carefully.

  33. A) I’m fat enough already, thank you very much
    B) I’m a pretty damned good cook
    C) I have a chemistry background. Baking is chemistry.

    All said, I suspect I would be a damned good baker. But I refer you to A above, which is why I resist learning to bake.

  34. Hope Griffin Diaz – North Carolina – So, to borrow from a popular shirt, I love Jesus but I cuss a little. Well, a lot. In fact, I just don't believe Jesus really gives a shit about the word fuck. He does care if you say f you or go f yourself. But a general adjective? Nah. I am married to the love of my life, Louie (aka Luis) and have an adult child, Christy. My mum, Nancy, is still with us and active in our lives. I love to read, I fancy myself an amateur gardener, I am owned by a large black purr machine maine coon cat named Samwise aka #SamSam and a Border Collie/Australian Cattle dog mix named Daisy. I knit. I craft. I sew. These are at my leisure and are hobbies. I don't take commissions nor do I do alterations. I'm an aspiring human being. I battle several mental illnesses including depression, major panic disorder, agoraphobia, germaphobia, claustrophobia, and some other assorted illnesses. I also have fibromyalgia and have had numerous traumatic brain injuries (into the double digits now). I am not able to drive at night. I don't know where this blog is going ... if anywhere.
    Hope

    Athena, unless these are burnt on the bottom, they look like homemade cookies.

    And I’ve ruined tons of baked recipes. It pisses me off. Practice!

  35. Pingback: Chocolate Chip Failures — Whatever – radio678

  36. I haven’t taken time to watch the video, but, like many have said, start with the oven calibration.

    Better yet, have Dad buy a less hinky one.

    The better half and I make 12-14 kinds of cookies every year for Christmas presents. The only cookies that cook more than 12 minutes are the Wedding Cookies, which are unleavened and do not spread.

    I would start checking how done they are at around 12 minutes. Golden brown is best, but further done cookies mellow with age.

    Some cookie doughs also cook better from cold, because cooking with butter can be weird.

    Congrats on your efforts, it sounds like you have progressed really well.

  37. My SIL once made chocolate chip cookies with too much butter in them, which made them both flatten and wrinkle up. I called them bulldog cookies. They were pretty tasty, actually. My favorite chocolate chip cookies use semisweet chocolate only (milk chocolate is all right as the main element of a chocolate bar, but not in baked goods, is the way I see it – of “white chocolate” we shall not speak), with chopped walnuts or pecans, and possibly a little orange zest.

  38. The great thing about baking, is that usually mistakes are still edible. Oven temps, ingredients, chill the dough-don’t chill the dough, baking times….all these things you’ll adjust as you learn what works best for you.
    Perfecting recipes is a delicious problem!

  39. I have to agree with all the other commenters–much more likely the oven than you.

    We have an older digital thermometer–can’t recall when or where we got it, sorry–that simultaneously indicates the temperature of food items (meat) and the air temperature in the oven. It’s proved that our oven runs between 25 and 50 degrees hot.

    Note that all ovens nowadays–certainly all electric, and quite a few gas ones–control heat by switching the element (or flow of gas) on and off on an “all or nothing” basis, so the quality and accuracy of your oven thermostat includes how wide the “dead band” around the desired temperature is (“hysteresis” if you want to impress engineers’). I.e. a good one might turn on when the temperature falls 10 degrees, and off when it rises 10–even that’s a 20 degree range around the set point. Ours is around +/- 25 degrees. Oven thermostats are not expensive, and not rocket surgery (although sometimes a PITA) to change out.

    I’d have eaten them anyway!

  40. Every homemade cookie, however imperfect, tastes better than any store-bought cookie.

    Also, dark chocolate.

  41. For the cookies that were crisper than you hoped for, those would be yummy crumbled over ice cream or turned into ice cream sandwiches.

    Brown butter takes lots of recipes up a notch! Smitten Kitchen browns the butter for rice krispie treats and that’s the only way I make them now. (“Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats”)

    I’ve been enjoying Claire’s youtube channel. You might also enjoy Erin McDowell’s “Bake It Up A Notch” baking series on Food 52’s youtube channel. Erin is a fabulous instructor and she typically includes “what can go wrong” info in her videos. I particularly enjoyed the video where she showed her dad via video call how to make biscuits from scratch (no biscuit cutter needed).

