All right. Time to let these cookies out into the world.
These started out as a Nigella Lawson recipe that failed on me. I followed the recipe to the letter, and came away with a single amorphous cookie-blob on a baking sheet. Normally I would have just chalked it up to bad luck and let it go, but something about this recipe stuck with me. Maybe it’s the fact that it calls for three types of chocolate: melted, cocoa, and chips. Maybe it’s that I’ve never had a chocolate-chocolate-chip cookie that really lived up to my daydreams. Whatever it was, I had to perfect these cookies.
I don’t think I’ve ever obsessed over a recipe like I have this one. I’ve tweaked and fiddled and ruined more batches than I care to count, all in service of my one dream cookie: intensely dark and decadent, sturdy at the edges and soft in the middle, with an absurdly high chip-to-dough ratio. It’s taken at least a year of frenzied testing; at the end of it, I was back at approximately the same proportions as when I started. But I think I’ve finally cracked the chocolate chip cookie code, and it comes down to four things:
- Melted butter. I don’t own a stand mixer, and beating cookie dough with a hand mixer never goes well for me. So I always cream sugar and butter by hand, and that can make for wildly inconsistent cookies. Melting the butter along with the chocolate solves this problem, and helps the cookies stay soft and yielding. It does, however, make for an almost alarmingly gooey dough, so soft that you may worry it won’t hold together when scooped. Trust me–it will.
- Size. I’ve tried shaping and scooping the cookies several different ways, and there’s no getting around it: bigger is better here. Larger cookies hold their shape better in the oven, are more resistant to overbaking, and yield a lovely range of textures: crumbly on the sides, crisp on top, soft and melting in the middle. I’ve had best results with my beloved #16 cookie disher, but you could also use a 2 oz (1/4 cup) ice cream scoop, as long as it’s got some sort of spring release mechanism.
- Temperature. You could certainly scoop and bake the cookies straight from the mixing bowl–they’ll spread quite a lot and become chewy-crisp all over. But if you have time, I highly, highly, highly recommend that you scoop the cookies in advance and freeze them. Just portion the cookies out onto a baking sheet, freeze them till rock-solid, then pop them into a zip-top bag and bake as many as you want, when you want, straight from the freezer. Baking the cookies when they’re ice-cold means they’ll spread less and rise more, yielding a tall and tender cookie with a crisp exterior and a luscious, fluffy center. Yum.
- Time. The cookies are best when baked until they’re just barely set–there should be a thin, firm crust on top, but the interior should still feel gooey and unstable. For my oven, the magic number is 12 minutes for fresh cookies, and 14 minutes for frozen. Once they’re out of the oven, let the cookies cool for at least 15 minutes on the baking sheet, so that the heat from the metal underneath can gently coax the interior to doneness. You want the cookies set enough to handle, because breaking into that pillowy interior is an absolutely glorious thing. And don’t worry about losing the fresh-from-the-oven magic–the cookies will stay warm for at least 30 minutes, and the chocolate chips inside will stay molten for at least an hour.
Oh, and about that chocolate: don’t bother with the expensive stuff here. You’re going for big, brawny, chocolate-dense, nothing subtle or refined; supermarket chocolate fits the bill nicely. This is San Francisco, so I use Ghirardelli all the way–bars, cocoa, and chips. The cookies are still seriously indulgent.
Triple Chocolate Cookies (makes about 1 dozen large cookies)
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
4 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, broken into pieces
4 oz (1 stick/8 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup natural (unsweetened) cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp coarse sea salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 (12 oz) bag semisweet chocolate chips
Bring about 1 inch of water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Place a large heatproof mixing bowl over the pan of simmering water. Add chocolate and butter to the bowl and melt them together, stirring frequently. When the mixture is completely melted and smooth, remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350º F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
Beat brown sugar and granulated sugar into the melted butter and chocolate, making sure any lumps of brown sugar have dissolved. Beat in egg, followed by vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients, all at once, and mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Use a cookie disher or ice cream scoop to scoop the dough onto the baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies are set on top but still gooey in the middle. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool for at least 15 minutes on the baking sheets before devouring.
Variations: To make Mexican chocolate cookies, add 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the dry ingredients, and use almond extract instead of vanilla.
Variation: To make chocolate hazelnut cookies, use hazelnut extract or Frangelico liqueur instead of vanilla extract, and fold in 1 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts along with the chocolate chips.