Is it lame to start a baking blog and have the first post be on chocolate chip cookies? A tad stereotypical, maybe? Am I really being that guy, trying to tell you “yeah. I know everyone knows how to make cookies, but I do it so well!”? Um, yes well. Yes I am. Not that these cookies will defy everything you know and think about chocolate chip cookies. I simply aim to enlighten (…). Yes, cookie and enlightenment will go together in the same post. There are textures you should know, concepts you should understand. There is the fact that you should add nuts to everything. And sea salt. I don’t want to get into cookie politics here, but. Sea salt is the secret to ultimate cookie utopia. It is marrying Sweet and Salty together in something typically considered Sweet-Only domain. Its like throwing Kevin Spacey onto a Julia Roberts movie set. It would become so, so much better. Complexer-er and worth remembering. Salty Sweet Cookies. One? Psh no, four please. This is for the serious cookie eaters.
I decided to do your basic chocolate chip cookie as my first post because there are a few tricks (sea salt being the first and arguably most important) I think everyone should know, regardless of cookie preference.
The first step to making cookies is having room temperature butter. If your butter is cold you end up with these little whitish fat flecks all up in your cookie dough, and then your cookies aren’t going to be fluffy. Because fat flecks don’t fluff. Its against their nature.
If you’re is like me, cookies are a bit of an impulse thing. When I wake up in the morning I’m thinking about coffee and coffee. I’m certainly not thinking, I had better pull a stick of butter from the fridge and place it on the counter in order for it to come to room temperature in four hours. And when that urge for cookie finally hits, all I think is i want cookies when right now i think i need now cookieohmygosharetheyinmymouthyetwhyyy
So. Your butter is rock hard and you are silently panicking in your head. Stop. Take that butter block and place it between two sheets of parchment, and roll him. Roll him out like pie crust, or pizza dough, or… play doh? Yeah. The friction spreads that butter super fast, and when it gets thin it warms even quicker. I do this every single time I make cookies. Its foolproof and fun. Win-win! You can also reuse the parchment on your cookie sheet come baking time. And its compostable. Quadrupwin!
A physical definition of room temp butter is when you go to bend it between you fingers, it doesn’t break off (too cold) and it doesn’t moosh all over your fingers (too warm). It sort of bows into a bridge. Then you are ready to go on your merry way and cream the crap out of that bendy butter. The better creamed your sugar and butter are, the better the fluff. Who doesn’t like fluff?
And seriously, you really do need to sift all your dry ingredients. Not doing it won’t kill the cookie (god forbid) but it doesn’t help with the fluff factor. And the flour and baking powder can get a bit hard-packed if you don’t. And if you’ve ever bitten into a cookie (brownie, muffin, etc.) and revealed a little dry flour pocket, this is probably why. Sifting negligence. You don’t even need a fancy sifter from Sur la Table. I use a noodle strainer.
The last major tip/trick I have to give you today is this: toast your nuts. I suppose this note should be step one of the cookie making process (aka manifesting happiness). When you preheat your oven and are busy rolling your butter, sifting your flour, and so forth, put your nuts in the oven for about 5-7 minutes. Then they can cool while you’re creaming and stirring and what have you.
If you aren’t sure how to tell a toasted nut from a not-yet-toasted nut, stick your head in the oven when you’re checking them and sniff hard. When your nuts are fragrant, the essential oils are being released. That is all the flavor, which is why we are doing this step in the first place. When you can smell you nuts, they are done. And if you don’t know what a pecan’s natural body odor is? Or a walnut? Or almond? You will learn. And yay for learning!
The rest is basic. The rest is instinct. Make your cookies. Add all the deliciousness as you come to understand it. Sub white chocolate for the dark, or mix them, or throw some raisins in there instead. Paradoxically like dense fluffiness? Add a cup or so of rolled oats. Not into nuts? I am sorry. Expand your taste buds.
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped (chips work too if you like more consistency in your bites)
1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
flaky sea salt, a pinch or so to top each cookie (I used Falk Salt)
Preheat your oven to 325 F.
Once at temp, toast nuts for 5-8 minutes. Let cool.
In the meantime, cream butter and sugars until light yellow and fluffy. Whisk together egg and vanilla, and add a bit at a time to butter mixture, stirring until as incorporated as possible.
Sift together all your dry ingredients. Combine with butter mixture until almost fully incorporated. Add chocolate and nuts, stir until just combined. If its really very warm in your kitchen and the dough feels very soft, cover and refrigerate about 30 minutes to prevent over spreading during baking.
Scoop tablespoon-sized rounds onto a parchment lined sheet pan, flattening ever so slightly. Place about 1.5 inches apart. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt atop each cookie; the amount will depend upon your love of sodium and the size of your salt flakes.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Eat piping hot with your mouth open, or cool on a wire rack before eating.