Penny Stankiewicz cools a rack of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Technique

Baking & Pastry Arts Chef-Instructor Penny Stankiewicz shares how to smoke butter and salt like a pro.

There is no best chocolate chip cookie — there is only opinion. I have lots of strongly held opinions on most baked goods and for me, the perfect chocolate chip cookie is big, huge really; it’s loaded with chocolate; crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle; salty, very salty; and satisfying. If you want to get a bit fancy, and I always do, pull your smoking gun out and get ready to go.

I love smoking foods. Sometimes, the technique adds a punch of smoky outdoors, cooked-all-day kind of flavor, and sometimes in baked goods, it adds a savory note that raises the level of overall nuanced flavor. In this chocolate chip cookie recipe, the smoking adds both. First, the melted butter is smoked to enhance the savory aspects of the cookie and second, the finishing salt is smoked to top it off with that essence of wood smoke, the first thing that hits your palate.

I adore the Breville Smoking Gun for its versatility and ability to smoke almost anything, indoors and at a moment’s notice. Smoking works best with things that are fatty or protein-rich to hold onto that flavor. Smoking an ingredient with a large surface area is key, too. The smoke is not going to penetrate very far, so to get the most flavor, spread the ingredient out to create as much surface area as possible.

Melted butter is one of the secrets in my cookie that lends a chewy interior. To smoke it, place it in the largest container you have that will give you as much surface area as possible. Wrap the entire container in plastic wrap vertically and horizontally, as tightly as possible to contain the smoke. I also like to wrap packing tape around the top edge of the container to discourage seepage. I poke a small hole in the top of the plastic wrap with a paring knife, just large enough to fit the tube of the smoking gun through and then tape that well to keep smoke from seeping there.

Fill the chamber of the Breville Smoking Gun with a wood chip of your choice. I prefer rich, hearty woods like mesquite or hickory. Fruit woods are great, but a bit too delicate to come through in this recipe. Turn the gun on, light it up and let the container fill with smoke. I let this sit for about 20 minutes and then give it a second blast of smoke for another 20 minutes. I follow the same procedure for the Maldon salt, but considering it’s all surface area, this will go much faster. You’ll notice a bit of browning or change of color when the smoke has penetrated the salt.

Then go ahead and make this amazing cookie. Use an ice cream scoop to dish them out and freeze them for 24 hours. I use a 3-ounce portion scoop to get my huge cookies. You can use whatever size you like, but this will alter cooking time and really small cookies will end up more on the crunchy side. After the dough scoops are frozen, transfer to a ziplock bag and keep them in your freezer until you are craving a cookie. Then transfer each to a sheet tray lined with parchment, with a good amount of space around each cookie to accommodate for spread. Top each with some of the smoked salt and bake.

Another opinion: This is a great opportunity to break out your favorite scotch or whiskey to accompany this mature, refined treat.

Watch Chef Penny demonstrate her technique for Epicurious and get the complete recipe below.

Recipe

Yields approximately 24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces white sugar
  • 9 ounces light brown sugar
  • 12 ounces melted butter
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 16 ounces high-quality semi-sweet chocolate
  • Maldon Sea Salt for topping

Directions

  1. Melt butter, and smoke it according to the description above. Make sure to cool to room temperature before mixing batter. While you’re at it, smoke the Maldon Sea Salt as well.
  2. Combine baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour in a bowl. Whisk together to evenly distribute the leavening.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine both sugars with the cooled melted butter. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until fully combined.
  4. Add eggs, yolks and vanilla and mix until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in two or three additions. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add chocolate pieces and mix just until spread throughout.
  6. Using a 3-ounce scoop, scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Chill, or even better freeze for 24 hours, on the sheet or transfer to a freezer bag for longer-term storage.

To bake:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Place frozen scooped cookies onto a parchment-lined sheet pan with at least two inches of space all around them.
  3. Top with smoked Maldon Sea Salt.
  4. Bake until golden brown, and the center of the cookie looks set and no longer wet. About 23-28 minutes for 3-ounce frozen dough balls. Less baking time will be needed if baking from refrigerated, fresh or smaller-sized cookies.

Study Pastry & Baking Arts with Chef Penny and more pros at the Institute of Culinary Education.

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