There are two types of people in the world: those who like nuts in their chocolate chip cookies, and those who do not. For our entire lives we have always preferred them without, until one momentous night a few months ago when our good friend Gabe brought us this exceptional batch that changed our minds forever. And we are not the only ones! Last night we took a platter of these cookies to a holiday singalong party, and witnessed the miraculous conversion of several friends who had never liked nuts in their cookies before. So what is it about them that is changing people’s hearts and minds, especially on such a serious and potentially divisive issue? It could be that they are loaded with big chunks of dark chocolate. Maybe it’s the extra splash of vanilla, or the higher amount of dark brown sugar. Or perhaps the perfect texture: chewy and moist with golden crispy edges and a rugged crunchy top. Whatever the reason, these rich and chocolatey jumbo-sized cookies have made converts out of us, and we have embraced the delicious power of walnuts in baked goods. One bite, and you just might become a believer too…
This recipe takes the classic chocolate chip cookie to the next level. Instead of using standard semi-sweet chips, we take a bar of 60-70% dark chocolate and chop it by hand, bringing a deep intensity and a delicious contrast to the sweet cookie dough. This also makes each morsel of chocolate slightly different in size so no two cookies are alike! Another change from the traditional version is the butter: while most recipes begin with it softened at room-temperature, this starts with melted butter, keeping the texture of the cookies extra soft and ultra chewy. And for the walnuts, the secret is simple: toast them first! The extra three minutes it takes to roast them in a dry skillet will completely transform the raw nuts with a warm, earthy flavor and an irresistible crunch.
These are big, substantial cookies like those found at an upscale bakery or coffee shop. Traditional recipes use just a tablespoon of dough per cookie, but here that amount is quadrupled to a quarter cup, greatly improving the texture: the edges are crispy and buttery, the center is soft and chewy, and the thick, larger size allows you to taste the delicious contrast between them. The last trick (which we demonstrate for you in the animated GIF below) is how to shape the cookies. Instead of the usual smooth ball of dough, here we pull the ball apart before joining it back together, making a rough, ragged, irregularly-shaped clump. This technique gives the baked cookie an appealing rustic texture and appearance, and is an easy step that greatly improves the final product. These simple changes to the classic recipe—dark chocolate instead of semi-sweet, toasting the nuts, melting the butter—are minor on their own, but combined they transform a beloved tradition into a delicious and truly gourmet baked treat. And if you have never been a fan of nuts in cookies before, they may end up transforming you as well.
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Toasted Walnuts
adapted from Cooks Illustrated, via our friend Gabriel Wyner at Fluent Forever who first made them for us
makes 15 to 18 large cookies
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (6 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup (4 ounces) walnuts, chopped
Arrange oven racks so there is one in the lower-middle part of the oven, and one in the upper-middle part. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the chopped walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, and cook, tossing frequently, until the nuts are lightly browned, toasted, and fragrant. Remove nuts from pan and let them cool on a plate until ready to use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until smooth. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and continue to beat until well-combined. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in the chopped chocolate and cooled walnuts.
Take about 1/4 cup of dough and roll it into a ball. Then gently pull the ball apart into two halves. Notice that these halves are half smooth and half ragged where they were pulled apart. Join them back together, but rotating the halves slightly, leaving the ragged sides pointed up. The idea here is to have a mound of dough that is rough and jagged rather than a smooth ball, producing a better-textured cookie. Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat for remaining dough, spacing each one about 2 1/2 inches apart.
Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake until the edges of the cookies start to harden, but centers are still soft and puffy, about 15 to 20 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking to ensure they cook evenly. Cool completely on the pans, then remove the cookies from the parchment.
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