Do you need another chocolate chip cookie recipe for your arsenal? I really was not looking for one – beyond the America’s Test Kitchen recipe, about which I already have written here. However, sometimes I am compelled to try a variant or new recipe just for fun.
The October issue of Saveur featured Amanda Hesser’s Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie, excerpted from her latest publication, The Essential New York Times Cookbook. This is a wonderful cookbook, I must tell you, even though I have yet to make anything else from it after receiving it at Xmas – the recipes span the more than 150 years the NYT has been publishing on food.
Also in that edition of Saveur, my favourite food writers Jane and Michael Stern wrote about some of the glories of central Ohio cuisine. There are many varied and delightful specialties in that area of the Buckeye State, some of which I have sampled on road trips. I liked the Stern’s description of a tantalizing chicken noodle soup recipe from a Polish restaurant, Babuska’s Kitchen. The recipe included directions for home-made noodles – something I had never done before – and seasonings for the soup such as fennel seed and garlic, neither of which I typically use. It was a super-soup recipe, which I recently made for dinner on a blustery rainy Friday night – to be capped off with more comfort food: chocolate-chip cookies.
For the major CC cookie genres, the review – and the recipe
I liked the idea of a flatter, thinner, nuttier chocolate-chip cookie in Ms. Hesser’s recipe. This version constitutes a distinct textural sub-genre of the family of chocolate chip cookies:
- Flat and chewy.
- Thick and chewy (e.g., the ATK version).
- Flat and crisp (more akin to the original Tollhouse Recipe – the ancestor of all the others).
- Cakey – I will not bother to even “go there”, as this is one I choose to marginalize…call me whatever name you like for doing so, but I believe this consistency is undesirable in chocolate chip cookies (I like my cakes cakey, thank you very much, but, please, not for my cookies or brownies).
- Brown butter – this version can be part of the above categories, though I am not sure it could produce all textures (e.g.,. the thick and chewy version — I tried once with brown butter and it did not turn out quite right).
Thus, I decided to try another chocolate-chip cookie recipe. I am more than satisfied with the ATK version, in all its chewy chocolate-chip glory: it is the perfect classic thick and chewy cookie.
The flat-and-chewy version, however, is decidedly distinct. It struck me as more of a European cookie, though perhaps this was because I happened to substitute almonds for the walnuts – hazelnuts would make it even more Continental. The cookie is very elegant: the ground nuts provide additional chewiness but additional textural contrast to the chocolate and more subtle flavour inter-mingled with the cookie dough, chocolate, and salt.
My substitutions were the almonds, as I had mentioned, as well as just using good quality chocolate chips, which I buzzed in a mini-food processor to create a texture comparable to chocolate shavings. These both worked well for me, and I would try the recipe with the shaved chocolate and/or the original walnut or hazelnuts – or pecans, for that matter. Unless one is allergic to nuts or cannot stand them, I think the almonds added so much character that I do not agree with Ms. Hesser’s making them “optional” – one could leave them out for a much less chewy and flavourful cookie, as opposed to many recipes in which their absence would not have nearly as much of an impact.
The only draw-back is that the recipe is a bit time-consuming, as opposed to some very easy chocolate chip cookies. This flat-and-chewy version, however, will be the only other chocolate chip cookie recipe I now will bake with any regularity. However, I doubt that these two will be the last I chocolate-chip cookie recipes l ever try, as one always can continue searching for one more great recipe.
Flat-and-Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser
Makes approximately 30 cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons of baking soda
1 3/4 teaspoons sea salt (or, the equivalent in kosher salt, see Smitten Kitchen here)
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate (chunks and shavings) or 12 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips, processed on 10 –12 short pulses in a food processor, until it becomes fine but not powdery, or, finely chopped, by hand
2 cups finely chopped almonds, walnuts (the version from the original recipe), hazelnuts, or pecans – optional, only if you really hate nuts or have an allergy
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, Silpat, or your favourite silicone non-stick liners. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy, about 3 minutes (this can be done by hand or with a hand-mixer, as well). Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once and blend together on the lowest speed, just until a dough forms. Fold in the chocolate and nuts, on the lowest speed just until blended. Chill the dough for at least one-half hour (the dough can be refrigerated for several days in advance).
3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Roll 2 1/2 tablespoons of the chilled dough into a ball, then place it on the baking sheet and flatten to 1/2-inch-thick discs spaced 2 inches apart (I used a juice glass, the bottom of which I dipped in lukewarm water between pressings to ensure the dough did not stick).
4. Bake until the edges are golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes. Be sure not to overbake, as you will lose the chewiness in texture. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer to a baking rack.
5. Enjoy warm or at room temperature, while thinking of your other favourite chocolate chip cookies.