Very Good Chocolate Chip Cookies

Why are the simplest bakes sometimes the most difficult? For instance, let’s take chocolate chip cookies. It seems like it should be simple. However, despite having dozens of favourite recipes for all kinds of other cookies, chocolate-chip nirvana still escapes my tenacious grasp.

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I’ve spent years trying to figure it out. Trawling through the heavy masses of internet cookie wisdom, trying all kind of tricks and techniques. Baking immediately, to baking after resting the dough for 24 hours. Brown sugar versus caster sugar. Strong flour, spelt flour, rice flour, cornflour. English, French, Danish butter. Salted or unsalted?

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Heston Blumenthal’s recipe has been on my radar for a long time. It differs from most other chocolate chip cookie recipes by Heston’s trademark uber-precise instructions, and the added step of making your own golden syrup chocolate chips.  

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I baked them, and found they were good cookies, with a perfect texture. Crisp exteriors and desirably chewy centre.

However, they’re faffy. Making your own chocolate chips takes ages. You make a ganache, freeze it into useable firmness, and chop it into squares. When you want cookies now, waiting a couple of hours for the ganache to freeze solid is a bit of a test in delayed gratification. I found the chocolate ganache nuggets didn’t seem to add much to the finished cookies either. Finding little hard nuggets of chocolate is one my favourite parts of cookie-chomping, and chocolate ganache stays unexcitingly soft at room temperature.

I thought the ingredients could do with a bit of tinkering too. The cookies were a bit too sweet, and I needed a glass of water after polishing one off. So of course, I baked them again, tweaking the original recipe to my own tastes, reducing the sugar and replacing the fancy homemade chocolate chips with ordinary chopped up chocolate.

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They were just glorious. Fresh out of the oven with golden crispy edges and a soft, dense middle rich with melted chocolate chips. No need for chilling, or special ingredients – just lovely cookies when you want them.

My sweet tooth seems to be fading as I age, or these are just very sweet cookies. I reduced the quantity of sugar from 260g to 200g, but I think I could probably push it down further to 160g without any loss of flavour.

I ended up with an awful lot of cookies after these experiments, so took a big batch into work. They got scarfed down in about an hour. I went to check on their progress and was stunned to see that nothing remained but a crumpled foil wrapper and the cake tin lid hanging sideways off the counter. Always a good sign, although slightly alarming how voracious everybody’s appetites were.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Heston Blumenthal at Home

Makes 12

  • 115g salted butter
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 egg
  • 220g plain flour (I used a mixture of plain flour and spelt flour)
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 125g milk/dark chocolate, chopped into chips

Preheat the oven to 190˚C. Prepare 2 baking trays.

Beat the butter and sugar together until combined, then beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla extract.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and coffee powder together. Add to the rest of the ingredients and mix to form a soft dough. Stir in the milk chocolate chips. Scoop into 12 balls, then bake for 8-10 minutes until golden around the edges. Leave to rest for a few minutes before transferring onto a cooling rack.

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