Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’ve ever scanned the offerings on a packed school bake-sale table you’ll know one thing: Not all chocolate chip cookies are created equal.

Though most recipes contain roughly the same ingredients, these treats might lean towards being cakey, gooey, crispy, or crumbly. And everyone has their own idea about what the perfect chocolate chip cookie should taste like, whether they swear by their grandmother’s secret formula or a recipe from one of their favorite web sites.

Most people understand that different baking methods produce different types of cookies, but cookbook author Tessa Arias, who also produced The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies on her blog, Handle the Heat, turned her obsessively scientific eye on the process.

We can’t help but love her empowering words: “This information will allow you to alter or create your own chocolate chip recipe that produces cookies just the way YOU like them. You’ll be an expert on the anatomy of the chocolate chip cookie,” she writes.

PEOPLE caught up with Arias to ask her a few insider tips. She told us her must-have, stranded-on-a-desert-island baking tool is her cookie scoop (hers is by OXO). “It makes quick and easy work of portioning out perfect balls of cookie dough that bake up nice and evenly,” she said.

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Here are some of her key findings:

For a cakey texture: Using baking powder (and remove baking soda)
For a soft-yet-crisp texture: Use equal amounts baking soda and baking powder
For a crackled-top, brownie effect: Melt the butter
For an intense butterscotch flavor: Use only brown sugar
For chewy cookies with a good depth of flavor: Chill the dough for 24 hours

In her four-part guide she also experiments with various baking sheets, oven temperatures and health-related substitutions such as coconut oil, whole wheat flour and flax egg, making close to 30 different variations. Thankfully you only need one recipe to reach your personal cookie nirvana—and own that bake-sale table, while you’re at it.

—Lexi Dwyer

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