Apr 29, 2011

Next-Level Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Hello! A quick note if you’ve landed here via my interview on The Splendid Table: First, I love that you’ve decided to visit my site–I’m so happy to have you here! Second, this recipe is not the Next-Level Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from Real Sweet that I talked about on the show; that recipe is quite different from this one and can only be found in the book itself. Apparently, the kicky, highly original name I gave that cookie when writing the manuscript was not so original after all, as I had used it in 2011 right here on this blog post, and promptly forgot all about it. So is life with two small children–I spend at least 15 minutes of every day trying to remember where I set my coffee.

At any rate, if you’re interested in that New! Improved! Now-Even-More-Next-Level Chocolate Chip Cookie that’s packed with flavor and natural sugar goodness, I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of Real Sweet. Thank you so much for stopping by!

I don’t know what’s going on, guys. But I have been in one of those zones where I am in Taking On the World Mode. There has to be some kind of groovy, planetary thing that’s propelling this insanity, because I’m suddenly all about Next Level Stuff over here. Like taking the leap to “big’gerl underwearz” (for Little C, not me, pervs!) the same week as finding out that I’m taking on some new projects that simultaneously thrill and terrify me (I will tell more as soon as I’m sure I won’t get sued for it, I promise!). This is all on top of getting super close to Go Time for the fabulous San Francisco Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale. Also, Royal Wedding fever? I’ve totally come down with it. True.

But in spite of all the crazy, I am here, because I love you and I can’t stay away. Also, one of those aforementioned Next Level Things was devising a way to transport the humble chocolate chip cookie to a different dimension and, well, I just couldn’t hide this light under a bushel, people. This is Important News (jazz hands).


So last week, right about the same time that the words “potty” and “big girl panties” started being used in high-pitched questions way too often in our household, my beloved brother-in-law came for a short visit. The brother-in-law who, along with my sister, will be chiefly responsible for my child thinking her own parents are seriously, helplessly uncool. He was on his way through town to play a few shows here in San Francisco, and I couldn’t send him back on the road without cookies and candy, naturally. You know how that whole thing goes.


The plan was just to go with good old chocolate chip cookies–no fancy cookie pants, just traditional, chocolate-chipped love. I had all the ingredients in the house, things were looking easy peasy. Until I tapped into those Next-Level Urges I was telling you about earlier. They’re insatiable, I’m telling you. I know, I don’t know EITHER. But I suddenly decided a regular chocolate chip cookie was totally Current Level and therefore simply would not do.
So the goal was to create a twist on the classic, here. I mean, I wasn’t trying to get all molecular gastronomy on Toll House or anything. I just wanted to see how much flavor and texture play could happen, just by preparing things a little differently.

This is how it all goes go down. Hack up a bunch of chocolate chips (if you’ve got a few odds and ends of bars and almost-empty bags of chips in your cupboards, even better), breaking some up just a little, creating lots of little shards out of the rest. You’re going for a sort of chocolate tweed here, with the occasional hunk.
Next comes the butter. Melted and browned, then frozen solid again. Let it sit out on the counter for a few minutes to soften up just enough that it can be creamed with the sugars. Can I just say that I always die a little from the gorgeous nutty scent of browned butter? If I could marry a smell, browned butter would be it. That is all.
The other little je ne sais quoi flavor bumper here is a dash of almond extract with the vanilla. Man, oh man, how I love almond extract. It’s so great at giving things a little boost of “Huh! What’s that?“, know what I mean? It’s genius in buttercreams, batters and doughs of all sorts. Here, it also played well with the nuttiness of the browned butter, so that’s a win-win-WIN sort of situation, I’d say.
Overall, the finished cookies had everything any self-respecting person loves about classic chocolate chip cookies–buttery, sugary, crisp, a bit tender just at the center, loads of chocolate. More than one band member proclaimed they were the best chocolate chip cookies they’d ever had, and I don’t just think it’s because they’d been travelling in a band van for a couple weeks. I’m telling you, these are like Illuminated Chocolate Chip cookies. Just different enough to blow minds. It’s like if you went out on your normal Girls Night Out karaoke excursion and then Prince William showed up. And then you fell in love and then you became the Princess of Wales. I told you, I have Royal Wedding fever! But I didn’t tell you that I have nothing against being somebody’s second wife. Just saying.