  42. No advice, but many years ago I baked antimatter chocolate chip cookies for my son’s class. I put cocoa in the batter and used white chocolate chips. He said they were a hit with his classmates.

  43. @Hank Roberts, I’m aware of the risk of salmonella but I cannot resist having a bite (or three) of the dough, either. One of my biggest pandemic sacrifices was to stop tasting my cookie dough.

    With the risk of hospitals being overloaded I figured it was my duty to avoid any unnecessary risk that could possibly cause greater strain on the healthcare system. No shaky ladders, no raw cookie dough. I only recently reintroduced it to my diet.

  44. Put down one more vote for “check the oven”. Or possibly replace the oven; I don’t know when your kitchen was last redone but I know from personal experience that ovens can just give up the ghost.

    I prefer chewy cookies to crunchy. Oatmeal chocolate chip is a favorite, as is my grandmother’s recipe for Chocolate Crackles (dark chocolate cookie dough, rolled in powdered sugar before baking).

    A group of us gets together for a couple weeks of cookie baking every December, except last year because two of the group are in high-risk categories. We’ve had good luck and good response to Anne Burrell’s molasses cookie recipe: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/molasses-cookies-recipe-2107593 . The only change we make is adding a bit of fresh-grated nutmeg, and usually chilling the dough for a few hours to give the spices a chance to blend.

  45. If the taste is good but the texture is rock hard, I bet these could make a good icebox cake! I think it’s Ina Garten who has a mocha icebox cake recipe, but honestly it’s as simple as layering the rigid cookies with whipped cream, pudding, or mouse layers, refrigerating for 8 hours or overnight, and then digging in.

    If you’re interest in other recipes to try for chocolate chip, my go to is: start with back-of-bag recipe with just a few changes. Instead of the 2 1/4 cups of flour, I do either 2 cups white and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour or just 2 1/2 of all purpose. For the sugar do 1 cup brown and 1/2 cup white. Keep everything else the same, but refrigerate the dough overnight if you have time before baking. This allows me to make thicker chewier cookies.

    I still have most of a chocolate cake in the fridge, but I want to bake cookies… oops.

  46. Cookies are demanding. My best tip is to get a stool and sit by the oven and watch the cookies. My cookies tend to burn the moment I take my eyes from them. (How can they know??) Honestly, your cookies look decent. Your twelve minute cookies look perfect on the top. Better luck next time!

    My recent favourite cookie is raspberry jam cookie. When I make them, I make them really small, so I can eat one in a single bite.

  47. Retired Baker here… How did they taste? THAT’S what matters, you’re gonna EAT them, not hang ’em on the wall for posterity… right?

  48. You’ve received lots of comments that your oven temperature/selection may be off and you should look into recalibrating it. I’ll definitely reiterate that.

    My method for baking, I use a tray much like yours, but I use a wire rack and parchment paper and the cookies on that. Gives me good airflow underneath and nice, even bakes. Now, once you’ve got the temperature problem solved, then you’ll get to do some tasty experimenting and figure out your tray technique!

    I like the idea of the special cookie pans, but I kinda loath additional storage space that I don’t have right now.

  49. Honestly, that’s how I like my chocolate chip cookies! I love a nice crispy cookie and don’t like soft gooey ones. tl;dr I’d buy ’em. :-)

  50. My oven’s built-in thermometer is digital, so it is very precise. I have no idea if it’s also accurate :-), but that’s even more questionable with analog bi-metallic oven thermometers. What it does tell me is that the “preheat” setting doesn’t always get up to full temperature.

    Dana, the problem with dunking cookies is that John, at least, does not appreciate the wonderful flavor that is coffee; I forget whether Athena and Krissy also feel that way. I suppose milk would do, but it’s a distant second.

  51. What does the brown butter do for a cookie taste? Does it make it seem richer, more caramelized?

    In college, the apartment I shared with friends had an oven we referred to as ‘the crematorium’; it had two temperatures, off and incinerate. Anything we baked in it went almost directly from raw to overdone if not burnt. Since it was a student rental unit, the landlord figured eh, good enough and ignored our requests to fix it.

