Saturday, March 8, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

For several weeks, I’ve been avoiding baking cookies of any kind because of the time and labor they require. Already I tend to skimp on my attention to detail and crowd too many cookies onto one sheet, resulting in largely square munchies (whoops). But, having baked loaves and cakes for a few weeks, I was ready to re-enter the world of cookies, if only for an afternoon.

This recipe does not require much time, which makes it an excellent choice for post-work baking. Its quickness can be attributed to 1) the simplicity of the recipe, and 2) the fact that the recipe only produces 2 dozen cookies total. If you’re going to double the recipe, make sure you have enough chocolate – I used about 9 oz on today’s batch alone, and using twice that can amount to a significant expense if you’re using snobby (but delicious) high-quality chocolate such as Scharffen Berger or Green & Black’s.

The cookies are sizeable and attractive, in addition to being extraordinarily tasty. I took the base recipe from Neiman Marcus, though I have no idea why a company that produces high-end clothes would also create anything as homey as a chocolate chip cookie. I made two main alterations. The first was extremely small, simply reducing the recommended amount of instant espresso powder because I believe a chocolate chip cookie should taste more like chocolate than coffee. The second alternation I took from Dorrie Greenspan, who always recommends buying chocolate in solid bars and chopping it yourself instead of using prepackaged chocolate chips. It is often a pricey substitution, but I have found it worth it in each instance of employing the practice.

I have re-written the directions that correspond with the recipe in an attempt to make them more intuitive and tailored to the individual who lacks an electric mixer. It should also be noted that the cookies are best when enjoyed while still cooling, as they are chewy and moist without being unpleasantly doughy. When packed in an airtight container and consumed later, the cookies tend to crisp up a bit, but in an enjoyable way rather than tasting stale. However, if you wish to bring back the chewy texture, simply pop it in the microwave for ~12 seconds (depending on the microwave), or until the chocolate is once again melty and the cookie breaks softly instead of cracking when you break it.

Modified Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 TBS granulated sugar
1 large egg

2 tsps. vanilla extract

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. instant espresso powder

1 ½ cups (~9 oz.) chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I prefer bittersweet)

Note: Instant espresso powder is NOT the same as instant coffee, which is much coarser in texture and in taste. If you cannot find instant espresso powder, I would recommend skipping this ingredient rather than using instant coffee as a substitute.


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Cream the butter with the sugars using a wooden spoon, making sure to break up all the lumps in the brown sugar. Mix until homogenous.

2. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract with the wooden spoon. Add espresso powder and mix until evenly distributed.

3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder with a wire whisk or a fork.

4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients in 3 parts, mixing each addition with the wooden spoon until just combined.

5. Use a rubber spatula to gently incorporate your chopped chocolate bits into the dough.

6. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

7. Using a teaspoon and your hands, form large, rounded lumps of dough (~2 TBS each – it should feel like a small handful when rolling, about the size of a ping pong ball) and place them on your baking sheet ~ 3 inches apart.

Note: Make sure to give the cookies the proper space, as they will expand.

8. Flatten each ball with the flat part of your palm.

9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cookies are starting to lightly brown at the edges.

Note: If you want your cookies soft and chewy rather than crispy, do not let the tops of the cookies turn golden. Once you remove the cookies from the oven (they may look slightly underbaked at the “golden on the edges” point in baking), leave them on the hot sheet for a few minutes to let them continue cooking.

10. Using a metal spatula, remove the cookies from the sheets and place them on a wire rack to cool

Yield: 24 cookies

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