Friday, March 11, 2011

Recipe: Nigella's Big Chocolate Chip Cookies Two Ways

Nigella's Big Chocolate Chip Cookies 2
These scrumptious cookies offer 'tender chewiness with an edge of crisp bite.'

Am I the last person to fall in love with bestselling author and British domestic goddess Nigella Lawson? The woman is a hoot, and I haven't even seen her Food Network shows. Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home is Nigella's eighth cookbook but—should I even be admitting this?—my first. Her books have sold over five million copies.

This one is a 3¾ pound (yes, I actually weighed it), 512-page, full-color hardcover that's packed with 190 inspiring recipes, 60 of which are 'express-style,' and makes me want to both crack up laughing and cook. Cover priced at $35, but available for just $18.25 from amazon.com, it's a happy cook's bargain.

All I've actually made from it so far are four batches of these scrumptious chocolate chip cookies, but this book has already given me several hours of enjoyment and has spent more time off the shelf and in my hands during the last few months than any of my other cookbooks.

The chapters have great titles like Hurry Up! I'm hungry! Dinner at the double for those days when it feels there's scarcely time to cook; Easy does it: How it's possible to feed friends when you're frantic without losing your temper or sanity; Cook it better: Recipes that make the most of what's in the kitchen, or how to gratify good sense and greed at the same time; At my table: Or how I found culinary contentment by banishing the dinner party from my life so that I could enjoy both the company and the cooking; The bone collection: The stuff I really sink my teeth into, or delights for the die-hard carnivore; and My sweet solution: Desserts that save the day.

Hints and tips abound, and many recipes include Make Ahead Notes and Freeze Notes, as well as creative ways for Making Leftovers Right, like how to turn leftover Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic into a soup or pasta sauce. And the recipe introductions—even for the things you know you'll never cook—all make for entertaining reading.

On Apple and Cinnamon Muffins:
I know this sounds unnecessarily contentious, or just plain muddle-headed, but I feel that the enormous popularity of the muffin has done it a great disfavor. . . Now, I would rather eat compacted sawdust than most of the muffins I see bulging menacingly from coffee-shop shelves.

On Korean Keema:
Keema is a fantastically hangover-salving dish of spicy (usually lamb) ground meat; this version uses ground turkey and, more significantly, its heat is provided by the gochujang, the Korean chili paste that I keep on hand to pep up a jaded palate or pallid-flavored ingredient. Being ground does not generally do turkey many favors, but the aromatic richness of the paste makes it sing. Dinner's on the table in a matter of minutes.

On Pasta with Potatoes, Green Beans, and Pesto:
Children—who are perhaps more honest about their tastes than the rest of us—seem to have an overweening preference for carbohydrates, and I am more than happy to exploit this. . . I can honestly say I don't know how parents managed to feed their children in the days before pasta became universal culinary currency. Oh, yes I do, actually: they didn't care whether we liked what they cooked or not we just ate what we were given.

On Coconut and Cherry Banana Bread:
The title of this cake conjures up something much gaudier than is actually the case. The cherries—which could indeed have been candied—are dried, and the banana bakes to make for a slightly drab, manilla-tinted sponge. To look at, I'll grant you, this is not a joyous creation, but its damp and luscious taste is all the more heightened for being unforeseen. I like that. Those who look at life rather than taking a bite out of it are not deserving of the pleasures they deny themselves.

Those are just some of the recipes I've bookmarked. Others include Crisp Chicken Cutlets, Egg and Bacon Salad, Sunshine (sweet pepper and corn) Soup, Indian-Rubbed Lamb Chops, Jumbo Chili Sauce, Universally Useful Blue Cheese Dressing (love that name), Chicken Teriyaki, Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Thyme and Black Olives, Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins, Buttermilk Scones, Maple Pecan Bundt Cake, Everyday Brownies, and Devil's Food Cake.

Nigella's other books are:

Do you have any favorite Nigella cookbooks and/or recipes? I'd love to hear about them. And what about a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?

Nigella's Big Chocolate Chip Cookies 3

I'm always up for baking chocolate chip cookies, and I was immediately drawn to this recipe because Nigella's cookies look so much like the ones I've been making for years: big and thick and light (in color, not calories). They even call for melted butter rather than creamed, which seems to be all the rage these days but which I actually started doing out of desperation back in 1985 when, on a whim, I started selling chocolate chip cookies at the little takeout restaurant I ran with my boyfriend and we didn't have an electric mixer.

One of the best things about homemade chocolate chip cookies is that there are endless variations. Change just one or two little things, and you'll often end up with a completely different cookie. What's even better is that no matter how you make your chocolate chip cookies, they almost always taste delicious.

The first time I tried this recipe, I prided myself on how carefully I had followed the instructions—until I realized I'd added two sticks of butter instead of just 10 tablespoons. They were still really good. "Very buttery!" was Joe's response.

Nigella's Big Chocolate Chip Cookies baked at two different temperatures

Another time, out of habit, I baked the first tray at 350° (above right) instead of 325° (above left). As you can see, even just that small temperature variation makes a difference.