  52. I’m a big fan of chocolate chip cookies (and browned butter and Claire) and have tried that exact same recipe and had very similar results. While the many commenters saying that it could be your oven might be correct, my oven is not finicky (if anything it runs slightly cooler) and I had very similar results as you with that recipe.

    I’ve had great success with the Hilton Doubletree recipe they released at the beginning of the pandemic, and have made it multiple times since then, every time with excellent results. It is now my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. The version I use is here (https://thepointsguy.com/news/hilton-doubletree-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe/), but I’m sure Google will find several sites with the same version.

  53. Ya know how your dad gets to read things he wrote days, weeks, or months, before submitting them?

    Yeah.

    What I said yesterday could be construed as an insult to you Athena.

    I did not mean it that way and, if I had your
    dad’s editing abilities I would have framed it different. I was pointing out my lack of self control, not your baking abilities, nor anything else.

    I suck sometimes, you are turning into a pretty good writer.

    Doesn’t help there isn’t a “preview” button next to “submit”….

  54. I’m not reading 60 comments, but definitely get an oven thermometer as several people said. Also, ovens can run different temps in different parts of the oven, not just top and bottom, but side to side. This, however, isn’t much of an issue in domestic ovens (I work in a bakery, and our bread ovens can vary by 50ºF depending on the side).

    Also, if your oven is a fan/convection oven, that will HUGELY affect baking times–lower the temp by (I think) 20ºF (I’m in England so it’s 10ºC here).

    Lastly baking trays matter. Black ones again need to lower the temp a bit (I don’t know if/how that stacks with a convection oven). Silver ones are better. Anodized aluminum EVERYTHING is a godsend. A bit more money and you’ll want to properly care for them, but they’re amazing.

    Tl;dr: Recipes are generally designed using non-convection ovens and silver/light colored baking sheets.

  55. Ah the good ole days.

    I had much the same experience with sweet potato pie.

    You’ll get the hang of it; I have faith in you.

    My adventures with chocolate chip cookies were usually butter centered.

    Let the butter get too soft and your cookies come out flat and hard.

    Don’t let it soften enough and get poorly incorporated dough that isn’t even worth baking.

    Accidentally use too much butter (don’t ask), try to add more dry ingredients and get an inedible mess no one will touch.

    As for my favorite cookie, I’m a white chocolate and English toffee kind of girl.

    I can choke down milk chocolate , but it has to be premium chocolate and not the faux choco-product they tend to use in mass-produced garbage.

    This means I don’t do cookies that often, because I insist on the 4 dollar a bar chocolate rather than the 4 dollar bags of corn oil, cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar they call chips these days.

    I love a good, thick and soft cookie when I’m in the mood for any kind of chocolate chip.

    When it’s ginger snap time, thin and crispy is the name of the game.

    And don’t even get me started on the wonders of dipped shortbread.

    At any rate, thanks for this recipe and for sharing your adventures in baking with us.

  56. I think by now it’s apparent that when baking, changing the time is not the same as changing the temperature. Adding or subtracting cooking time to compensate for guessed-at temps doesn’t work out so well. Better to get the temperature right and tweak the time.

  57. No comment on the cookies, but I want to let you know my family went through a Sakura snack box together after dinner tonight and it was fabulous fun! Some of it was tasty, some was meh, but all was fun! Thanks for showing it to us!

  58. On ovens: my (relatively new) range allows me to choose whether to run my oven as “normal” or “convection” – which is how I’d expect that feature to work by default. If there is a generation of standard-issue kitchen ranges/ovens that works via convection only, I am officially boggled.

    That said: I agree with the rest of the gallery (and the elder Scalzi) that the oven messed up the results much more than the baker did. I’m going to join the cluster of folks recommending a newer and less finicky oven – especially if there’s to be more baking, and more column entries about baking, here on Whatever (thereby possibly making the new oven tax-deductible).

    Where I disagree with the rest of the gallery is on the recipe itself. Even with a wonky oven, one or another of the attempted workarounds should have shown some degree of improvement – and the fact that none of them even came close says to me that the recipe as given is flawed or incomplete in some way. One thing that strikes me as odd is that the baking time is indeed given at 18-22 minutes – but the “start checking” time is given as 12 minutes, which is awfully early in proportion to the overall bake time. (That said, I think the problem with that last batch is that by the time it was baked, the dough may have been out of the refrigerator too long, and that that’s why those spread as much as they did.)

