When my son, Joshua Greenspan, and I were thinking about building a cookie business, all we talked about were cookies. Flavors, of course. We’d have chocolate and vanilla and peanut butter and oatmeal—that went without saying—and sometimes we’d have all of them together. We talked a lot about add-ins. I always wanted chocolate and he always wanted raisins (yes, we’re a raisin family); we both wanted nuts (but my husband didn’t want hazelnuts).
We were both on the same side when it came to how they’d be baked—a well-baked cookie was our preference. We favored what we learned was called a “French bake.” We’d bake all the super buttery cookies, like the shortbreads and crisps, until they were deeply golden brown. My motto is color equals flavor. If you don’t get color on a butter cookie (or a crust, but that’s another topic), you don’t get the full nutty flavor of the butter and you miss out on the caramel flavor that comes with cooked sugar.
And, until almost the last minute, we talked about size: What is the perfect size for a cookie? How many bites should a cookie have? And should each bite be the same? Have the same texture? Pack the same flavors?
We solved the problem for ourselves—we made two sizes of cookies, one 2 and the other 3 inches in diameter—but never stopped discussing it. We realized that one size didn’t really fit all. A chocolate cookie with lots of mix-ins needed to be big, so that some of it could be firm, most of it could be gooey, and the mix-ins could be different textures. A crisp cookie with big flavors needed to be small, so that you wouldn’t be overwhelmed or fatigued.
The question was endlessly fascinating to us and the answer was always just beyond reach.
We are no longer in the cookie business, but I’m still obsessed with cookies and still playing around with size. While normally I’m something of a miniaturist, lately I’ve gone big. Really big. As in a cookie the size of the moon (or at least my baking sheet). A cookie that you put in the center of the table and invite everyone to reach in and break off pieces, big and small, to make crumbs, and to go back for more.
These days, my favorite big cookie teeters between crisp and chewy and leaves room for tinkering. It’s got spice, if you want that. It’s got ground coffee, but it doesn’t have to. And it’s got chopped chocolate and chopped nuts, or not. I like the cookie with a mix of white and whole-wheat flour, which adds nuttiness.
I roll the cookie out until it’s about 1/8-inch thick—eyeball it—and don’t bother about the shape. I don’t trim the edges (I like raggedy), but you could trim them or make the cookie into a square, a rectangle, or a Christmas tree. You could make cutout cookies with the dough or you could roll it out and use a pizza cutter or a rick-rack ravioli wheel to cut it into squares or diamonds, bake the dough and then break the cookies apart when they’ve cooled.
If you’d like, you can drizzle the cookie with melted chocolate, or it can be served with a caramel or chocolate sauce.
There are really no rules with this cookie. The only thing you must do is share it with family and friends. —Dorie Greenspan
Test Kitchen Notes
Featured in: Food52's Holiday Cookie Chronicles —The Editors
- Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
- Cook time 24 minutes
- Serves 8
1 1/4 cups
(170 grams) all-purpose flour
(68 grams) whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons
ground espresso (optional)
fine sea salt
stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces or 128 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
(100 grams) packed brown sugar
(50 grams) granulated sugar
(113 grams) finely chopped chocolate (a mix of dark, milk, and white)
(56 grams) finely chopped nuts (optional)
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
- Whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, coffee, spices, and salt; set aside.
- Working with a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), mix the pieces of cold butter and both sugars on low speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture forms clumps and then comes together. You’ll see pieces of butter here and there—you’re supposed to. Add the dry ingredients all at once and then pulse the mixer on and off, just until the risk of flying flour has passed. Mix on low-medium speed until you’ve got a bowl of crumbs, about 3 minutes. Lightly whisk the egg and honey together. With the mixer on low, add the egg mixture gradually and then continue to mix until the dough forms clumps. Squeeze a bit of the dough and it will hold together. Beat in the chocolate and nuts, if using.
- Reach into the bowl and press the dough into a ball. Turn it out onto a sheet of parchment paper.
- Press the dough down, cover it with another sheet of paper and roll it out until it’s about 1/8 inch (3mm) thick. It can be any shape—round, oval, rectangular, raggedy-edged or pristine. It will probably be about 12 x 15 inches (30 x 38cm), but the thickness is more important than the dimensions. Being neat doesn’t buy you anything with this cookie. Slide the sandwiched dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour (or for up to 3 days). If you prefer, you can wrap the dough well and freeze it for up to 2 months; keep it at room temperature for about 20 minutes before baking.
- When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350°F (180°F). Remove the top sheet of paper; leave the dough on the paper-lined baking sheet. If you’re using the sanding sugar, sprinkle the dough with about 2 tablespoons' worth.
- Bake the cookie for 20 to 24 minutes—the edges will be darker than the middle.
- Press the center of the cookie and it should be firm with just a tiny bit of give; it will feel firmer as you work your way out. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and allow the cookie to come to room temperature. If you’re not eating it immediately, you can wrap the cookie well and keep it at room temperature for about 4 days.
- You can serve the cookie whole, letting everyone break off pieces (of course there will be crumbs—they’re part of the cookie’s charm), or you can break or cut it in the kitchen and serve the pieces as you would any cookie.