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How to Turn a Giant, Melty Cookie into a Dinner Party Dessert

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. This post is brought to you by our friends at Ghirardelli -- try their 60% cacao chips in a skillet cookie this holiday season.

Today: Our favorite dinner party dessert isn't a classy panna cotta or a demure tart. It's a batch of cookies baked into a skillet, gooey and warm and topped with heaps of ice cream. Here's how to do it.

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Skillet Cookie

There are two basic ways to pull off a successful, memorable dinner party.

The first includes hors d'oeuvre, multiple plated courses, a house cocktail and sparkling wine and a few good bottles on the table for the main event, plus a sleek dessert that's just enough to satisfy your guests without foisting a belly ache upon their commute home. Your hair is perfectly coiffed the entire time and you get no food on your wrinkle-free outfit and your smooth jazz playlist puts everyone in just the right mood.

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The second includes yelling and guffawing and arms reaching across tables. It is messier and wilder and louder, and better resembles a pack of hyenas congregating than a buttoned-up party of six sitting around a perfectly set table. You might not even have a table. Someone might unbutton their pants before their second helping of dessert.

Cookie Ingredients

If you are the sort of person who chooses door number two here, you'll be wise to bake your favorite cookie recipe in a skillet at your next party, then set it out on the table, hot and molten inside, for dessert. Flank it with a few pints of ice cream and a pile of spoons. Watch your human guests turn into rabid, cookie-hungry animals. It will be the most fun you've had in a long while.

Here's how to do it:

Skillet COokie

First, make a batch of your favorite cookie dough. We recommend chocolate chip here -- it's a crowd favorite, it's excellent when underbaked, and everyone gets a few molten chocolate pieces in each spoonful. Our go-to recipe comes from Phyllis Grant, but use your favorite; be sure to pick something with chocolate chips or chunks aplenty. Spread it into a skillet or a braiser -- cast iron will develop more of a crust whereas something enameled (like this Le Creuset braiser) will give you a more standard cookie bottom.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.....or until you're ready to eat. We first tried this at a dinner party thrown by Brette Warshaw, where she baked the cookie for just 20 minutes, pulled it out because we couldn't wait any longer, and piled on a bunch of vanilla ice cream -- similar to what you see here. The center wasn't exactly what you'd call cooked, but nobody was mad about it. If you like a fully-baked cookie, keep yours in there for 25 to 30 minutes.

Skillet Cookie  Skillet Cookie

While the cookie is still warm, scoop a bunch of ice cream on top of it. Again, vanilla is the classic choice here, but go with whatever you like, or whatever you have on hand. Just don't try to be too fancy about it.

Hand everybody a spoon, and make sure you have napkins at the ready, or at least a few rolls of paper towels. Let them go at it; what happens next is a sort of spectacle that you're only used to seeing on Black Friday or on those TV shows where a bunch of frantic brides get let loose at a wedding dress sample sale.

Skillet Cookie

Your ice cream will quickly begin to melt into your cookie, and then into the little divots that result from feverish scooping. 

Skillet Cookie

Your guests will go bonkers insane. There will be giggles and yelps and groans and the spoons will be moving very quickly. The weakest among you will give up, but the strong will persevere. Remember that you are all in this together.

Skillet Cookie

Once you've had enough, and everyone is laying on the floor and rubbing their bellies, remember two things: 

1. This is a good time to bring out that bottle of amaro you might have lying around.

2. Leftovers freeze beautifully, especially when molten -- the gooey bits become fudgy in the freezer. Pass out little to-go containers as party favors, and do the dishes tomorrow. You've done enough.

Skillet cookie photos by James Ransom; ingredient photo by Bobbi Lin

Get more chocolatey small bites recipes to share with friends and family this holiday season from Ghirardelli.

Tags: entertaining, cookies, how-to & DIY, cookie cake, skillet cookie, chocolate chip cookies, dessert, dinner parties, ice cream, attacking things with spoons