Thursday, November 16, 2017

Melt & Mix Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I recently posted a poll in my Instagram stories asking which recipe you'd like to see first on this blog: Melt & Mix Chocolate Chip Cookies or Chocolate Spice Cake with Butterscotch Sauce. Well it was a straight-up tie, so instead of posting half of each recipe (like someone suggested - but that would be mean), I'll be posting both! And first up... cookies!

You don't even want to know how many recipes I have for chocolate chip cookies.

Maybe it's unnecessary but I truly do find a time and a place for each one.

There is always THE ONE that is the best for my taste and I make it over and over, but sometimes I need a recipe designed to suit last minute occasions and instant cravings. That usually means I have no time (or no patience) for hours of chilling the dough nor do I have any or not enough softened butter on hand.

I always encourage chilling soft cookie doughs for so many reasons including flavour development and flour hydration for uniform browning, improved texture and less spread.

BUT, we all have those moments when we need chocolate chip cookies ASAP. This recipe comes as close as ever to the most bakery-worthy big, crisp-edged, chewy-middled chocolate chunk cookies in a pinch!

I used to be all about really thick chocolate chip cookies. And I still like those... but as I got older I realized that super thick sometimes means super doughy and I have developed an appreciation for a properly flat but substantially chewy cookie.

Let me clear something up though - there's flat, and then there's big. Big cookies often look more flat because they are wider so the proportions make them appear thin - but, flat and limp cookies are another story. Those cracks and crevices on your cookies are a sign that they will be chewy and pale smooth surfaces can mean flimsy and flavourless.

These cookies you see here bake up bronzed and brown like those you find in a proper bakery and they come with that buttery caramel flavour to match!

Let's begin!

First, those pools of chocolate... take them in for a moment.

Ok now Science stuff!

How do we get everything we want out of a chocolate chip cookie when we don't have ingredients at the right temperatures nor time to wait?

There are a few techniques:

1. Melt the butter.

It's something we do for brownies, but not normally for cookies. The creaming step which involves thorough blending of plastic fat (plastic as in the scientific term for its pliable but firm texture, not like... plastic.) with sugar is designed to build and hold some air into the dough so that it holds up and spreads more evenly in the oven. Using room temperature fat also means that your dough will be stiffer and less greasy. The fat is still in a stable emulsion with water so it holds up better against heat.

Melting butter collapses the structure inherent to butter (butter is an emulsion of water in fat), so that the solids (i.e. milk protein and milk sugar) and the water can separate from the fat making the cookies spread faster. The key is to not let that butter get too hot. Don't let it crackle or boil. You just want to melt it gently so that when you whisk it with the sugars it looks almost creamy in texture. When you are melting it, take it off the heat when there are about 2 tablespoons of solid fat visible and stir it around to let the residual heat melt it slowly. 

2. Use the right ratio of sugar to flour.

We need these to be chewy almost instantly and only sugar can give us that. The right quantity of sugar in this recipe ensures that they stay super chewy with golden caramelized edges. And I mean chewy! The ratio is just more than 1:1 by weight so there is about 10 grams more total sugar than there is flour.

3. Use a bit more flour than your standard recipe.

There's just a tablespoon or so extra flour than my regular "creamed" chocolate chip cookie recipe. That serves two purposes: 1) to provide some structure lost by the melted butter, and 2) to dry out the dough for those surface cracks. Normally a long resting time in the fridge helps to fully hydrate flour so that the surface of the dough is dry when the cookies bake, but with just 30 minutes of resting we need to simply use more flour so the dough sets quicker.

4. Bake at a high temperature.

With that sneaky leaky butter we need to cook these cookies quick! Baking at a higher temperature will coax the starch in the cookie dough to set faster before the butter melts out and causes these cookies to spread too flat. We're after large flat-ish cookies, not floppy pancakes. Let's make that clear.

4. Use chunks, not chips.

Chocolate chips are designed to withstand melting so they have extra sugar and other ingredients (such as milk powder) to help hold their shape. If you want a cookie whose chocolate is married to the dough with pools of melted chocolate beneath and between soft, gooey caramelized dough then use high quality dark chocolate - the kind you buy to eat in blocks. Chop off chunks of all irregular shapes and fold them in. As they melt they will carry the dough with them and help create those beautiful cracks and crevices.

So here they shine in all their glory. Eat them while still warm and the chocolate is all melty, or save them for later because they stay chewy and amazing for up to a week in an airtight container.

Big love,

Melt & Mix Chocolate Chunk Cookies 
makes 15 large cookies

½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, just melted
2/3 cup (145g) packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp (80g) granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 ½ cups (215g) all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Melt butter in the microwave in short bursts until it is mostly melted, then stir to melt the rest. Don’t let it bubble or boil because we want the water in the butter to remain. It should look like thick cream once the last bits of solid butter get stirred in.

Pour butter into a mixing bowl and add both sugars. Mix with a whisk until combined and it looks like sludge. Mix in vanilla and salt. Beat in egg until well incorporated and slight thickened. Sift flour and baking soda over the mixture and fold it in until mostly blended. Fold through chocolate chunks.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop mounds of dough onto prepared baking trays (do not flatten them). Space them at least 3 inches apart because they will spread quite a bit. Bake for 10-12 minutes until evenly browned. Let cookies cool on tray for a minute before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
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