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"I will never stop." That's what Dorie Greenspan tells me when I ask her if she's got any new chocolate chip cookie recipes in the works. (And she's not kidding: Right now, she's playing—and yes, that's the word—with a cookie where the whole wheat flour is replaced with oatmeal.)
Dorie can't give the chocolate chip cookies a rest. After twenty years of devotion to her "My Classic Best Chocolate Chip Cookies," which she published in 2006's Baking: From My Home to Yours with the bold claim that, "in the category of 'Great Chocolate Chip Cookies,' these get my vote for the greatest," she's out with another: "My Newest Chocolate Chip Cookies." They're one of 170 recipes in her twelfth book Dorie's Cookies, which publishes October 25.
On paper, the differences between Dorie's late great cookie and the young starlet appear few (so few, in fact, that the new recipe includes a short note on the sidebar for how to revert back to the classics): Dorie's latest chocolate chippers (an expression of hers that I vow to adopt) include a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flour; a bit more brown sugar (3/4 cup as opposed to 2/3); and, here's the real trick-up-her-sleeve, 1/4 teaspoon of finely grated nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander. (Also: They have a bit less chocolate and no nuts—not game-changing.)
What sort of impact can such small changes have? The tweaks add up to enough of a departure, in both flavor and texture, that the cookie earns itself more than just an addendum tacked onto the original recipe, but rather a whole new name—a page of its own.
Due to the inclusion of whole wheat flour and the slight increase in brown sugar, these newbies are darker and flatter, with a texture that's chewier and the slightest bit cakey: They bend in half slowly; the Classic Best do a delayed snap. "I wanted a cookie that looked more classic than my classic but had a surprise element that my classic didn’t," Dorie said.
And that element of surprise is the "mini blend" of nutmeg, cardamom, and salt that pulls everything together. It's a tiny amount (1/4 teaspoon of each spice and 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt) that works in the background to build flavor: "A little bit more," Dorie explained, "and I think it would’ve been too much." It was a combination that took many trials to land on, then optimize:
I had this idea that I wanted it to be cardamom. I was playing with cardamom and at some point, I had allspice. I wasn’t going to use nutmeg at all. I was just going to use cardamom or coriander—they kind of have an almost citrusy flavor to them. And I didn’t want to use cinnamon because it’s the go-to with chocolate chip.
But it needed, whether with the cardamom or the coriander, something that pulled it back into Chocolate-Chip-Ville, and that was the nutmeg, which—I don’t have a vocabulary for this sort of thing—it's not as earthy or hot as cinnamon, it's kind of citrusy. I was excited to introduce nutmeg and coriander to one another.
No one who tasted the cookies under my watch could put a finger on the ground coriander (and only one person could identify the nutmeg). But it pleased Dorie to hear that her prized spice combination made the cookies different in an unidentifiable way: "If I could add one ingredient to everything I cook or bake, it would be surprise. And in a way, that’s what the nutmeg and coriander do. They don’t knock you over the head, but they make you say, 'Hmmm, there’s something different about this cookie.”
For a baker who has created over 300 cookie recipes in her twelve-book career, a countless number of which can be classified as "chocolate chip," Dorie's goal with this book was to "stretch myself and to stretch what a cookie was or a cookie could be. I wanted to learn something—because if I can’t learn something while I’m working, then I don’t feel like the work is very good."
She's been learning about chocolate chip cookies alone for decades, since well before her Classic Best were published in 2006. "I think I really probably started to play with chocolate chip cookies right after I met Pierre Hermé" in the early 90s ("or maybe we were brother and sister in another life"). It was the illustrious French baker who told her "something we really take for granted now"—that salt needs to be used in baking as it is in cooking: as a seasoning. "At the time we were talking about this, most recipes had a pinch of salt—you weren't measuring it into a cookie. I started changing my chocolate chip cookies after that conversation."
No cookie—chocolate chip or otherwise—is safe from Dorie's constant tinkering. "It's hard for me to say when something is done." Even after recipes for her book were fully tested, met with rave reviews from her testers, she couldn't leave them alone. "I have sent ideas to my editor after I’ve turned in the book."
"I was worried that working on one subject, I would run out of ideas. And, in fact, I found that focusing on just one thing made me a lot more creative: My mind was just filled with cookies."
So will there be another chocolate chip cookie? You can bet. "Pastry is the sister art to architecture: You can constantly construct. When you have a really great recipe that you love, it can be the basis of so many things, and some cookies just say, 'Don’t leave me here: You have to play with me! You have to give me a new life!' And I listen to my cookies."
All this cookie talk left you hungry? Conduct your own taste test:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt (1 1/4 teaspoons if you really like salt)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or 2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 3/4 cups (238 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (91 grams) whole wheat flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 sticks (8 ounces; 226 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 10 ounces (283 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or 1 2/3 cups chocolate chips)
P.S. When I asked Dorie which chocolate chip recipe she'd make if she had to go into the kitchen to bake a batch right now, she told me she'd turn to a new version. And another tip from the Head Cook(ie) herself: Don't sweep the chocolate dustings that come from chopping bars into the trash can. "I include the dust in my recipes—I love that you take a chocolate chip cookie and make it even more chocolatey than normal. "
Are you in the market for a new chocolate chip cookie recipe, or are you otherwise committed? Tell us in the comments.