Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Best of the Best: Classic Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Classic, delicious, customisable, and portable. Heavenly.

This is the first in a series of "The Best of the Best", where I will introduce my favourite things, and the best of these things. 

Today we're going to talk about cookies, and by the end of this post, you're going to be able to make THE BEST chewy and rich classic Chocolate Chip-Cookies imaginable. I love cookies. Who doesn't? That'd just be weird. No one wants to be weird, unless you're Lady Gaga.
(Terminology Freak-Out Time: In Australia, what Americans call "cookies" are generally called "biscuits", whereas what Americans call "biscuits" are generally called "scones". Of course, Australian "cookies" ("biscuits") are crunchier than American "cookies", so Australians also use "cookie" to refer to biscuits that are soft. Like American cookies. Confused? Us too. For the purpose of this post, I will use the term "cookie". Why? Because I like cookies better, and Mr. Linguist loves cookies too much to risk upsetting me on this.)
From what I’ve seen, Australians and the English tend to prefer their cookies drier, crunchier, and crispier (because they're used to biscuits). Americans tend to like their cookies like... well, Subway’s cookies: chewy and soft. It’s a bit like the age-old brownie debate. Some people like them cakey, some people like them fudgey (I totally prefer them fudgey).

I’ve had so many cookies, and so few have been anywhere near perfect. But yours can be! You just need the right recipes. The recipes below include a spelt option (which is fantastic), and a gluten-free option.

Your Keys to Great Cookies
The best cookies should be light golden-brown, a little puffy, crisp on the outside, chewy-sweet textured on the inside, with a slight hint of caramel molasses flavour. There should be slightly melted morsels of bittersweet chocolate throughout, giving you pockets of a rich soft-crunch and that warm melting feeling in your mouth.

I like my cookies straight-up, savoured slowly, one at a time, with a trip between each one (or two!) from the couch to the kitchen. James is a cookie-monster and prefers his as yummy, warm vessels to sandwich vanilla or chocolate icecream between (Cocoluscious is clearly the best), so that the warmth softens the icecream slightly.

It's All in the Making...
  • Plain white, or white spelt, flour is a must (unless you're gluten-free!)
  • Use the best chocolate. The best chocolate chips I have come across are Callebaut 54% (fine 53.8%); these make such a difference to your baked goods. Otherwise, use your favourite, best quality chocolate block – chop it into small, asymmetrical chunks with a sharp knife. Chocolate chunk cookies can be just as delicious as chocolate chip cookies, if you prefer a bigger chocolate hit.
  • Sift and mix all of the dry ingredients extremely well. Separately, mix the wet ingredients extremely well also. When you combine the dry and wet mixes, mix as little as possible to combine the two. There should still be a little bit of dry mix. I then add the chocolate, and finish off the mixing briefly. Over-mixing will overdevelop the gluten and make your cookies tough.
  • When you take your cookies out of the oven, they should be golden-brown, but they may be quite soft. I know it's hellish waiting, but let them set. Don’t touch them! Let them sit on your metal pan (light is best, for some reason – the darker the pan, the chewier the result), for a minute or two to solidify a little before gently sliding the entire baking paper sheet, with cookies on top, onto something else to cool completely.
Desserts needn’t be a vessel for nutrition. Get your fibre and vitamins from all the wholegrains, legumes and vegetables that you’re eating. Make sure treats are delicious; any healthiness in a good dessert is a bonus. Desserts should be droolworthy, reliable, and appeal to the masses.

These two recipes are definitely the best-ever. They happen to be healthier than your average cookie, but don't they are both rich and decadent tasting - these cookies are no compromise.

The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1. Dreena Burton’s “Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies”
from her second cookbook, “Viva Le Vegan”

Notes: I’ve served these cookies to *everyone*, from a friend who is the Food Editor of my city’s newspaper (who ended up writing a blog post about them, and despite being notoriously anti-recipe, made them herself shortly after!), to my packet-food loving friends and family who never cook, to church-going grandmothers.

The feedback has always been overwhelmingly ecstatic, and I’m forever being asked for the recipe. And they’re on the healthy side – with only a generous ¼ cup of oil, a hint of blackstrap molasses for a nutritional hit, sweetening mostly from maple syrup, and honestly are best using spelt flour, which makes them wheat-free.

They have a gorgeous, puffy, chewy-sweet texture, owing to the maple syrup, and taste just as great the next day, not that you’ll be leaving them lying around for very long. They’re super quick and easy to make, don’t require a huge amount of washing up, and are assembled from ingredients that most people have in their kitchen. The other bonus is that they don’t make a huge amount (the recipe makes around 8-10 large cookies), so when you cave in and eat the entire batch, you’re not going to hate yourself as much in the morning.

The recipe is available here on her website – and be sure to thank Dreena when you make them!

2. Julie Hasson’s “Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies”
from her first all-vegan cookbook (and one of my all-time favourite cookbooks, it really is comfort-food heaven), “Vegan Diner"
Notes: These are my go-to cookies for baking at home. I make them all the time – they’re so easy, so satisfying, and taste incredibly decadent. If you’re maple-syrup averse (is there such a person on this Earth?!), these don’t contain any (which also makes them more budget-friendly).

They are very similar in terms of deliciousness/ease of making & cleanup to Dreena’s recipe, above, so I won’t repeat the cookie-raving from the recipe above, but these do deserve the same amount of raving/delight.

These have even LESS oil than Dreena’s (only 3 tablespoons! How is this possible?!), and contain 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, which adds a good nutritional boost of healthy fats and fibre.

They definitely are soft and chewy, and are very, very moreish.

The recipe, including a video where you can watch the fantastic Julie make them, is available here. There is also a gluten-free variation below the recipe, using Cybele Pascal’s Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix.

As always… if you have any questions, just ask in the comments!

James’ Note: And if the cookie dough looks too wet and you’re worried that the cookies won’t turn out, either add more flour, or just freeze them in drops and eat them! Yum!


  1. I've made Dreena's before (but off an internet post, I think they are the same though). I still haven't made anything from Vegan Diner. I will change that next week, I hope!

  2. Really? What did you think? It can be tricky to get the oven temperature/length of time just right, to result in puffy cookies, but I think they're fantastic. They do taste quite maple-y though.

    Drop everything you're doing and make everything from Vegan Diner. *Everything*.

  3. You suck, Matt!!!

    Great spelt cookies AND a great blog post. This is not what a girl wants to see on the very dry, very crisp, are-they-meant-to-be-dark-brown, spelt cookie baking day.

    Well done ;)


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