Chocolate chip cookies are the ultimate wonder food. Equally delicious consumed in any form: raw, cooked, overcooked-and-crispy, frozen-and-raw (thanks Ben and Jerry's), cooked-and-frozen (ice cream sandwiches), underbaked-and-melty, or simply piping hot straight out of the oven. As such, they have a unique ability to immediately satiate any mood.
There is always a secret stash of chocolate chip cookies in some from in my kitchen. They are a pre-requisite for packed lunches, emergency gifts, and frozen for unexpected visitors. I usually make a batch of dough, scoop the balls with my trusty ice cream scoop and lay them all out on a tray in the freezer until set. I pop the frozen dough balls into a ziplock ready to cook as many as I need at a time, with no need to defrost first. It is a great comfort knowing that I can serve fresh cookies at a moments notice and avoid the temptation of late night leftovers or weeknight midnight feasts.
While I do not profess to have a preferred chocolate chip cookie recipe, I have an ever increasing collection on rotation. My current favourite is from Sarah Kiefer’s The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. Despite tinkering with the recipe a number of times, there was absolutely nothing I could do to improve Sarah’s method. These are not your quintessential cakey cookies. These are flat, with a crispy outer ring and soft centres, produced by the ingenious “tray tapping” cooking technique —which under no circumstances should be skipped.
I should also add here, that like Sarah, I favour an irregularly chopped bar of good chocolate over chocolate chips, for a surprise chunk in every bite. And in this particular recipe I would not consider adding nuts - pure is best.
I only made one change - their size. Sarah’s must be enormous. Mine are still pretty large, but I scoop them with a large European sized ice cream scoop, rather than Sarah’s 1/3 cup (100g) suggestion, and slightly reduce the cooking time. I also like to sprinkle the top with salt (but that is because I am a salt fiend). Trust me, there is no need to mess around with anything else, just follow the instructions and enjoy the cookies.
Sarah Keiffer’s Chocolate Chip Cookies very slightly adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book Makes 14-16 cookies
285g (2 cups) plain flour 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1/4 tsp salt (plus more for the top of the cookies) 225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature 300g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar 50g (1/4 cup) packed soft brown sugar 1 large egg at room temperature 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract 2 tbsp water 170g (6oz) dark chocolate chopped into irregular bite size pieces
Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line two extra large or three regular baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl whisk the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla and water and mix on low to combine, scraping down the bowl to make sure it is all fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add chopped chocolate and mix on low into the batter. Using a large ice cream scoop (or a 1/4 cup measure) form the dough into balls and place next to each other onto one of your prepared pans. Cover with cling film and place in the freezer for 15 minutes (or at this stage you can freezer the dough balls completely, transfer into a ziplock bag and keep for as and when you need them). When you are ready to cook, arrange the cookie balls well spaced apart on the baking sheets (they will spread considerably) and bake for 8 minutes until the cookies are puffed slightly in the centre. Pick up the baking sheets and let them drop onto the oven rack to set the edges of the cookies and the centre deflates (trust Sarah - it feels wrong but works). Repeat this lifting and dropping of the cookie sheets every two minutes three more times (baking 14-16 minutes total) to create the ridges and the crisp edge but with pale and not fully cooked centres. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the racks before removing from the tray.
Note: If you skip the freezing stage the cookies will spread too much and not keep their shape.