The second time I made these, my lazy baking ways kicked in and I skipped some of the fussier directions: using superfine sugar rather than regular old granulated, one egg plus one egg yolk instead of two whole eggs, letting the butter cool after melting, using an electric mixer, and letting the cookies cool on the baking sheet 5 minutes before transferring them onto a wire rack. The resulting cookies were different but still delicious. I also added a little salt to both versions.

I made my own superfine sugar by whizzing granulated sugar in my KitchenAid countertop blender on the 'liquify' setting for about 15 to 20 seconds. It worked perfectly.

A couple of heavy duty commercial rimmed baking sheets like these are a great investment, and at less than $14 each, they're one of the best kitchen deals around. Treat them well—I usually line mine with sheets of unbleached parchment paper, which is wonderful stuff—and they'll last for ages. I've been using the heck out of some of mine for 20 years for everything from baking scones to roasting Brussels sprouts, not to mention baking thousands of cookies.

It's easy to make nice round cookies if you portion out the dough with a scoop. I own five or six different sizes and have had some of them for 20 years, too. For these cookies, I use a 1/4-cup scoop.

Nigella's Big Chocolate Chip Cookies 1

Nigella's Big Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 12 to 14 approx. 3½" cookies (depending on how much you like cookie dough)


Nigella calls for milk chocolate chips. I tried both milk and semi-sweet and liked the semi-sweet better, but that's just personal preference. Bittersweet chocolate chips would also be good. Sometimes I make my chocolate chip cookies with two or three different kinds of chips, and people always love them.

This batter has a high chip to dough ratio. Cookie batter that is dense with chocolate chips doesn't spread much. In this version, I flattened the scoops of dough slightly with a metal spatula before baking them so I would end up with slightly larger cookies. I also liked them better with about 1/3 cup less than a full bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. Organic flours and organic sugars—even organic light brown sugar—are readily available these days. Look for farm fresh eggs like these laid by our hens at your local farmers' market (find one by searching on LocalHarvest.org). You won't believe how good they taste.

I think both versions taste best the first 24 hours after baking, but they freeze well.

10 Tablespoons (1¼ sticks) salted organic butter (Nigella uses unsalted)
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup superfine sugar (I just whizzed granulated sugar in the blender)
1 large farm fresh egg, refrigerator-cold
1 large farm fresh egg yolk, refrigerator-cold
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 11½ to 12 ounce bag semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips (or a little less)

Heat the oven to 325°. Line a heavy duty baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper (when I bake cookies, I just use the same piece of parchment for the entire batch).

Melt the butter and let it cool slightly (I put mine in the freezer). Put the brown and white sugars into a bowl, pour the slightly cooled, melted butter over them, and beat together with a hand held electric mixer (Nigella uses KitchenAid mixer).

Beat in the vanilla, the cold egg, and cold egg yolk, until your mixture is light and creamy, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Slowly mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt until just blended, then fold in the chocolate chips.

Using a 1/4-cup round ice cream scoop, drop the cookies onto the prepared baking sheet (I put fit 6 or 7 cookies this size on a sheet). Flatten the cookies slightly with a metal spatula if desired. Keep the bowl of the cookie dough in the refrigerator between batches.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Eat within a day or two or freeze.

Nigella's Freeze note (I didn't try this):
Unbaked cookie dough can be scooped onto parchment-lined baking sheets and frozen until solid. Transfer frozen dough to resealable bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Bake direct from frozen, as directed in recipe but adding an extra 2 to 3 minutes to baking time.

Nigella's Big Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies - the Less Fuss version
This batch was made with milk chocolate chips.

Nigella's Big Chocolate Chip Cookies, the Less Fuss Version
Makes 12 to 14 approx. 3½" cookies

10 Tablespoons (1¼ sticks) organic salted butter
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large farm fresh eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 11½ to 12 ounce bag semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips (or a little less)

Heat the oven to 325°. Line a heavy duty baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.

Melt the butter and place it in a large mixing bowl. (I melt my butter in a large stainless steel mixing bowl set right over the lowest heat on a gas oven burner, then add the rest of the ingredients to it).

Using a large rubber spatula, stir in the sugars. Add the vanilla and eggs and stir until well combined.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and stir until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a 1/4-cup round ice cream scoop, drop the cookies onto the prepared baking sheet. If you have the space, keep the bowl of cookie dough in the refrigerator between batches; otherwise, don't worry about it.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack. Eat within a day or two or freeze.

More Farmgirl Fare recipes for cookies with chocolate chips:

Can't survive on just chocolate chip cookies? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

Chocolate chip cookie recipes from other food bloggers I want to make:

Disclosure: Besides having a pretty serious cookbook buying habit, I also sometimes receive review copies of new books, such as this one, from publishers. But no matter how I acquire a book, I won't recommend it unless I really like it and think it's worth purchasing.

© FarmgirlFare.com, where you'll find recipes, stories, and photos from my crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and usually a stash of homemade chocolate chip cookies in the freezer.

