Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bittersweet Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some recipes are bête noirs, recipes that thwart you time and time again no matter how many times you attempt to master them. Apple pie is in this category for me. I always try to fancy it up, and the results are always okay but less-than-ideal. I keep attempting to make amaretto caramel sauce for the filling, and it always ends up thin and runny. Another trick is using ground almonds in the crust, which does add flavor but reduces the flakiness of the pastry. I like a high fruit-to-crust ratio, so I also tend to overfill the pie. This leads to an underbaked middle and a filling that won’t set.

The best apple pie I ever made was last Christmas at my mom’s. Since I’m the family baker –and in fairness, because I always complain about my mom’s pie (she makes an all-margarine crust, for example), I was assigned the task of making two pies and a batch of Christmas cookies.

Given these assignments, I hardly left the kitchen on Christmas Eve, and I didn’t have the time or energy to get fancy with the pies. My only concessions to creativity were making one plain-top and one crumb-top pie. Neither pie had any special flavorings aside from lemon zest in the filling. I didn’t have as many apples as I thought I wanted, so neither was over-filled with fruit.

Both pies were both perfect. That’s the thing about apple pie: it needs no embellishment. I told myself I would remember this lesson next time I made pie … but I didn’t. Visions of caramel-drenched apples stymied me once again.

This recipe is the opposite of apple pie. It turns out perfectly every time.

I make two versions of chocolate chip cookies. One is more traditional, and I’m sure I’ll be posting that recipe eventually. This one uses nut butter in place of some of the regular butter, and that gives the cookies a soft, chewy flavor and texture. Whenever I make the nut-butter version, I use bittersweet chocolate chips. The only brand I know of is these, by Ghirardelli, but there may be others:I was making a double recipe -- you only need one bag for a regular batch. Peanut butter is the only nut butter I consistently have on hand, and I feel like peanut butter goes best with dark chocolate.

Speaking of which, have you tried those Reese’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups? Heaven.

I found this recipe on a blog a couple of years ago, but I don’t recall which one. I did some googling because I wanted to give credit, and apparently, this recipe was originally from The New York Times. This was the best chocolate chip cookie before The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie.

As with most cookie recipes, I add a bit of malted milk powder to this, but otherwise, I leave it alone. This might be why it works out so much better for me than apple pie.

Bittersweet Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp or melted
1/4 cup unsweetened hazelnut paste, peanut butter, or other nut butter (I’ve always used peanut butter)
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons malted milk powder
2 large eggs
2 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 bag chocolate chips, ideally Ghirardelli 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate chips.

Heat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Cream together butter & sugars. Add nut paste, beating till smooth. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and malted milk powder.

In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to butter and stir well. Add chocolate chips.Stir until incorporated.
Shape heaping tablespoons of dough into slightly flattened round discs with your hands and place onto prepared cookie sheets. They should look like so:
Bake 9-12 minutes till very lightly browned and cool completely on wire rack. Yield 3-4 dozen.Okay, so here is where I need to clarify, lest this recipe become a bête noir for you. First, if you use the Ghirardelli chips, you’ll find they are very slippery. They will slide right out of the dough while you’re forming the cookies into balls. Don’t let them! I often press the chips directly into the top of the cookies once I’ve put them on the cookie sheet. If you don’t, you’ll be left with a little puddle of chocolate chips before you run out of dough, and while I can envision worse catastrophes, these cookies are best when overflowing with chocolate.

The second objection is related to the first. This is a very stiff cookie dough. It feels more like a rolled cookie dough than a drop cookie dough. You will think you need more fat, but you don’t – just persevere with stirring and imagine the good that you’re doing your upper arms. You’re not doing anything wrong, and you definitely don’t want to do anything daft like throwing in more butter. It’s not necessary and would ruin the texture of the cookies.

I don’t usually bother with parchment paper when I make cookies, but it’s worth the trouble for these because the Ghirardelli chips are so melty. You will also need to let these cookies set up for at least an hour or two before storing them – it takes at least that long for the chips to harden up after baking. I learned this to my chagrin last weekend, when the nice bag of fresh-baked cookies I brought to my knitting group turned into a mudslide-in-a-bag on the way over.

Finally, I have a caveat. I tend to be a sloppy baker and only halfheartedly measure major ingredients. I used too much flour in the depicted batch, and the cookies were ever-so-slightly dry. That’s totally my fault, though, and not the recipe’s. If you use accurate measures, you’ll be fine and the cookies will be soft, moist, pillowy, and chewy.Like an army of cookie goodness.

Printable recipe here.


  1. The perfect chocolate chip cookies. Like a little black dress!

  2. Except that too many cookies will keep you from being able to zip it! ;)

  3. oh wow, i want some right now!