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The Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

The secret to making perfect chocolate chip cookies

The secret to making perfect chocolate chip cookies
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If these chocolate chip cookies are my only achievement for the entirety of last year's lockdown, I think I’ll be satisfied: crisp and buttery on the outside, fudgy and sweet within, with pools of dark chocolate, and just the right amount of salt.

As ever, with baking, there are always substitutions you can make, if you don’t mind a slightly different (but still delicious) end product. Sub in the light brown sugar for dark brown sugar for an even deeper toffee flavour, or swap out the caster sugar for granulated or demerara. Strong white bread flour will work, if you can spare it, and rye or spelt flour will produce a damper but nuttier cookie (a delightful variation, in my books). You can lose the vanilla paste entirely, or replace with almond extract, or a good grating of nutmeg. Any chocolate will work, although I prefer the bitterness of the dark chocolate as a counterpoint to the unashamedly sweet dough. If you fancy, lose the chocolate entirely and replace with nuts or dried fruit. Sometimes I brown the butter for these cookies (melting the butter until it foams up and turns mahogany-coloured, smelling of toasted nuts, before letting it cool back down to solid form), for an even more complex flavour and chewy biscuit, but if you’re short on butter, margarine will work too.

We all need a little rest sometimes, don’t we? Cookie dough generally benefits from an overnight rest in the fridge: it makes you more likely to get a puffy little cookie with a soft inside, as the fridge-cold fats will take longer to melt in the oven. But more than that, it hugely improves the flavour, by allowing the sugars and flours to hydrate, which creates a more rounded, complex flavour. It sounds faffy, I know, but I promise it works. That said, if you’re the kind of person for whom waiting 24 hours for biscuits is anathema, I entirely understand, and fear not – these cookies will work perfectly well without the rest. The dough also freezes well, and I am an evangelist for making a batch of dough, portioning it out, and then baking 2 or 3 off as and when we need them; add 4 minutes to the baking time if you’re baking straight from frozen.

Chocolate chip cookies

Makes: 12-16 cookies

Takes: 10 minutes (plus optional overnight fridge rest)

Bakes: 12 minutes

150g butter, room temperature

150g light brown sugar

100g caster sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla paste

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking powder

250g plain flour

½ teaspoon fine salt

200g dark chocolate, chopped coarsely

  1. Cream together the butter, both sugars and the vanilla paste until pale and well-combined, but not fluffy.
  2. Add the egg, and combine thoroughly.
  3. Stir through the plain flour, baking powder and salt, and then, finally, the dark chocolate, until the mixture comes together as a chunky dough.
  4. Portion the dough into balls the size of ping pong balls. You can do this with an ice cream scoop, but I tend to just use my hands. Leave to rest in the fridge overnight (if you can bear it).
  5. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line two large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  6. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, then leave to cool completely before lifting from the tray.

Written byThe Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

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