A lot of us grow up baking chocolate chip cookies—often following instructions found on a bright yellow Tollhouse bag.


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A lot of us grow up baking chocolate chip cookies—often following instructions found on a bright yellow Tollhouse bag. But despite decades spent dropping those chip-flecked butterballs on to a pan, most of us still experience an occasional fail. They burn on the bottom, say, but retain a raw-ish liquid center. Or spread out to form greasy flying saucers. Or wind up crumbly and dry. Or, heaven help us, morph together in the oven to form one big amoebic mass—a cookie monster far less lovable than that cobalt-furred hedonist who lives on Sesame Street.

So, what went wrong? Generally speaking, it's simple to diagnose—and remedy—whatever baking fail ails you. The trick: learn how each step of the process, and each ingredient, functions to determine your results. Too-crumbly treats happen when a baker under-mixes the dough, or has a heavy hand with the sugar. UFO-cookies occur in an oven that's not hot enough, whereas a too-hot oven can result in burned bottoms. You can moisten up dry cookies by adding more liquid, or by cutting down on flour. For every problem, there really is a solution—which means achieving the cookie texture of your dreams is as simple as learning what causes what, and developing your perfect formula accordingly.

New to this stuff? Start by recreating the treats here, pretty dreamy in their own right. Perfectly chewy, they have a satisfying cake-like quality, too, and hold together nicely when you dunk them in a cold glass of milk.

Once you've got them down, experiment with homemade cookies. Tweak and taste, repeat, and then invite your friends over so you don't suffer sugar shock. Eventually, you'll land on the formula that represents your own perfect desserts. Bonus: You'll become a better baker in the process, on your way to designing all sorts of signature treats that are yours and yours alone.

Now that's something you can't get from the back of a yellow bag.

PS: We may have moved beyond the Tollhouse recipe, but we do still kinda love those chips. Tollhouse packs in plenty of glucose, helping to create an ooey-gooey effect that's pretty hard to beat. Feel free to sub them for fancier chocolate.

Get the full recipe at chefsteps.com