Even the word ‘cookie’ makes me weak; doesn’t it conjure up images of books, steaming coffee, soft afternoon rain, black and white films, long languid chats with people who make you giggle, private decadent time curled up with a notepad and a cup of tea dreaming about your future?! It does for me.
I eat quite nutritious food most of the time so if I’m going to dive into a tray of freshly baked cookies I NEED them to be a sweet fudgey-centred, crisp outer-layered, flawless choc-chip/nut ratio experience. Anything less is an insult to the word ‘cookie’ and a waste of your treat time.
So here’s what I’ve found after years of cookie baking…
COOKIE SCIENCE (or tips for fans of the Crisp Outside/Chewy Inside School of Cookie)
– JUST CHILL. I like to refrigerate my cookie dough for at least an hour before baking. This does two things: it allows the ingredients to amalgamate better, the flour to absorb the egg, and gives your cookies a deep butterscotch base note AND the firmer butter means your cookies won’t spread as much in the oven (ever had that heartbreaking moment when your cookies plural become one thin giant disc?) so you’ll get a nice thick multi-textured cookie. Because that’s the aim of the game here, right? The perfect cookie demands that textural dichotomy between soft and crunchy. Some expert bakers have advocated leaving dough to rest for 24 or 36 hours BUT they fail to accept the INHERENT NATURE OF COOKIES: they’re almost always made in response to a CRAVING, so we simply can’t be baking with that kind of Martha Stewart forethought.
A pre-cookie situation should go like this…
“Ooh, you know what I feel like?”
“A freshly baked batch of cookies!”
“Oh ME TOO! Can you make them by the time I’ve finished reading this chapter?”
– SEA SALT IS THE SECRET. Don’t skip it. This isn’t savoury’s time to shine BUT this ingredient is going to give you a depth of flavour to make any sweet tooth swoon.
– HEAT THAT OVEN. Putting them in a sorta-kinda-warm oven will ruin all your hard work. At least 15 minutes before the tray goes in you should be flicking that switch or face a cookie congealed mess.
– STEP AWAY FROM THE SPOON. They’re mixed already. Leave it. Over-working your dough will make for tough biscuits.
– YES, IT’S WORTH GOING TO THE SHOP FOR BROWN SUGAR. It makes them moist, it makes them taste and smell like caramel. What more do I need to convince you? I’ve put down there in the ingredients a mix of sugars but often I’ll just use all brown when I’m lazy.
– THE DARK SIDE. Are you sure you want MILK choc chips? They’re already nestled in a cozy bed of butter and sugar so I find that the bitterness of dark chocolate is best so your cookies aren’t sickly sweet.
– THE POINT OF NO RETURN is when they actually look golden in the darkness of the oven – by then it’s too late. Take them out BEFORE you think they’re ready. Out in the real world you will see they’re darker than they first appeared. (Speaking of colour, chilling the dough also helps them achieve that lovely golden hue.) You’ll think it’s premature but trust me, what seems soft now will suddenly become quite crisp once they have been left to cool.
250g butter. 1.5 cups brown sugar. 0.5 cups granulated sugar. 2 eggs. 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. 2.5 cups plain flour. 1 teaspoon baking soda. 1 teaspoon sea salt. 1.5 cup chocolate chips. 1 teaspoon cinnamon. 1 cup chopped nuts.
Cream butter with sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, sea salt and cinnamon together. Add chocolate and nuts to the dry ingredients. Gently fold dry into wet until just combined. Chill dough in fridge covered in cling wrap for as long as you can. Spoon out even cookie balls on a lined baking tray with lots of space between each one. Pop into a pre-heated 180-degree oven for 8-15 minutes depending on size and thickness.