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Plot Twist: The Most Genius Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Is Also Vegan

November  4, 2015

World, this is the genius chocolate chip cookie we've been waiting for. Oh, and one other thing: It's vegan.

Notice that I didn't say it's genius for a vegan chocolate chip cookie or in spite of it. This cookie, which comes from Ovenly founders Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, can rest entirely on its own merits: its soft-bellied, chewy, caramelly-crisp-edged, rippled and ringed and puddled with melty chocolate, well-salted, incidentally vegan merits.

I realize this is almost incomprehensible if you grew up, like I did, making chocolate chip cookies by beating soft butter with sugar, then dropping in eggs one by one, ignoring what everyone says about eating cookie dough. But I've come to understand some of the kitchen science at work. We'll get to that, because you're going to want some talking points.

Even if you're not vegan, sometimes you're out of eggs. Or your butter isn't soft (or, whoops, way too soft). Or you have a new friend or in-law who's allergic to eggs or dairy. Of course, for the people who've been limited to other vegan cookies until now, this recipe is especially miraculous. "No fewer than 3 clients have now mentioned them to me as being extraordinary and the best," our Vegan cookbook author and columnist (and nutritionist) Gena Hamshaw wrote to me when she tipped me off to the recipe.

Maybe that's because of the ingredients in other vegan chocolate chip cookies, which are likely to make them taste like a loose, disappointing approximation of the real thing—here are a few examples from the first few pages of Google:

coconut oil
arrowroot starch or cornstarch
almond milk
vanilla soy milk
unsalted nonhydrogenated margarine
flax egg
unsweetened applesauce



Instead, Ovenly's recipe uses pretty much standard chocolate chip cookie ingredients, except that they replace the egg and butter (which are largely made up of fat and water) with oil and water (same).

The technique is, if anything, simpler, since there's no waiting for butter to soften or 2-stage creaming involved—just a vigorous whisking of all the wet ingredients before adding the dry. But there is one crucial extra step: "The dough has to be refrigerated for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours before being scooped. I know, it's tempting to skip this step. DON'T," Kulaga wrote to me. 



You might have already learned about the dough-refrigerating trick in David Leite's famous New York Times article from 2008, in which he revealed that all of the top bakeries in Manhattan agree that resting—or hydrating—your dough for a day or three makes for better cookies. The flavor is richer and more developed; the texture smoother, more nuanced, and further away on the spectrum from raw flour. 

But the ultimate recipe he settled on, based on Jacques Torres', had quite a few hurdles—as brilliant as it was. It called for both bread flour and cake flour, and pricey chocolate fèves, and the dough was at its best 72 hours after mixing. Because Ovenly's cookie dough has no egg to slow down the hydration, it hits its peak much faster.

I tried to break this recipe, Food Lab-style. I've made it with both vegan sugars and regular granulated ones (here, I made it with an especially dark brown vegan sugar, which made them a bit flatter, more toffee-colored, and more ripply than the ones Ovenly sells).

I've alternately frozen the dough for 10 minutes after scooping and skipped that step; I've baked on parchment and bare; I've let the cookies cool on the baking sheet and on a rack; I've hand-whisked and whipped in on high speed in a stand mixer to varying degrees of whippedness. I've forgotten a quart of the dough in my purse for hours, then quickly scooped and froze the dough to pretend it hadn't happened. The cookies have always been some version of wonderful.


This is my kitchen on cookies. Unlike when Kenji did it, they basically all look and taste the same.


I've even baked off the dough straightaway after mixing it (I'm sorry, Agatha! I'm sorry, Erin!). This was the biggest, and perhaps only noticeable, difference—the flavor a bit more flat, the texture a tad coarser. But I fed a lot of these to a lot of coworkers and there wasn't a problem.

What I found was that these cookies are pretty indestructible, which is more than you can say for most unvegan ones. It's easy to think there's something more than kitchen science at play. As Patinkin told me, "There's no bigger compliment than hearing, 'If this cookie isn't made with butter, then it must be made with magic.'"

Ovenly's Secretly Vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted slightly from Ovenly: Sweet and Salty Recipes from New York's Most Creative Bakery  by Erin Patinkin & Agatha Kulaga (Harlequin, 2014)

Makes approximately 18 cookies

2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chips (we prefer chocolate with 60 percent cocoa content or higher)
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (110 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
Coarse-grained sea salt or flaky sea salt like Maldon, for garnish

See the recipe (and save and print it) here. 

Every week, Food52's Creative Director Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius. Got one for her—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it her way (and tell her what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to Food52's Vegan cookbook author and columnist (and nutritionist) Gena Hamshaw for this one!

Photos by James Ransom

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83 Comments

stefanie March 1, 2018
I made these and as others have mentioned, they did not flatten.
 
judy R. August 11, 2017
as a chef and long-time pastry and cookie maker, I have to say I would make these as written but with one addition - vanilla!! <br />There is none listed with the ingredients and I don't believe there is any animal product in it, so why was it excluded? Most chefs know that vanilla adds so much to almost any recipe and in fact brings out the flavors of the other ingredients. I would never make these without it!
 
