There are few desserts that I can think of that cause as much debate as the proper texture for a chocolate chip cookie. Some like them chewy, others like them crunchy while there's another camp that prefers a more cake-like texture. I've always been on the fence, loving the crisp caramelized snap of a good crunchy cookie while feeling equally partial to the soft and chewy cookie more reminiscent of the dough before it's been cooked. And if you're a dunker like me, you probably also appreciate the cakier cookies for their ability to soak up milk like a sponge for a cool creamy mouthful of sweet heaven.
So why have these chocolate chip cookie factions always been mutually exclusive? Is it not possible to have a cookie that suits everyone? These were some questions I started asking myself as I set out to make my first batch of cookies in over 4 years. I started with the basic recipe I learned from my mom as a kid. Then, I reduced the amount of flour (her's is very cakey), increased the amount of sugar (to make it more chewy and to increase crispness), and finally played with the baking times with each tray.
By using a balanced dough (between flour, sugar and butter), I was able to get different textured cookies based on the amount of time they were cooked for. At 12 minutes the edges were slightly cakey while the centers were chewy and slightly gooey. At 16 minutes the cookies were cooked all the way through with crunchy edges and a crumbly center. 14 minutes turned out to be the magic number for my oven, producing cookies with a nice snap at the edges, a layer with a slightly cakey crumb on top and a dense chewy bottom.
In the flavour department, I'm a big fan of rustic Mexican chocolate, which is often infused with spices such as cinnamon and chili peppers. It also tends to be much more course than European chocolates due to the lack of conching. I wanted to introduce some of this into these cookies, but since Mexican chocolate can be hard to find, I added the spices to the dough instead. The heat really punctuates the earthy chocolate and brown sugar, making you pause for a moment while you figure out what's different about this cookie.
While I recommend the combo, if spicy cookies aren't your thing, try adding some peppermint oil to the dough, or replacing some of the sugar with raspberry jam. While experimentation in baking is often frowned upon, cookies are pretty forgiving and a great opportunity to try your hand at something a little different.
- Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 325 degrees.
- Cream the butter and 2 kinds of sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix till combined after each addition. Add the vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, mixing until combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add it to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir in by hand.
- Scoop roughly 1/4 cup of batter for each cookie onto a baking sheet (it's okay if the balls are jagged) leaving enough room for them to spread. Bake 1 sheet at a time for about 12-15 minutes each or until the edges are set, but the middle is still soft. You may need to experiment with your oven to figure out the perfect cooking time. As these cookies bake, they go from chewy to cakey to crisp, so you can change their characteristic by the amount of time you bake them for.
- To get the chewy center, allow them to cool on the pan (not on a rack).