Monday, December 1, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 1: Copycat Panera Chocolate Chip Cookies

Copycat Panera Chocolate Chip Cookies - made dough November 16, 2014 from The Pinning Mama
Let's kick off December with cookies. Over the next 12 posts (or so), I'm going to blog some of my favorite cookies for the holidays (and often year round). Some will be seasonal suitable for the occasion while others will simply just be great cookies to make for holiday parties, social gatherings, care packages and gifts. Regardless, they're my go-to recipes for the massive amount of baking I do during the holidays. And if you want to know what I mean by massive, here's a picture of the inventory from one of my pantry shelves that I took while I was taking stock to see what I already had and what I still needed (mini chocolate chips in case you were wondering from the picture). Have to get ready for my baking season.
Not pictured: 72-ounce bag of Tollhouse semisweet chocolate chips
As you may know, I’m a sucker for a new chocolate chip cookie recipe. Even though I have at least 3 I love (Bakery-StyleChocolate Chip CookiesAlton Brown’s Chocolate Chip Cookies and Averie’s Softand Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies), I still keep trying out new recipes. My friend, Annie the Baker, says it’s because I haven’t found the perfect one. I say it’s because I’ve found 3 perfect ones and I still have recipe ADD. Plus any excuse to make chocolate chip cookies…. Even though chocolate chip cookies are not really seasonal like pumpkin pie, gingerbread men, snowflake cookies or anything eggnog, when I unleash my holiday baking extravaganza every December, chocolate chip cookies still rank as a top favorite and request amongst my baked goods recipients. Some things are just timeless. 
I have very picky requirements for trying out new chocolate chip cookie recipes though. If a picture accompanies the recipe, the pictured cookie must be thick, chubby and moist-looking like it’s chewy, not cakey. If it’s so thin that the chocolate chips make bumps out of the flattened cookie, I move on. It also must be a purist cookie, i.e. no nuts, oatmeal, coconut, peanut butter or any other foreign substance. I’ll still bake with those ingredients but then they’re not a chocolate chip cookie. Butter, sugar, brown sugar, flour, eggs, leavening, salt and chocolate chips. Maybe something innocuous like a vanilla pudding mix. Otherwise, that’s it and the only difference between the recipes is the proportion of ingredients and the baking method.
This copycat Panera recipe met my criteria so I added it to my cookie experiments. I used mini chocolate chips as the recipe suggested. I’ve seen that suggestion in many recipes; the point is you actually get more chocolate in each bite since the mini chips are plentiful and more evenly distributed throughout the cookie. I have no issues with that concept but, being a milk chocolate-crazed eater, I wish they made mini chocolate chips in milk chocolate instead of just semisweet. I’m sure if I looked hard enough I could find milk chocolate mini chocolate chips but I’m going to guess they’d cost me half an arm more than the normal Tollhouse mini chips.
Let's cut to the chase on this one. Remember how I said I had 3 favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes? Make that 4. Yep, this one is amazing too. The dough handles easily and does not spread very much, Not only did it remain thick and chewy but it was also moist and had the perfect texture. I didn't even mind that the chips were semisweet. This is a good cookie. Plus, look at 'em. Cute, right?? Just make sure you underbake these or you won't get the wonderful, moist, chewy texture pictured here.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 bag mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Mix butter, shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. 
  2. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until well combined. 
  3. Combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt and mix together. 
  4. Mix dry ingredients slowly into wet ingredients and blend well. Add in mini chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed. 
  5. Using ¼ cup measure, scoop out dough and form into a thick disc (not a ball as these don't spread much). Continue until all dough is portioned out. Place dough in the freezer for 2 hours or overnight.
  6. Place frozen cookies onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Let cool 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling

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