21 comments:

  1. Wow, those look super thick and chewy. They look like they came straight from the bakery. I have a sweet treat linky party on my blog that starts tonight and I'd be delighted if you'd stop by and link your cookies up. http://sweet-as-sugar-cookies.blogspot.com

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  2. Oh MY these look good!!! I really want to sink my teeth into one. It's horrible though- once I make cookies, I EAT THEM ALL!!! So I will choose to look at yours and drool. :)

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  3. What family doesn't like Chocolate Chip Cookies. I love my recipe, but definitely going to try this recipe. I've never melted the butter, but now I will. These cookies look delicious! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. I love Nigella and I was fortunate enough to get the Kitchen book from my husband for Christmas (third year in a row getting a Nigella for Christmas) - I think he loves her as much as I do (or nearly). My favorite recipe so far from Kitchen is the strawberry almond crumble (I've also made it with blueberries, peaches and raspberries) - the peach version was my husband's "birthday cake" this week. From Express I recommend the banana muffins and the mustard pork chops. Also Nigella doesn't usually add salt to her recipes so I add some to the muffins. Loved this post!

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  5. I didn't know that melting the butter was all the rage... I usually do it myself... but only because I forget to take the butter out of the fridge so it can soften. Can I now claim to be trendy instead of forgetful?

    (This book sounds like it's a good reading cookbook... thanks for reviewing it!)

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  6. Her shows and cookbooks are wonderful, I have been following her for a long time. Her Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins are to die for and my fav recipe.

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  7. Nigella is awesome. Her books are good for reading--even if you never make a single recipe from them you'll go back to her again and again for her witty writing.

    And, as my husband likes to point out, she looks good in a sweater!

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  8. Curious as to whether the recipes are changed for North American editions or do they have weights - grams and ounces - as well as cups? Will you ever show weights on your recipes Susan?

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  9. Nigella's cookbooks are great, and her Food Network show is one of my favorites. At the end of every show she walks into her kitchen in the dark, and raids the refrigerator for leftovers! It's hilarious and endearing at the same time.

    You have a great blog and I don't know what I enjoy more, your photos or your recipes! Thanks for both!

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  10. I have her book How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. I love it. It's fun to read and I've loved the recipes. My two favorites out of the book are the Chocolate Loaf Cake and her White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies. I like the directions she gives too. Somehow directions like "It should look like gooey, thin mud" make sense to me and keep me on track. Love your blog by the way!

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  11. Yum. Nigella was actually kind of a big influence on me about 10 years ago when I was first moving out of the fashion industry and into working with food. She wrote about both for a long time (not sure about now). Anyway for some reason I don't have her more recent books. I think the latest I have is Feast, which I absolutely love. I need to investigate her more recent stuff. I loved her first TV series Nigella Bites too.

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  12. YUM! I made these tonight and they were maybe the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had.

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  13. Your pictures are amazing! I'm still searching for the perfect CCC and this one is going on the list! Do they turn out crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside? What method do you use to measure your flour - scale (if so, how many ounces or grams flour), scoop & sweep, or spoon & sweep? Thanks for another great post.

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  14. I made the "less fuss" version. I love chocolate, but I could have left out 1/3 to 1/2 of the chocolate chips and I think they would have still been ok. They were really rich as is, and definitely required a big glass of milk!

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  15. Hi April,
    Nigella describes these cookies as having "a bit of tender, fudgy chewiness, but an edge of crisp bite, too." :)

    I used the 'scoop & sweep' method to measure out my flour.

    Hi Anna,
    Thanks for taking the time to write. These cookies are definitely on the chocolately side if you use the entire package of chocolate chips, though I found that it also depends on the size of the chips.

    My milk chocolate chips were bigger than the semi-sweet (same brand, just different size), and that left more plain cookie, which I preferred (and I, too, love chocolate).

    It's definitely a matter of taste - I've seen some chocolate chip cookies that looked like they were practically solid chocolate.

    No matter how you like them, though, a big glass of milk is definitely required! ;)

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  16. Hi! I love you blog! I was just wondering if you could substitute crisco for butter? I hear that it makes cookies larger and more chewier.

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    1. A lot of older chocolate chip cookie recipes call for shortening (like Crisco) because it's cheaper than butter, but I'm not sure how it would work to melt it, like the butter is melted in these recipes. I'm not sure why it would make them larger. Also, the cookies won't be as flavorful as when they're made with butter. :)

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    2. kk I'll make them with butter! thanks so much for replying :)

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    3. It is true that crisco doesn't melt like butter and that's why some cookies tend to not quite be so flat...b/c this recipe doesn't yield flat cookies, it should be pretty much the same. As for the flavore, just use butter flavored crisco!

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  17. Thanks so much for this tremendous recipe! I've made it twice already and I'm pretty sure it going to be my go-to cookie recipe from now on! I have some that I mixed cocao powder with in the oven right now...chocolate chocolate chip cookies!

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