Bites worth remembering — the only chocolate-chip cookie recipe you’ll ever need
For those who love a baking shortcut (is sifting flour and icing sugar really necessary?), Emelia Jackson breaks down the steps that truly matter and dispenses with those that don’t. Plus: You’ll learn how to get the cookies perfectly round, if that’s your desire.
One of Australia’s most sought-after cake designers, Emelia Jackson is best known internationally for being victorious in the 2020 MasterChef Back to Win series.
Her first book, First, Cream the Butter and Sugar, is packed with advice for every level of home baker. It’s the modern baking reassurance you need, whether it’s the night before the birthday party or just a Sunday afternoon for baking something sweet to get you through the week.
Today, we’re delighted to share her recipe for chocolate chip cookies, with some delightful optional variations.
The only chocolate-chip cookie recipe you’ll ever need
My criteria for an amazing chocolate-chip cookie is fairly simple: crisp and chewy texture, overloaded with quality chocolate chips and, most importantly, not sickly sweet. I like the chocolate to do the sweet-talking, with just a faint touch of molasses from the brown sugar to really amp up the ante. This is one of those recipes that you’ll go back for, time and time again. Adapted from the world-famous New York Times recipe, I’ve simplified without compromising the final flavour and texture of the cookies.
- 560 g (1 lb 4 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes, plus extra for sprinkling (for that salty ‘pop’)
- 300 g (10 1⁄2 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 300 g (10 1⁄2 oz) light brown sugar
- 250 g (9 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) dark chocolate chips
Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Give these dry ingredients a good whisk (because, as I’ve mentioned, I hate sifting) and set aside.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla. (I add the eggs at this point because the extra moisture helps the butter really cream up.)
Reserve some of the chocolate chips to add to the cookies after baking. Add all of the dry ingredients and the remaining chocolate chips to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Do not overmix the dough once the flour has been added — you don’t want to develop any of the gluten in the flour, as this will leave you with a tough cookie.
This is the hardest step of all: refrigerate your cookie dough for 12–36 hours before baking. The longer you refrigerate the dough, the more flavour development will occur, the less the cookies will spread and the better the overall texture will be. Seems worth it, hey?
When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line two baking trays with baking paper or silicone baking mats and place six golf ball-sized rounds of dough on the trays, using about 50 g (1.7 oz) dough for each one. The cookies will spread, so give them space to do their thing. Sprinkle with extra sea salt flakes.
Bake the cookies in batches for 12–14 minutes or until caramelised around the edges but still soft and blond towards the centre. To get your cookies perfectly round, see my tips on page 24 (below). As soon as the cookies are out of the oven, sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips. Allow to cool on the trays for 15 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack and dive in, head first. I recommend eating the cookies with a cup of tea or coffee to ensure you can handle eating six in a sitting. We don’t want that ‘back of the throat’ sugar build-up to hold you back from full enjoyment!
You can refrigerate the dough for anywhere between 12 and 36 hours (or even longer if you wish, and you can even freeze the rolled dough balls). My general recommendation is 24 hours. If you just can’t help yourself, you can bake a few cookies immediately to get that satisfactory hit and refrigerate the rest of the dough for the following day. Run your own experiments with timing and decide whether or not you think it makes a difference. The dough will be really firm once chilled, so you can roll the dough balls in advance and refrigerate them, ready to bake.
Mix it up!
Leave out the dark chocolate chips and you have a great base recipe for any flavoured drop cookie. Here are some suggestions:
White chocolate, sour cherry and pistachio cookies
Add 350 g (12 oz) white chocolate chips, 120 g (41⁄4 oz) dried sour cherries and 120 g (41⁄4 oz) roasted pistachios. Drizzle with a little melted white chocolate and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
Blueberry, lemon and white chocolate cookies
Add 400 g (14 oz) white chocolate chips, 60 g (21⁄4 oz) freeze-dried blueberries and the grated zest of 2 lemons.
Milk chocolate hazelnut crunch cookies
Add 350 g (12 oz) milk chocolate chips, 150 g (51⁄ oz) roughly chopped roasted hazelnuts and 50 g (13⁄4 oz) crispy dark chocolate pearls.
Raspberry and white chocolate cookies
Add 60 g (21⁄4 oz) freeze-dried raspberries and 350 g (12 oz) white or ruby chocolate chips.
Hazelnut-stuffed chocolate-chip cookies
Refrigerate (or freeze) a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread (such as Nutella) or hazelnut praline paste for 30 minutes to firm it up. Flatten each ball of chocolate chip dough into a disc and fill it with a heaped teaspoon of the firm chocolate spread or praline paste. Wrap the dough into a ball and make sure it’s completely sealed before baking.
Cereal chocolate-chip cookies
Keep the chocolate chips and add 180 g (6 oz) mini marshmallows and 60 g (2.1 oz) cornflakes.
How to get your cookies perfectly round
Let me set the scene … You’re baking cookies from your favourite cookbook (this book, I’ll assume). You glance at the picture of perfectly round cookies, chocolate chips sitting in perfect position on top. You decide that you’re going to roll your cookies as round as you can. They will be perfect.
Fast forward 20 minutes or so. You pull your tray of cookies out of the oven and … they’re not round and they’ve spread all over the place. What the?! Well, I am here to save the day. Here is how I (and most bakers) achieve those perfectly round cookies, every time.
- Remove the tray of cookies from the oven a couple of minutes before they have finished baking — you want them to be soft to allow for some shaping action.
- Take a cookie cutter, ring cutter or anything round that’s slightly wider than your cookies. (I have a pack of ring cutters that has about 20 different sizes in it — I highly recommend buying one.)
- Place the cutter over one of the piping-hot cookies and gently move it around in a circular motion, shaping the cookie as you move the cutter. Watch as your cookie goes from a randomly spread shape to a perfect circle, right before your eyes!
- Repeat with the remaining cookies, then return your cookies to the oven for the final couple of minutes of baking. And here’s another tip: perfectly placed chocolate chips can be added on top of cookies as soon as you pull them out of the oven. They will melt with the heat but still hold their form and reset as the cookies cool. Pretty as a picture.
I like to allow cookies to cool for 10–15 minutes before removing them from the baking tray to allow them to firm up and retain their shape. Cookies, like most baked goods, are best eaten within a couple of days of baking. However, they can usually be stored in an airtight container for up to 10 days. DM/ ML
First, Cream the Butter and Sugar by Emelia Jackson is published by Murdoch Books (R685). Photography by Armelle Habib. Visit The Reading List for South African book news – including recipes! – daily.