Next-Level Chocolate Chip Cookies

 
I love using a mix of chocolate chips for these cookies–bittersweet, milk and semi-sweet–but use whatever sounds good to you.
 
Makes 4 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Scant 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 to 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (or a combination of different kinds of chips), roughly chopped into hunks and shards (see note)

Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Melt and cook the butter over until it is browned and smells nutty, swirling the pan occasionally, about 6 minutes. Listen closely–as soon as the butter stops sizzling and popping, you are seconds away from perfectly browned butter. Pour the browned butter into a small metal pan. Freeze until the butter is completely solid, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the freezer and let it sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

Place the sugars and extracts in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the browned butter out of the pan in hunks and place them in the mixer bowl. Beat the butter, sugars and extracts together until smooth, light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes (depending on how cold the butter is when you put it in the bowl, it may take a minute or two longer). Scrape down the bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually stir in the flour. Stir in the chocolate bits by hand. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, or up to 2 days.

When you’re ready to bake, position the oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Scoop the dough into 1-tablespoon-sized balls and place them on the baking sheets, 12 to a sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Let the cookies cool for a minute before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

  • I'm not a fan of flat cookies (based on the pictures, that's what they look like), however, adding in almond extract to a chocolate chip cookie sounds intriquing. But I'm not sure if it's just me or maybe I'm blind but what is that in the third picture picture (the one with the spoon)? It's driving me nuts that I don't know what it is…ha, ha. xD

  • I love chocolate chip cookies! They are my favorite kind of cookies, so I will definitely be making these. Thanks!

  • Becca–It's the browned butter! And these are indeed flat, mostly crisp cookies, just a bit of chew at the centers, depending on baking time.

    Meghan–Thanks for stopping by! :)

  • You are HYSTERICAL. I'm not opposed to being a second wife either. Or eating browned butter off that pan.

    Pretend I didn't say that.

    Awesome cookies!

  • They look extremely tempting! I am keeping this recipe! Following from foodblogs.

  • You introduced me to browned butter. I can't thank you enough. These sound AMAZING. I'm putting them on my list of things to make for my daughter's birthday party. I know you won't disappoint.

  • Hi Shauna. These look amazing and I can't wait to cook them soon. I am cooking some World Peace cookies right now and my kids think they are delicious so they should be raving about these ones as well.

    Can you freeze this dough and what is the best way to store it in the freezer and to cook them after they have been frozen. Love your website and your inspirational recipes. Lots of love from the land of OZ down under.

  • kdk–Wow! Being included in your kid's birthday party, now that, to me, is big time. Hope you love them and report back!

    Rachel–I freeze cookie dough for drop cookies like this all the time. All you do is scoop the dough into the portion size you want, and place all the little dough balls on a sheet tray. Freeze until solid, then toss 'em all in a big ziptop bag. Take out a couple (or more) whenever you want freshly baked cookies! They'll take a minute or two more to bake, but just bake them straight out of the freezer at the same temperature. Enjoy!

  • I love that you did chopped chocolate and chocolate chunks! These cookies sound pretty fantastic.

  • Your chocolate chip cookie recipe sounds incredible. They must really have been over the top good. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog and I'd like to invite you to stop by and link your cookies up. http://sweet-as-sugar-cookies.blogspot.com/2011/04/sweets-for-saturday-15.html

  • I hope your wedding-watching was as satisfactory as possible–and having some of these cookies on hand seems like a nice way to accompany it!

  • Just discovered your blog, great site! LOVE the idea of adding almond extract to cookies! I look forward to following and more great recipes!

    Liz

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