A pastry chef, a cannabis connoisseur and a 10-year-old walk into The Washington Post. There's no punchline. That's who we asked to judge some of the most popular chocolate chip cookie recipes on the web.
Arguably more American than apple pie, this cookie - which celebrates its 80th birthday next year - is adored for its simplicity and nostalgic nature. Because opinions differ widely about how the perfect chocolate chip cookie should taste, the internet is swimming with recipes claiming to be "the best," often promising results that would be super-chewy, crispy, extra-chocolaty or even health-conscious.
We wanted to single out one recipe as victorious (and probably stir up some controversy in the process), so we tried 10 of the most promising recipes and narrowed down the options to six, based on popularity and notable ingredients or baking techniques. We made sure that each one produced distinguishable differences in flavor. Then we tapped three local bakers to sacrifice their afternoons and glucose levels and offer their opinions of the finished products. And boy, did they have opinions.
One cookie was so gooey it needed multiple napkins to eat; one was so dry a tester almost spit it out; and one was so dense our 10-year-old judge couldn't even break it in half.
So which recipe took the cake, er, cookie? First, let's meet our judges:
Caitlin Dysart is the executive pastry chef at Centrolina in CityCenterDC. She was named a semifinalist in 2015 for the outstanding pastry chef award by the James Beard Foundation and was a nominee in 2013 for Food & Wine's people's best new pastry chef award. The Virginia native describes her ideal chocolate chip cookie as "medium-rare in the middle with about a quarter-size piece of soft," and when the recipe calls for walnuts, Dysart recommends subbing in pecans, because they pair better with brown sugar.
Victoria Harris, along with celebrity baker Warren Brown and lifelong cook Anna Leis, founded DC Taste Buds, a company specializing in sweet and savory foods laced with cannabis. Harris's dream chocolate chip cookie is "soft with chocolate chips that are melted throughout," and it often includes cannabis-infused butter. For obvious reasons, our recipes did not.
Maya Jindal, 10, is a former contestant on Food Network's "Kids Baking Championship." The gregarious fifth-grader lives in Great Falls, Virginia, where she loves to bake sweets and traditional Indian dishes for her family. Her favorite type of cookie: not too crispy. (Her favorite joke: "What did Yoda say when he sold his car? May the Porsche be with you.")
The least favorite cookie among all three judges was clear: a shortbread variation that they found too dry and crumbly. The unanimous winner - titled The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Joy the Baker - was hailed for its chewy center and sprinkle of coarse sea salt.
The 2014 recipe, one of the blog's 10 most popular posts, took founder Joy Wilson more than a year to perfect and was inspired by her father's penchant for cookies with a strong butter flavor. "He used to add Orville Redenbacher popcorn oil to his dough," Wilson said when we called to tell her the good news. "I thought there had to be a better way to intensify the flavor, so I tried browning the butter." Clearly it worked.