It’s pretty hard to not fall into the boring food trap. There are always these pre-determined concepts for how recipes should be, or which flavours should be paired. Yeah, I get that they’re there for a reason.
Tried and true
blah blah blah
but there’s so much more potential!
Do you remember the whole balsamic + strawberry craze a few years ago? It’s a good combo right!? but still, I don’t think it’s common enough for it to be a ‘classic’. It’s accepted, but not overly used.
Then there are things like salt and chocolate, pairing the salty with the sweet. As we know, salted desserts are effing awesome, and hugely popular.
I for one, can also tell you that putting some cocoa powder into chile, pomegranate juice into a stew, or apricots into a quesadilla is a REALLY GOOD IDEA.
So when faced with a food that’s just a bit lack luster, go cray.
Don’t you always find chocolate chip cookie’s a bit ‘blah’ ? Heck yes that chocolate is going to taste good, but what about the dough?
For me, it’s normally leave-able. As in
I could eat the chocolate
and just leave the cookie part, to be honest.
The dough is a vessel to get molten chocolate into my face. That is all.
I think it’s not just me that feels this way because when the chocolate chip cookie recipe came out in the NY times last year (it was last year, right?) everyone was going mentallll over them!
One of the main reasons? Aging the dough, which developed the flavour and produced a cookie that had more depth than the Nestle Tollhouse recipe (btw, has the Tollhouse recipe ever worked for anyone? I always get super flat greasy cookies. Such a fail).
Then there was the whole browned butter phase, and let me tell you, I still brown butter for 50% of things I make, because it’s just another way of giving food a liiiiittle bit more zing.
If you think about it, it’s a bit strange how in baking we use so much less flavour enhancing ingredients. When you cook, you add salt + pepper, a myriad of condiments, herbs and spices. Whereas for baking, it’s usually vanilla, cinnamon, almond or fruit. Sometimes there might be some anise or cardamom. But that’s about it. You might experiment with cayenne in chocolate cookies once, but it’s never going to become a regular addition.
and I think that by using that logic, I’ve finally cracked it:
My perfect chocolate chip cookie.
I thought I’d reached perfection a few months ago, when I made these bittersweet chocolate chip cookies, but by changing one little thing this time, I improved them even more!
They have all the things I would ever want: Soft, chewy middle, loads of molten chocolate shards, crisp edges a flavourful cookie dough base (that is deffo not leave-able) and, ofc, some salt on top!
I was asked by Lacoste to make a recipe based on the scent notes in their new L.12.12 Noir cologne, which included dark chocolate, Egyptian basil and verbena.
It made me think about how if they worked together in a scent, why not in a food?
I wasn’t going to go and make a chocolate pesto or anything, I knew it’d need to be more subtle, so the herbs would just do their job to boost the other flavours.
Sooo when I was browning the butter for chocolate chip cookies, I added chopped basil and verbena (which has a gentle lemon flavour) to the saucepan, then strained them out. I was left with this lightly scented butter, that when added to the cookie dough just gave it SO much FLAVOUR!
It wasn’t like *bites into cookie* “HELLOO BASIL”,
it had a herby undertone that simply worked. I asked people to guess what they thought I’d put in it, and literally no one could guess, but they loved them. And so did I, and you
probably most def will too, if you make them!
BEST COOKIES EVER
aaand I’m out.
- If you don’t have verbena, sub it for the zest of half a lemon, and add to the butter whilst it’s browning
- You can sub the fancy salt for a scant 1/2 tsp of table salt in the dough, however you can’t use table salt for sprinkling so either use the fancy salt for sprinkling or just don’t sprinkle at all.
- You can just use a 1/4 cup measure (which equals 4 tbsp), then roll the dough into a ball with your hands and slightly flatten into a hemi-sphere on the baking tray.
- ¼ cup (4 tbsp) fresh basil leaves
- 2 tbsp verbena leaves (see notes)
- 10 tbsp (5 oz / 140 g) butter
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1¾ cup (230 g) all purpose flour (I used half whole wheat and half all purpose)
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup + 3 tbsp (140 g) light brown sugar, packed
- ½ tsp kosher salt / fleur de sel* (plus more for sprinkling)
- 1 egg
- 7 oz (200 g) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I LOVE either 85 or 70% - it's hard to find 60% in the UK, but you can use that or semi-sweet)
- Roughly chop the basil and verbena then add to a small saucepan with the butter. Heat continuously it on medium-low on the stove until it foams up and smells nutty then stir in the vanilla extract. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then strain it through a sieve (push through as much of the browned butter bits as poss though, you're just trying to take out the herbs).
- Meanwhile, either in a stand mixer or a large bowl combine the next 6 ingredients (flour through to salt). Pour in the butter and mix until it looks like moist clumpy sand with no floury patches. Add the egg and mix in for a few seconds, then the chopped chocolate and mix until well distributed - but not for too long!
- Using a ¼ cup cookie scoop (see notes), scoop up some of the dough and smoosh it into the scoop until it's just full. Turn out onto a lined cookie tray, spacing each mound 3" apart (I managed 4 per tray). Repeat with all of the cookie dough. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for anywhere between 1 - 72 hours (the longer you wait, the better the texture and flavour!!!).
- When ready to bake preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). When ready, sprinkle the cold cookie dough with fleur de sel and shove into the oven immediately!! Bake for 8-12 minutes, until browned, with set edges, and a puffy, soft center. Let cool on the baking tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.