Matthew introduced The Bug to Mexican hot chocolate several years ago; both of them adore the spicy notes of the mostly-melted chocolate in hot milk. During the winter, one of their weekend morning traditions is to make it together: Matthew chops the wedges of Ibarra chocolate, dropping them into milk before The Bug takes over at the stove, stirring until tiny bubbles form at the edges of the saucepan, signaling it is ready to serve. The Bug sips the hot liquid in her mug slowly until it’s finished, and then with the precision of a surgeon, she scoops up every bit of the softened chocolate that gathers at the bottom of her cup. The aroma in the kitchen is captivating.
A few weeks ago at Whole Foods, I came across Mexican-style semisweet chocolate pieces flavored with Guajillo pepper. I had an idea that these chocolate bits might be the key ingredient to a sophisticated update on the classic American chocolate chip cookie. My go-to, crowd-pleasing recipe for chocolate-chip cookies is this gem from America’s Test Kitchen, a cookie with a distinct caramel flavor and salty notes. In addition, the cookie doesn’t flatten during baking, so the edges are lightly crisp, and the center puffs up a bit and remains slightly soft. To achieve chocolate chip cookie perfection, the publication’s crew of cooking “scientists” deconstructed the standard tollhouse cookie recipe and re-built it.
While the changes to the ingredient list are relatively minor, the technique is fundamentally different. The America’s Test Kitchen crew made two critical changes to the technique: rather than using room temperature butter, most of the butter is browned on the stove first, which is responsible for that intense caramel flavor I mentioned. And, rather than use a mixer to combine all of the ingredients together, the melted butter, brown and white sugars, egg and egg yolk, and vanilla extract are whisked together several times for 30-second intervals, with three-minute breaks between whisking. During this roughly 15-minute process, the dough thickens and becomes smooth and glossy. Then the dry ingredients, that already have been whisked together, are folded into the butter mixture, along with the chips.
I prepared the cookie dough in my usual fashion browning the butter until it filled the kitchen with a nutty aroma. To bring out the spicy flavor of the chili-flavored chocolate bits, I added just a touch of cinnamon to the dry ingredients. I also included a half-cup of rolled oats — simply because I love the grainy flavor and extra crunch oats provide. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups of chocolate bits; I used about a cup of the Mexican-style semisweet chocolate pieces with the Guajillo pepper and added another 1/4 cup of my usual 60 percent cocoa, semisweet chocolate chips. While the America’s Test Kitchen recipe recommends baking a larger cookie (about 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie), I prefer mine much smaller, so I use just a tablespoon. Finally, after I’ve spooned the cookie dough on to the cookie sheets, I freeze them for at least 10 minutes before baking. I have found that my kitchen gets warmer as the oven is pre-heating, and the cookies are more likely to spread a bit if I don’t freeze the cookie sheets before baking.
The result? An updated take on a traditional chocolate chip cookie with a hint of warmth from the cinnamon, delicate crunch from the modest amount of oats and a subtle hit of heat on the back of the throat about a minute after you taste the melted chocolate. I hope you’ll try it and let me know what you think.
Here again is the link to the America’s Test Kitchen recipe; my adapted recipe follows.
- 1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8¾ ounces)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1¾ sticks) (use European-style butter if you can)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (3½ ounces)
- ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar (5¼ ounces)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used 1 cup Mexican-style chocolate flavored with Guajillo chili and ¼ cup semisweet chocolate)
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in medium bowl; stir in oatmeal and then set aside.
- Heat 10 tablespoons butter in saucepan over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
- Add both sugars and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using a rubber spatula, stir in flour-and-oats mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips, giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
- Using a tablespoon measure, scoop the dough onto the cookies sheets, leaving a few inches between each ball of dough (I usually have about 12 cookies per sheet). Place the cookie sheets in the freezer for about 10 minutes before baking. I have limited room in my freezer, so often have a sheet or two in the fridge at first and then move them into the freezer as I bake off each sheet separately.
- Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10-12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.