    So I think, rather than trying to get Claire’s recipe to work properly on a repeat experiment, I’d go hunting for a different one.

    My online recipe source of choice is the America’s Test Kitchen cluster of Web sites, with the caveat that I’m a paid subscriber over there (though they have, in light of the pandemic, made a substantial amount of content available outside their paywalls). You might search at cooksillustrated.com to see if their “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies” recipe, which is broadly similar to Claire’s, is inside or outside the gates.

  59. The best cookies I’ve ever had are ‘no bake’ peanut-butter fudge oatmeal drop cookies. Called in my family ‘dog poop cookies’ because, well, that’s what they look like. Cooked in one pan on the stove top you can make a batch in about 10 minutes.

  60. I understand your frustration: cookies can be difficult to get right. I like mine crispy, so when I make them they’re generally too soft. It sounds like you’re the opposite. Hopefully some of the suggestions given by others will help.

    Thank you for the idea of using browned butter; that sounds delicious!

  61. ‘Learning’ your oven is slower than getting and using a thermometer. For instance, I love baked chicken wings, but it took me quite a few tries to find the ‘best’ setting on the dial for cooking them to my liking. (Which still has to be combined with cooking time.)

    I still have no idea what the actual temperature IS in there, and has been mentioned above, it probably fluctuates over time as the oven cycles between heating/not heating. How much? No idea…

    Someone above said that baking is ‘science’ but in science all variables are controlled. I prefer to think of cooking as an ‘art’, remembering what Norman Maclean wrote – “To him, all good things … came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.”

  62. Some Amazon reviews for Claire Saffitz’s book “Dessert Person” say that it has a lot of errors. I love her videos but if you get bad results from one of her recipes I think it’s reasonable to suggest that the fault might be in the recipe as much as in the oven or the baker.

    (My own go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe — I have just transferred some of them to the cooling rack, as I type — is David Lebovitz’s, which you can find in his book “Ready for Dessert” and online at https://www.seriouseats.com/david-lebovitzs-chocolate-chip-cookies-recipe . These cookies are about 35g each, and cooked from chilled-but-not-frozen for about 10 minutes in my fan-assisted oven at 165 degrees C ~= 330 degrees F, then left 5-6 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack; they are very slightly overbaked.)

    Having said that, I doubt she’s just lying about what she’s baked and how, so the chances are that there’s some way to tweak the recipe so that it gives good results. Double-checking the oven temperature and reducing the cooking time (as a bajillion or so other people have already recommended) seem like good ideas; I concur with everyone else who’s said that 18-22 minutes seems like an awful long time to bake a chocolate chip cookie.

    (Sciencey interlude: When you cook something, you want (1) all of it to get to a certain temperature, (2) maybe for it to stay there for a certain amount of time, and (3) the outside to get the right amount of browning or whatever. The time for #2 and #3 doesn’t depend on how big the thing is. The time for #1 scales roughly like the square of how far it is from the surface to the furthest-in bit, if whatever changes you’re making don’t change the shape, which means it scales like weight^(2/3). So if you double the weight, you multiply the cooking time by about 1.6, except that just doing that will overdo it a bit because of #2 and #3, so you probably actually want to reduce the temperature a bit too. Unfortunately life is more complicated than this. Cookies’ shape changes during baking, and also a larger cookie probably ends up about the same absolute thickness as a smaller cookie, not the same relative thickness.)

    It looks to me as if Claire has 19 cookies, from ingredients weighing about 1225g, so hers are a just under 2x the weight of mine. I would expect a cooking time of at most 15 minutes at a temperature of about 160 degC = 320 degF (fan-assisted). She does hers at 350 degF and I think her oven isn’t fan-assisted so her timings sound too long to me; but then in the video she’s cooking from frozen which will extend it a bit.

    The tops of the cookies in your pictures look good to me.

    Chocolate chip cookies should (if you like them soft) look as if they aren’t quite fully baked in the middle when you take them out of the oven. Go with Claire’s description: golden-brown edge and pale, slightly shiny interior.

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