Genius Recipes

The Most Genius Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Is Also Vegan

March 12, 2019

With Genius Recipes correspondent Kristen off for a few months trying to raise a genius newborn, we’re revisiting the column’s Greatest Hits with brand-new videos—and hearing from a few special surprise guests. Wish her luck! (And keep sending those tips.)

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.

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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.

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. 

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it Kristen's way (and tell her what's so smart about it) at [email protected] 

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Comment
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."

101 Comments

Vanessa K. May 18, 2019
I baked these delicious cookies today! I had to make a couple swaps due to what I had available: 1 cup whole wheat flour (ran out of AP flour) and (very dark) muscovado in place of the brown sugar. It worked out fabulously!
 
Yunji L. March 17, 2019
I used a scale to measure out all the dry ingredients in this recipe and measuring cups for all the liquid, but when I mixed the flour mixture with the sugar/oil/water, the dough looked much wetter than what's in the video. It was more of a pancake batter consistency. My dough is resting in the fridge right now but I'm worried about what the end result might look like.
 
Yunji L. March 20, 2019
I'm happy to report that the cookies were amazing! Everyone who tried it loved it.
 
Subhash R. March 16, 2019
I am not a regular cook but the simple recipe emboldened me to try it. I did and was pleasantly surprised that the chocolate chip cookies turned out just as demonstrated by Agatha and Erin even after a couple of mistakes I made. The cookies are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. In fact, they taste much better than the ones I bought from a grocery store. What I don't understand is how could experienced cooks in this forum messed it up! Thank you very much Agatha and Erin and Food52 for presenting us with this magical yet simple recipe. Thanks again.
 
Millie G. March 15, 2019
Fabulous! I just made a batch of these, following the recipe exactly (which I seldom do), using canola oil. They look great (golden on the edges after 13 minutes in the oven), have a nice texture, and taste like a bona fide chocolate chip cookie.
 
Sandi Z. March 14, 2019
I appreciate this recipe! The one I’m also REALLY interested in is Ovenly’s vegan peanut butter cookie recipe! We like to say away from soy and to have the recipe would enable me to tweak it using good substitutes.
Please and thank you!
Please?!!
 
Paola B. March 13, 2019
Wait, what? Vegan sugar? Since when?
 
C March 13, 2019
Just made these and disappointed, very bland taste even after adding vanilla. They never flatten out as shown in the pic. Annoying to waste ingredients on something that doesn't taste good. Would not make again.
 
Nami M. March 21, 2019
I actually have the same issue...
I made them twice and still not having them drop like the show...
 
Sharon B. March 13, 2019
I have lately been wondering about baking with the great plant protein powders that we have now, pea protein, hemp, garbanza. Wondering is anyone has tried these instead of grain flours.
 
Helen M. March 13, 2019
What if I need the cookie to be gluten free as well? My experience with gluten free flour is not great.
 
Shannette March 13, 2019
Folks.... a recipe is just a guide. We do not use canola in my household and so my mind goes straight to suItable substitute. Fortunately, in my little world, peanut allergies do not exist and so I will try with peanut oil. Use an oil that makes sense for your dietary needs and budget.
 
Denise March 13, 2019
Delicious and Beautiful job Emma!!!
Love your recipes.. easy to understand, well written and the bonus is... they are delicious!!!! TY
 
SArah March 13, 2019
Canola oil is a far inferior, bad choice oil. Let's move on from the myth that it's "healthy."
 
rcb December 30, 2018
Chocolate chips are vegan?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. January 2, 2019
Yes, many are, but always best to check the ingredients to make sure there are no milk products added.
 
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!!
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. . .