If you don't wish to hear the cookies talk about themselves, you can skip straight to the recipe.
In Which Brown Butter Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies Speak for Themselves
We are Brown Butter Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies, and we are, in a word, Perfect.
Other cookies pale in comparison. Literally. Our mere whisper of black cocoa powder tastes not of chocolate but hints of depth and richness.
We are perfect.
To brown butter is to elevate it to pure concentrated perfection. We welcome its warmth and the way its deep nuttiness blends with the molasses in our dark brown sugar, providing a backdrop of toffee in every bite.
We are studded with toffee and sea salt Belgian milk chocolate and punctuated with enough semi-sweet chocolate chips to balance the sweetness. We are perfect.
Our edges, they are crisp.
Our centers, they are chewy.
Our dimples, how merry.
Let us continue.
We beg you not to leave us out for Santa lest he linger too long and not finish his rounds.
Think of the children.
We will surprise you with the occasional crunchy zing of piment d'esplette sea salt.
We should come with a warning. Do not eat us when you are driving, lest your eyes inadvertently roll back in your head and you drive off the road.
We are Brown Butter Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies, and we are perfect.
Hyperbole you might scoff. Rest assured, we speak the truth.
We are perfect.
And we are waiting for you.
In Which Jenni Takes Over From the Cookies
The cookies could really go on all day about themselves, so I thought I'd better step in and tell you just a bit about how I developed these, where I got my inspiration and my base recipe, and why I wanted "my very own chocolate chip cookie" in the first place.
First, I cannot say enough wonderful things about Tessa and her site, Handle the Heat. Any person who takes the time to make a bunch of different iterations of chocolate chip cookies to illustrated what different ingredients do in a cookie is a champ. Seriously. I figuratively devoured her two posts The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies, Parts Un et Deux and immediately decided that, since the information was in the front of my brain, I should devise my own version.
I have never been a huge fan of chocolate chip cookies. They are tasty, but they often lack depth. To my palate, the All-American cookie suffers from a lack of seasoning, a proliferation of grocery store bakery versions that are just bad, and not many folks that really care to bring out all the nuance that is just waiting to be unlocked.
I can be nuanced. So I set to work.
First up, the cookie itself--sans mix-ins. Standard chocolate chip cookie dough already contains butter and a hint of molasses from the brown sugar, so it is just a tiny leap from there to get to toffee. I achieved Toffeeness in the dough by using browned butter--including the golden brown milk solids--for the fat. That simple tweak alone works wonders, bringing a bit of depth and nutty-butteriness to the flavor profile.
If you've never browned butter and think it's a hard thing to do, I made a little video for you. It's not swankily edited, and it's not up on YouTube. You can watch it on facebook if you'd like. Folks have said that it is very soothing, not unlike the fireplace video.
While toffee is a delicious "mid-range" flavor, but it really needs salt to wake it up. Not only did I use salted butter (a mistake purchase that I've decided to make the best of), I also added a full 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. It really snaps the toffee into focus. The last piece of the puzzle for me was a bass note. A low note to balance the strong toffee. Just a hint, though. I found that using 1 teaspoon of either Black Onyx Cocoa Powder from Savory Spice Shop or Espresso Powder provided enough of a bitter edge to hold down the dough. Again, I wasn't trying to make a chocolate chocolate chip cookie or an espresso chocolate chip cookie (though of course you could make either and those would be delicious). I just wanted a "normal" chocolate chip cookie that had all the depth of flavor that I think they should have had all along.
Next up, the chips. In my first test I used chopped toffee and sea salt milk chocolate, as pictured up there somewhere. The Walgreen's people sell them, by the way. The chocolate is delicious, but since the dough is toffee-forward, the milk chocolate bar didn't provide enough of a contrast. While tasty, it was all just a bit much--a bit too sweet and same-ish.
The last issue, for me anyway, was cohesive flavor. I didn't want to be able to pick out each individual flavor--I wanted to taste One Awesome Flavor, and in order for that to happen, I needed to let the dough ripen in the fridge. An hour is better than no time at all, but 24 or even 48 hours isn't out of the question. During this time, the flavors can all mingle and meld and figure out how to fit together. And the flour has a chance to fully hydrate.
Round 2 was the final round, because I think I have hit the nail on the head in just two tries. I used 2 parts chopped milk chocolate toffee candy bar and 1 part 60% cacao chips. Perfect. Plenty of sweet, creamy, milky toffee goodness with an occasional jolt of bittersweet to keep it all in balance.
The first iteration of the cookie was pretty splendid, but I didn't do useful things like weigh ingredients. And I thought they spread a smidge too much and were just a touch sweet. But if that's your thing, give them a whirl. That's them up there on the cooling rack. They really are pretty cookies. Here's the ingredient list:
Brown Butter Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie "Prototype"
- 1 stick salted butter, browned, milk solids and all, cooled to cool room temperature so it's creamable
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons salted butter, at cool room temperature
- slightly generous 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- slightly generous 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoons espresso powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 large egg
- 5 oz bread flour (I used King Arthur)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 oz. chopped milk chocolate toffee bar
- 1 stick salted butter, browned, milk solids and all, cooled (or chilled if necessary) to cool room temperature for Creaming Purposes
- 2.5 oz dark brown sugar
- 2.5 oz granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Black Onlyx Cocoa Powder (or some other very dark "Oreo-style" cocoa powder) or espresso powder
- ½ teaspoon vanilla paste
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 5 oz bread flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 4 oz chopped milk chocolate toffee bar
- 2 oz 60% cacao chocolate chips
- a bit of coarse, flaky sea salt for sprinkling--whatever kind you like. I used Piment d'Espelette Grey Sea Salt, and it was divine.
- Cream the butter until smooth.
- Add the sugars, cocoa powder or espresso powder, vanilla paste and salt and mix on low speed until creamy. You don't need fluffy. This isn't cake. Just creamy is fine.
- Mix in the egg until thoroughly combined, scraping the bowl as necessary.
- Whisk together the flour and leaveners and dump into the mixer while it is off.
- Turn the mixer on low and mix until just combined. Scrape the bowl.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer, scrape the beater and make sure most of it gets back into the bowl.
- Dump in the chopped chocolate and chocolate chips and stir/fold them in with a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon.
- Pack the dough into a container and cover the surface with plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 24 hours. I could only stand to wait for 3 hours, just in case you were wondering.
- About 30 minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 325F. I like to bake one rack at a time, but you can bake on both racks if you want to. Set your oven racks accordingly.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment or Silpat.
- I like big cookies, so I portioned out 1.5 oz scoops of cookie dough and ended up with 12 cookies. 6 on one sheet and 6 on another. You do what you want, but you will probably have to adjust your baking time. Go for it.
- Bake one sheet of cookies on the center rack for 9 minutes. Open the oven and quickly sprinkle a bit of salt onto each cookie.
- Rotate the sheet and bake for another 9 minutes. Cookies should be just starting to turn a deep golden brown around the edges, but they might still be kind of soft on top. That's fine.
- Remove to a rack. Let cookies set up on the sheet for 3 minutes before removing them to a rack to cool for as long as you can stand it.
And now, both the cookies and I are all talked out. It's up to you now.
What do you think? What's your idea of a perfect chocolate chip cookie?
Thanks for reading and spending some time with me today. Have a lovely day.