On the road towards the ideal cookie, the last few weeks have gone by in a cloud of sifted flour and chocolate chips. One batch too cakey, the next too greasy; at one point, after the realisation that licking the bowl of uncooked dough was a lot more enjoyable than the cookie itself, I rather dramatically declared that I would never make a biscuit again. But, of course, the temptation of finding the perfect recipe, and obviously the thought of yet another sweet, buttery treat to go with my cuppa, was much too much to resist. So, approximately 50 beaten eggs and 100 hours of mixing later (and a bit of a shock when I stepped on the scales after sampling my wares), I think I have finally cracked it.
However, in the crack of the cookie lies another problem. As I rolled out greased tray upon greased tray of every shape, texture and flavour biscuit imaginable, I have come to understand that the notion of the perfect cookie is an entirely subjective one. Some love the crunch whilst others simply adore a good chewy biscuit. Personally, I think that perfection is somewhere between the two. I dream of a cookie with a good crunchy edge that melts to a gorgeously chewy centre, like those you see piled in jars on cafe counters.
However, unfortunately, big, chewy American style cookies are extremely difficult to perfect. I experimented with everything but eventually, following the advice of my sous-chef (aka my sister Briony), the best results were achieved using melted butter or oil and a squeeze of honey or golden syrup. This gives the cookies my long sought-after chewy texture, contrasted with just the right amount of crunch, and, as a bonus, they look just like the big, cracked surface beauties that I was after. Thank goodness.
Mix the flavourings up however you like. Think date, cinnamon and walnut; dried pear and dark chocolate; raspberry and white chocolate. Tickle your fancy? Give them a go and let me know if they are your perfect cookie too!
Ginger and almond honey cookies.
250g white sugar
2 tsp baking soda
50g whole blanched almonds, chopped
75g crystalised ginger, chopped
½ tsp salt
260g plain flour
25 g almonds (chopped) extra, for rolling.
Preheat the oven to 180oc
Mix the oil, sugar, egg, honey, baking soda and the salt in a large bowl, until nicely combined.
Add the almonds (50g) and the ginger and mix thoroughly.
Stir in the flour until just combined, and the dough is just dry enough to quickly roll into balls. Do not be tempted to add too much flour, as a cakey cookie is not what you want!
Roll the dough into balls about 1 inch wide. Drop into chopped almonds and place on greased and lined baking trays, leaving at least 2 inches between each little ball as they will spread!
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies are golden.
My favourite chocolate chip cookies.
125 g butter, melted and cooled.
250 g soft light brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
100g golden syrup
½ tsp salt
150g-200g chocolate chips (dark or milk chocolate, or a mixture!)
100g chopped nuts (hazelnuts are delicious, but any you like!)
325g plain flour
Mix the butter, sugar, egg, syrup, baking soda and the salt in a large bowl, until nicely combined.
Add the chocolate and nuts, and mix until combined.
Stir in the flour until just combined, and the dough resembles a sticky cake mix.
Place spoonfuls of mixture on lined baking trays, leaving a space of about 2 inches between each to allow for some serious spreading.
Sprinkle with a few extra nuts and bake for about 15 minutes or until nicely golden. Don't worry if they still look a little soft, this is where the chewiness comes from!
Allow to cool, transfer to cooling racks and, if you are a serious chocoholic, drizzle with some extra chocolate!