Chocolate Chip Cookies for Everyone

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Everyone

In July 2009, The Times ran an article by David Leite, a cookbook author and food writer, that chronicled his quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The recipe he developed as a result of his deep dive into flour types, hydration periods, chocolate percentages and salt ratios is loosely adapted from Jacques Torres, the famous pastry chef and chocolatier. David’s recipe, which calls for two kinds of flour and 36 hours of “aging” in the fridge, has become a cult favorite among NYT Cooking readers. One reader wrote that it’s “THE only chocolate chip cookie recipe you’ll ever need.”

But if you eat a gluten-free or vegan diet, you’ve been out of luck. Until now!

The editors at NYT Cooking charged me, a recipe developer and food stylist, with the task of developing vegan and gluten-free versions of the famous recipe. After many hours of baking, 400 cookies, seven types of flour and endless taste-tests, I am happy to say that I landed on two great recipes that will satisfy your chocolate chip cookie craving. Here’s how I did it.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie

“Veganizing” the original meant I had to replace the butter and eggs, as well as the granulated sugar, which — don’t shoot the messenger, if you didn’t already know this — uses animal products in the refining process. For the butter, I tried olive oil, coconut oil, vegan butter and shortening. Much to my surprise, vegan butter won out: It provided the best flavor and best replicated the qualities of dairy butter, like browning and spread. For the egg, I tried leaving it out entirely, or replacing it with flaxseed powder, applesauce or powdered egg replacer. The flaxseed powder provided structure, contributed a delightful chew, and didn’t adversely affect the flavor or color of the cookies. Substituting the sugar was the biggest challenge. Vegan go-tos like agave, maple syrup and brown rice syrup required significant alterations because they are liquid, and caused the cookies to brown and spread unevenly. In the end, a combination of unrefined cane sugar and coconut sugar, which makes an excellent brown sugar substitute, produced the best results. As for the chocolate, it’s relatively easy to find vegan chocolate, but check the ingredients to be sure there’s no added sugar or dairy. Once I’d figured out the substitutions, I tweaked the recipe to accommodate them.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie

Developing a gluten-free version turned out to be a surprising process. My goal was to create a recipe that required just one type of flour, rather than several, as is the case with a lot of gluten-free baked goods. Honestly, I thought I’d end up resorting to a blend, but after trying a number of flours (white rice, brown rice, potato, chickpea, coconut, store-bought gluten-free all-purpose blends and almond), I was shocked (and thrilled!) when every taste tester preferred the same cookie: the one made with store-bought almond flour. It created a cookie that was beautifully chewy and golden brown. All that was left were some tweaks — like reducing the ratio of butter and eggs — to get it closer to the original recipe.

(If you want a gluten-free and vegan cookie, substitute the all-purpose flour with 2 ¾ cups/310 grams finely ground almond flour in the vegan recipe.)

Two things to note: Neither of these recipes benefits from the 36-hour aging period that’s called for in the original. In the gluten-free recipe, the almond flour won’t absorb moisture the same way wheat flour does, making chilling unnecessary. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to chill the vegan dough, but I found no significant difference in the texture when I did so. Also, unlike the original recipe that called for two types of flour, the vegan cookie ended up using only all-purpose flour; for some reason (science!), in that version, the two flours yielded cookies that were consistently dry and crumbly. In the development process, the constant tweaking of ingredients also altered the yield slightly, which is why the recipes produce a different quantity than the original.

Whatever you do or don’t eat, absolutely everyone deserves a go-to chocolate chip cookie in their recipe box. Here’s hoping one of these recipes earns a spot on your “most baked” list.

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