There’s a certain six letter word that’s bandied around far too frequently. More often than not, you can find it used to describe mouth-desiccating, tooth-breaking imposters. How often have you bought a packet of store-bought/large brand mass-produced ‘cookies’ only to be hit by a rush of sugar and accompanying disappointment? Even when I opt for the artisanal version from bakeries, I am often disappointed: the crumb is too dry, too sandy, too bitter, too buttery, too saccharine…
In my dictionary definition of cookie, I’m going to be demanding. It needs to be thic(ccc)k so that each mouthful contains some of the promised flavours, be they chocolate, nut, or candy. I want it crisp on the outside so that when broken, it gives way to a chewy cookie-dough goo. If there’s chocolate or caramel, they need to be molten. They also need to have enough salt to balance the sweetness and add depth of flavour.
And, after years of trials, the quest to create the perfect cookie becoming increasingly Sisyphean, I’ve done it. And you need to make them ASAP.
The trick to getting that chewy centre is letting the unbaked dough sit at room temperature to allow the flour to hydrate. I use spelt flour as it lends an extra chewiness. And to keep the centre soft and molten, you need to bake the cookies at a high heat for a short burst to get the golden surface. Then, even if they are soft to touch, leaving them to sit on the tray after they come out of the oven allows them to cook slightly longer without overdoing them. As for the filling, I’ve used a mix of milk, dark and white chocolate to balance the sweetness, and a touch of caramel because it makes most things better. The browned butter gives them a comforting nutty depth of flavour that store-bought cookies never have. The walnuts add the textural variation and a touch of savoury, and the salt crystals sprinkled on top make them irresistibly moreish (sorry) – people have been known to eat six in one sitting. Feel free to chop and change the mix of chocolates or swap in other types of chocolate bar or nut.
The Ultimate Chunky Chewy Triple Chocolate Caramel Cookies
220g unsalted butter
150g light brown muscovado sugar
50g caster sugar
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
2 tsp vanilla extract
300g white spelt flour (or plain, if more easily available)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
100g chocolate caramel bars, chopped into 1cm pieces
100g milk chocolate buttons, chopped into quarters (roughly 1 cm pieces)
100g white chocolate buttons (roughly 1 cm pieces)
50 dark chocolate, chopped into quarters (roughly 1 cm pieces)
100g walnut halves, toasted and roughly chopped into quarters.
1tbsp flaky sea salt to sprinkle
2 baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper
Makes 18 - (halve recipe on the very odd occasion you may want a smaller batch)
1) Brown the butter by melting it in a small pan over a medium heat. Stir frequently to avoid it catching on the bottom of the pan. After a few minutes, it will begin to foam and then turn a deep gold, releasing a nutty aroma. Remove from stove and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer (if using) or a mixing bowl. Allow to cool slightly.
2) Pour the muscovado and caster sugars into the butter and beat for a couple of minutes (either with electric mixer or by hand) until smooth and the sugar is incorporated (it will still be slightly grainy but this is fine).
3) Make sure the butter/sugar mix is slightly cooled or at least lukewarm (so as to avoid cooking the eggs). Then, pour in the eggs and vanilla extract and beat again for a couple of minutes until the mixture thickens and pales slightly, turning into a toffee-ish hue.
4) Into the mixture, sieve in the flour, baking powder and salt. Gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Pour in the chopped chocolate and walnuts, and stir to combine fully.
5) Leave the dough to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes – this allows the flour to hydrate, ensuring that you get that chewiness in the cookie.
6) Preheat oven to 200C.
7) Scoop the dough into roughly 6cm spheres (about 60g). You can use an ice cream scoop or a spoon and roll them between your hands. Place on the baking trays with at least 6 cm between them. Then bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes until they are golden around the sides, the top is just about cooked and doesn’t have that doughy gleam, but the cookies are still extremely soft to touch. Remove from the oven and let them sit on the baking trays for 10 minutes, before placing the cookies on a wire rack to cool. They’re excellent devoured when warm but equally delicious a few hours later, or the next couple of days when stored in an airtight container.
(Heavily adapted from Bon Appetit)