Vallery Lomas knows her way around a baked good. Not only was she the winner of Season 4 of The "Great American Baking Show," she’s also the author of the newly released "Life is What You Bake It." As you might imagine, she knows a thing or two about how to make chocolate chip cookies. I was recently lucky enough to talk with the baker extraordinaire all about the iconic cookie—and trust me, you’re going to want to hear her best tips.
1. Age Your Dough in the Fridge to Develop Flavor
I know, I know, it’s hard to imagine tacking on even more time when you need a homemade chocolate chip cookie ASAP, but letting the dough sit overnight will help. “The extra time helps age the dough which means more flavor,” says Lomas. “The extra time also allows your flour to hydrate for more even browning.” You can go straight from the fridge (or the freezer) to the oven, just be sure to adjust your baking time by a minute or two.
2. Play Around With the Types of Chocolate You Use
The kind of chocolate you use for your cookies can make a big difference. While the premade chips are totally fine to use, there are a couple small ways to up your game. “Chocolate chunks are nice because you get more of the big pockets of chocolate,” says Lomas. She also says you should feel free to mix-and-match the kinds of chocolate you use— semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, etc.
If you really want to step it up, however, Lomas suggests using a really great bar of chocolate that you cut into chunks yourself. “It doesn’t have to be the same kind of chocolate,” Lomas explains. “It makes things more interesting and tastier.”
Lomas’ favorite chocolate to use in chocolate chip cookies has a higher percentage of cocoa—in the 60 to 70% cacao range. “If I have a really good chocolate bar laying around, I just cut it up and put it in the cookies. I like pure dark chocolate, but if I have one of those really good chocolate bars with toffee or something interesting, it’s gonna be great,” she says.
3. Don’t Over-Mix Your Dough
How you mix your cookie dough together matters. Even if you’re in a rush, you should resist the urge to crank up the speed on your stand mixer. “When you’re mixing your dough in the beginning, take your time when creaming your butter and sugar, because that’s going to help aerate your cookies,” she explains. “Then, when adding the eggs, don’t whack the life out of them. Once you add your flour and the dry ingredients, stop the mixer a little bit before everything is combined. Finish it by hand with a sturdy spatula or a wooden spoon, so that you’re not overmixing it.”
Lomas also suggests adding the chocolate in before the dough gets too homogeneous because “you’re going to need to keep mixing to get your chocolate evenly dispersed.”
Not using a stand mixer to make your cookie dough? A wooden spoon is fine, although Lomas says you’ll need a little more elbow grease to get the job done. You can also use a hand mixer, but you want to be careful when you add the dry ingredients. “Hand mixers have those beaters and you can easily over-mix. It’s best to use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. You don’t want to overdo it!” says Lomas.
4. Let Your Cookies Finish Baking on the Baking Sheet
Lomas says she bakes two sheets of cookies at a time to be efficient. “Put your oven racks in the top and lower thirds of the oven, and then switch halfway through, because they’re going to be cooking at different rates in different places in the oven,” advises Lomas.
As far as how long you bake them, that’s a little bit more of a preference. Lomas likes to pull out her cookies out on the earlier side. She says “I do like to let them sit on the cookie sheet to finish baking, since I like to bake them on the chewier side. I might let them sit on the pan for about 5 minutes or so after I take them out of the oven before I move them to a cooling rack, where I’ll let them cool completely.” Lomas says this tip ensures the bottom of the cookie gets nice and sturdy so it doesn't break. “But always be careful. I use an offset spatula or even a pancake spatula to move them to the cooling rack,” she advises.
5. Make (and Freeze) Your Dough in Advance
You never know when the craving for a chocolate chip cookie will strike—which means you should always be prepared. “I like to make the dough in advance and shape them into balls to keep in the freezer,” explains Lomas. “That way, when you’re ready to have them, you can bake however many at a time.”
BONUS TIP! Use Olive Oil AND Butter to Make Your Cookies
Lomas’ chocolate chip cookie recipe (which you can find in her cookbook!) uses both olive oil and butter. “By using both I get that chewy center of the cookie, but the edges get crispier. Using olive oil imparts a nice, delicate edge. The butter adds that delicious flavor and allows for a chewier center,” she says. The olive oil also makes the cookies easier to shape. What’s not to love?