dark chocolate, sea salt and walnut cookies

cookiesolo

Get ready for an obscene statement.

I love cookies.

Okay, so that might be just slightly anticlimactic; especially seeing as almost the entire population of the Western world shares the same view. What may be a little more surprising is the fact that I love pretty much all cookies, whether they be soft or crunchy, chewy or crumbly, well-browned or pallid and slightly underdone. As long as they’re buttery and crammed with ‘the good stuff’ (e.g. chocolate chips, toasted nuts, dried fruit) I will happily consume every last crumb with a satisfied smile on my face. Cookie goodness equals happy Laura; especially when accompanied by a fresh cup of piping hot tea.

butternuts

In recent months, I’ve realised that this kind of statement may seem quite unusual to some bakers. Most cookie consumers seem to be a lot more discerning, especially when it comes to the hallowed chocolate chip variety. In fact, some bloggers have even gone to the extent of testing and comparing various recipes for flavour, consistency and texture (see here, here and here for some examples) in the hope of finding the ‘ultimate’ chocolate chip cookie. As this ‘research’ is entirely subjective, the jury remains out as to which cookie reigns supreme. However, as far as I can tell, American audiences largely favour the soft, chewy cookie varieties whilst the British prefer crunchier, crumblier versions that stay true to the original definition of biscuit. Yes, Americans and Canadians, I classify your ‘biscuits’ as ‘scones‘. You are entitled to argue.

beatermont

Anyway, moving on. You’ll find below a recipe for a chocolate chip cookie that my 20-year-old self first discovered whilst reading the January 2004 edition of Good Taste magazine in a Woolworths supermarket. The main draw card was the walnuts; I love anything with walnuts, especially when combined with dark chocolate. So, after a moment’s deliberation, I squirreled the magazine home in my handbag (after paying for it, of course), hauled out my mother’s old General Electric hand-held mixer and spent the evening covered in flour, butter and melted chocolate. By the next day, all of the cookies had mysteriously disappeared. The recipe was declared a great and glorious success.

eggsalt

Fast forward, uh… nine years. I’m still baking these cookies as part of my regular rotation. Sometimes I mix things up a bit by adding dried fruit, white chocolate, macadamias instead of walnuts, sea salt (as per this more sophisticated version) or extra butter and more eggs (read on to ‘notes’ for information on how these ingredients change the consistency of a cookie). Each variation has been equally delicious and eagerly consumed by my friends, family and work colleagues.

So. If you haven’t already found your favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, I’d encourage you to try this one. It’s not a chewy cookie recipe (unless you try one of the variations below) but you’ll end up with a deliciously crisp, crunchy cookies with buttery dough, smooth dark chocolate chunks and the bitterness of toasted walnuts. Try them on their own, with a fresh cup of char or crumbled up over vanilla ice-cream and hot fudge sauce. Either way, they’re absolutely delicious… and with the protein-packed nuts and antioxidant content, I convince myself that they’re healthy, too. Sort of.

cookiejar

Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt and Walnut Cookies

Adapted slightly from this recipe by Sarah Hobbs.

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 100g (1/2 cup) soft brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 free-range egg, at room temperature
  • 225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour, sifted
  • 200g dark eating chocolate
  • 150g (1 1/2 cups) walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Murray River flaked pink sea salt (or other delicate sea salt), optional

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (356 degrees f). Line two medium baking trays with greaseproof paper, then set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together with an electric beater until pale and creamy. Add in your egg, then beat until thoroughly combined. Sift in your flour, then stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add in your walnuts and dark chocolate. Stir to combine.

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Use your hands to roll tablespoons-full of mixture into balls. Place the balls, 2-3cm apart, onto your prepared trays. Flatten slightly with your hand or a fork.

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Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes, swapping the tray positions in your oven half way through. When ready, your cookies should be light golden. Remove from the oven, then set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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When your cookies are almost cooled, sprinkle each with a few flakes of good quality, mild sea salt. This little step is entirely optional, but trust me; the crunchy, salty flakes pair perfectly with the earthy, sweet dark chocolate, butter and brown sugar. Yum.

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Notes:

  • As aforementioned, this recipe will produce thick, crunchy, crisp and crumbly chocolate chip cookies that are more in line with a traditional English biscuit. If you’d like them to be chewier, I’d suggest adding an extra egg yolk during the whipping process, alongside a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Add 1/4 tsp baking soda to the flour during the sifting process, then continue as per the recipe.
  • If you’d like thinner, crispier cookies, you need to add more butter (try 150g) and substitute the brown sugar for white, granular caster sugar. Brown sugar is more acidic and hydrophilic, which means that it retains more moisture during the cooking process. White sugar, being less dense, can help produce a crisper end product. Increasing the butter content will also add further milk protein which aids in browning and crisping.
  • If you’re baking these cookies on a warm day and the dough seems to be too sticky, refrigerate it for a while before baking. Don’t add more flour, as this will likely produce a drier, hard finished product.
  • Over-mixing your dough can also result in tough cookies (and contrary to the saying, this is not a good thing). When flour is combined with liquid, the embedded gluten starts to develop into a network of protein strands that become stronger and more elastic when mixed. This holds your baked goods together (a positive) but can also toughen them (a negative) if over-worked. In any cookie recipe, use the minimum amount of mixing required to create a uniform dough (a good indicator is that there should be no visible patches of flour).
  • I these bake cookies between two baking trays (or cookie sheets) to allow space for spreading. Even if you have room for both trays on one oven shelf, I’d suggest rotating your trays between two different oven positions half way through the cooking time to allow for better air circulation and heat distribution. Most ovens have hot spots (mine definitely do!) so this will result in a more evenly baked product.
  • Do you tend to eat left over cookie dough? I’ve recently broken the habit. Why? Well, cookie dough contains very perishable items, the most significant of which is raw egg. Consumption of chicken eggs in their raw state can lead to serious food poisoning (and death) through the ingestion of salmonella, so if you’re going to eat raw cookie dough I’d suggest making a special egg-free batch.

walnutdust

End note: This recipe reminds me of my beautiful, talented and generous mother (as I continue to use her now-gifted, 25+ year old mixer; she also adores anything with nuts and will always be my first official taste tester) and my best friend, Vicky (who consumed a whole tin of these in one week whilst pregnant; she has now added this recipe to her own family’s repertoire). These amazing women are inspiring, supportive and generous with their love and time. I’m so grateful to be traveling through the ups and downs of life with them. Oh, and whilst I’m adding links, also check out the freshly minted website of my husband and new official taste tester, Aaron. He and the poker boys gave these cookies their manly endorsement last night, so they must be good.

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