I’m a big believer in a well-balanced holiday cookie tin. Growing up outside Chicago, my family’s contained a variety: something deeply buttery and shortbread-like; a bit of rich chocolate; one good, old-school spice cookie; a few heirloom recipes; and the classic chocolate chip. There was really something for everyone. This holiday institution holds such an importance in my life that when I was writing my newest cookbook, Midwest Made, filled with recipes and baking traditions from America’s heartland, I wanted the chapter on winter holidays to reflect my family’s cookie tin, with a little taste to satisfy all kinds of cookie lovers.
I have two aunts who were really young when I was growing up—13 and 14 years old when I was born—who were more like my babysitters. We’d regularly make recipes from their Home Economics classes and include them in our cookie tin, among these the mysteriously named Forgotten Cookies—meringue cookies with nuts and chocolate chips—and the traditional Toll House. There was also a chocolate cookie in this group. It wasn’t as popular as the Toll House recipe, so we didn’t make it that often, but it was something I always loved: an cocoa-heavy, intensely chocolatey cookie, reminiscent of the outside of an Oreo, and dotted with Nestle morsels. Growing up, I couldn’t always say, “This is the cookie I want to make”—I just went with whatever my aunts wanted to make. And so the Toll House cookie kept making its way into the tin, and my beloved chocolate cookie was seldom around.
That changed when I first got married, just about 17 years ago. I was looking to start a holiday baking tradition for our new little family. I’m a crunchy cookie person, and my husband is a soft and chewy cookie lover. But if the flavor is huge, I can be swayed. So I wanted to find a way to combine the two, creating something incredible chocolatey and special, yet easy to put together, reminiscent of the cocoa cookies from holidays so long ago. And that’s how these Salted Double-Chocolate Chewies were then born.
The cookies are deeply chocolatey, of course, but also satisfy sweet-salty cravings, and are so wonderfully simple to make, with just enough flair to take them to a holiday level, too. The dough comes together simply—just whisk together the dry and wet ingredients separately, then combine into a dough and roll into balls. There’s no dough-chilling, no forming into logs and cutting into slices.
But my favorite part about these cookies is that despite their ease, they feel special because of the last step: rolling them in glittering granulated sugar just before putting them in the oven. Few cookies have a texture like these—crackly on the outside, and so light, but still chewy and loaded with pockets of bittersweet chocolate on the inside. And since I first started making them, I’ve made some tweaks to the recipe: reduced the sugar, adjusted the cocoa level, and added an extra hit of salt to make them even more crave-worthy.
These cookies reminded me so much of the chocolate cookie I grew up with, but felt more like my own. And now, I make them every year with my kids, who love this cookie, too—it’s one of the two recipes that we use to kick off holiday baking (this one and my grandmother’s heirloom sugar cookies). Since the recipe is so simple and straightforward, it’s great to do with them. We all love that we don’t have to dedicate our whole afternoon to baking them, and can spend more time eating.
When creating the recipe list for Midwest Made, I had a few cookie recipes that were a challenge to designate as just being holiday cookies, as they’re so versatile and delicious that they deserve to be eaten year-round (the book’s “Cookie Jar Contenders” chapter happily absorbed those recipes). My Salty Double Chocolate Chewies fit into both categories—they’ve broken out of the holiday cookie tin and become a year-round fixture in my cookie-baking rotation. It’s really hard to have just one, I’m telling you. —Shauna Sever
Featured in: Food52's Holiday Cookie Chronicles —The Editors