Donna H. June 13, 2016
I'm not sure why you would use canola oil. Do you know how that's made?? Olive oil or coconut oil is best!
 
Mollie V. June 6, 2016
Has anyone successfully used this as a base for oatmeal raisin?
 
hkrf1017 May 25, 2016
Agree with many that there wasn't anything special about these cookies and they did not flatten. I followed the recipe exactly. I am quite partial to vegan food and have nothing against them in that regard. Sadly I have to report I was disappointed.
 
sweet March 27, 2016
Has anyone tried baking these with coconut oil?
 
EL January 3, 2016
I had the same reaction as secondbasil and sarla combined. They were just okay and they never flattened which meant that I had to flatten them (something I absolutely hate. In addition, the timing is great if you have time to bake cookies between am and about 4:00 pm or you start them really, really late at night. I felt that they were just as much trouble as normal cccs just a different type of trouble. . .
 
Ali W. December 22, 2015
I made these last weekend and they were ok. I was a little disappointed in the color, they turned out a little pale and I din't want to overbake them. Maybe because I used light brown sugar? Also, there was a slight hint of raw flour flavor which I thought would disappear after baking, but it was still there.
 
Sarla December 6, 2015
I just made these cookies, I was very excited and I was going to give them as a gift to somebody... the ended up like little scones, they never became flat, I follow the recipe as it is but not the result that I was waiting. They are still eatable like scones.
 
Farah A. December 2, 2015
I'm thinking of pre-making a bunch of these for holiday presents - how long do you think we could freeze this cookie dough for?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. January 5, 2016
Farah, I'm sorry I missed this question till now—I'd say you can freeze somewhat indefinitely, though I haven't tested the limits of that. When we had our Cookie Truck driving around NYC last month, City Bakery made 14,000(!) of Amanda Hesser's spiced version of these cookies and froze them before baking. They won't freeze quite as hard as a cookie with butter in it, but that's not an issue unless you're making them in massive amounts and stacking them up.
 
Monica M. November 18, 2015
Thank you for sharing the recipe. You had me convinced so I had to try it. It was so easy and very tasty!
 
Dr.Khalsa November 17, 2015
Also, if you want to learn more vitamin D go to www.stayingyounger.com and click on health talk radio which will take you to several lectures.. listen to the very first one called: TheScienceOfOptimalHealth by Dr.DonLawsonPhD In Nutrition. He will explain how he was cured of polio with organic highly concentrated food extracts from colorful vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. He was diagnosed with polio at the age of 16 a few months after marrying his childhood sweetheart, who bathed him, fed him and cared for him for 10 years. She couldnt work and tgey lived on welfare until she finally learned about nutrition and eventually healed him. He lost only the use of his left arm. An amazingly knowledgeable and humerus human being.
 
Dr.Khalsa November 17, 2015
I understand that this is not a forum for politics so I will try not indulge in anything other than baking. I sincerely love cooking and baking and I truly believe that: We are not what we eat but what we assimilate through our cells and I love sharing information from my research so if you wish to learn more about my credentials my full name is GuruJiwanSingh Khalsa, D.C.B.E.M., SkeletalTherapist, HERBAL&NUTRITIONALCOUNSELOR, KundaliniYogaTeacher / Trainer. Dr.Saram is an associate of mine as he studied also under YogiBhajan, TheMasterOfKundaliniYoga, PhDPsychology. I am on facebook and you may contact me through one of my websites: us.ganoexcel.com/drkhalsa where you can also learn about TheWorldsFirstHealthyCoffee!
 
Harry November 11, 2015
Made these the other nigh,t I use soybean oil which is my go to vegetable oil. They turned out Great. We could not tell the difference from the regular toll house recipe. Will keep this recipe in my book!
 
Cindy November 11, 2015
All soy in this country is GMO unless it sez Organic soy bean oil. All vegetable, corn, crisco & canola oils are GMO.
 
Alexis A. June 13, 2016
which only matters if GMO's bother you, which they don't for everyone, myself included.
 
Leslie D. November 10, 2015
I'm sad now that I excitedly read through this whole "story" to get to the bottom and see the recipe calls for canola oil. Why oh why? I've made similar vegan cookies which have come out quite well using coconut oil and aquafaba.
 
lacey S. November 10, 2015
I tried these this week and ended up with very powdery dough that would not form into balls. It looked like I needed more liquid than the recipe called for. Where did I go wrong?
 
Emily I. November 10, 2015
I wonder if this will still be as good if I use gluten free flour...
 
Sipa November 10, 2015
All real dark chocolate is vegan. There is no milk in dark chocolate. Unfortunately after reading the packaging on most supermarket varieties of what is called dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips they included dairy or our made on machines shared with dairy. To guarantee real dark chocolate buy Valrhona, Callebaut, or any other premium dark chocolate pieces and read the ingredient list.
 
Sweetpea78746 November 10, 2015
Perfect!!
 
Marlene T. November 10, 2015
I have replaced canola oil with sunflower oil and it works just fine. Fyi