Photo Credit to The Perfect Pantry LLC

Photo Credit to The Perfect Pantry LLC

We here at the test kitchen take our baked goods very seriously.  Experimental dessert dishes – such as delicately flaky pastry crust, tangy fruit-and-spice sorbet, and decadent mousse- are always an entertaining challenge.  Sometimes, though, our inner child calls out to us after a difficult day requesting a sweetly simple treat.  And when our inner child demands cookies, we listen. (On the days when our inner child demands gin-and-tonics we listen as well, but that is a story for another post.)

For those times when nothing less than utter chocolaty goodness will satisfy your sweet tooth, baking and consuming this cookie is akin to a sublime experience.  We started with several recipes for a basic chewy chocolate cookie studded with chocolate pieces.  We wanted the texture to resemble that of a moist brownie, but we also wanted to strike a balance between a rich, decadent dessert and an overly sugary, butter-laden mess.  Think Mom’s cookie jar – but for a slightly refined palate.

In terms of the flavors of this recipe, the bite of the coarse sea salt and the unsweetened cocoa help to even out what would otherwise be an egregiously saccharine recipe. To ensure that we kept a modicum of healthfulness in the final product, we omitted eggs and oil from the list altogether, making use of yogurt as an alternative wet ingredient. This substitution not only lightens the dish, it also contributes to a more raised, less greasy cookie. Lastly, we wanted to make sure that these cookies had the classical hallmarks of greatness – crisp exterior, soft inside – and that they tasted better the longer they we around.  If yours can last for more one night, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how they transition from somewhat airy to much denser interiors.

We think that this recipe would be perfect for any number of occasions, from informal dinner parties to an office birthday to an after-dinner snack to have in the pantry. Keep in mind that these store best when kept tightly covered, preferably in a plastic bag or a Tupperware container.

For a variation on the old standard, other small ingredients may be added in addition to, or in place of, the chocolate chips.  Toasted nuts (pistachios and walnuts), minced dried fruit (cherries, apricots, or strawberries) or diced caramel squares could all serve as stunning complements to the rich, dense flavor and texture of this dish. However, these are so good as is that you may be tempted to just follow the minimalist approach.  And remember – as with all cooking and baking, buying the best quality ingredients that you can afford generally leads to the best results.  In this recipe, the richness of the cocoa powder and the quality of the chocolate pieces and the vanilla extract are the greatest variables. We suggest using Green and Black’s Fair-Trade Cocoa and a diced chocolate bar of your choice, ideally with a cocoa percentage greater than 75%. Our favorites here at the test kitchen include Lindt’s Excellence 85% Cacao bars and, for a special treat, any of the offerings from Dagoba Organics.  It’s up to you, though – take what you like and make this recipe your own.  We’re pretty sure these would be a crowd favorite no matter what you add to them!

Anytime Double Chocolate Cookies

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp coarse sea salt

4 tbsp (half of a stick) unsalted butter, softened

6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup chocolate pieces (or other small ingredients of your choice)

Coarse natural sugar for topping, if desired

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350º. In a small glass bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large glass mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter, the sugar, and the brown sugar, stirring until well blended.  Sift in the cocoa powder while you continue to stir. The dough should be pasty but smooth – use a fork or your fingers if you must to break up any visible clumps. Add in the yogurt and the vanilla and mix well.  At this point, the dough should appear moist and will be very sticky to work with.  Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients from the first bowl and fold them together with the wet mixture until all of the flour is entirely absorbed.  This may take several minutes of moving the dough around in the bowl.  Stir in chocolate pieces. When you’re finished, the dough should be solid and slightly dry, with an even dark coloring and no extraneous pockets of flour.

Scoop the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper* using two tablespoons or an ice-cream scoop/melon-baller.  On a standard size sheet, you ought to be able to fit about half of the dough (roughly 10 cookies).  Press each cookie down slightly with your thumb, and top with a pinch of coarse natural sugar (if using). Bake each batch for 10-12 minutes.  You’ll know the cookies are done when they begin to harden on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cookie comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow the cookies to solidify and cool for several minutes, then transfer them to a baking rack and wait another ten to fifteen minutes before serving.  Allow the cookies to completely cool before covering or moving to a storage container.

* If you are using a baking stone, you may skip this step.  You may also want to add several minutes to the cook time of the first batch.

Yield: about 20 – 24 cookies, depending on size