My husband and I are old people. One of our favorite past times is snuggling up and watching Food Network. The crowning glory of food-based entertainment, of course, is the late great Good Eats. Alton Brown is our personal food guru. Our hero. Our saint. At our wedding, we cut our cake to the Good Eats theme song.
So, of course I wanted my inaugural post on this blog to be an Alton recipe. I also wanted it to be something fun, something indulgent, and something I could take to a thesis writing party (seriously, MFA-ers have the most fun). So when I found Alton’s Chocapocalypse Cookie Recipe I thought “perfection!”
In my enthusiasm, there were a few things I forgot to take into account. Number one: Alton is very particular about how he measures his dry ingredients . . . by weight. If you are on the fence about getting a food scale, I highly recommend it. They aren’t that expensive and they are useful for so many things. In baking, precision tends to be key, and using weight is a good way to be sure you’re doing it right. (Also, if you are like me and think a portion equals all-the-food-that-will-fit-on-my-plate, a food scale can help you get that under control.) That being said, as I got ready to bake these cookies, I remembered that my own food scale is in a storage unit. This resulted in a lot of Googling, calculating, eyeballing, and finally just saying “good enough!” when it came to the amount of dry ingredients (mainly just the flour and the brown sugar). In my version of the recipe below, I put the volumes I came up with, so if you, too, find yourself without a food scale, you can still enjoy delicious, warm, gooey chocolate.
The second thing I didn’t take into account is that some of these ingredients are a wee bit tricky to find. The basics, of course, you probably have in your kitchen or can find easily (flour, eggs, brown sugar, butter, vanilla). But this is a chocolate heavy recipe, and it’s a lot of different kinds of chocolate. When I went to my local Safeway, I was able to find unsweetened baking chocolate (which I’ve worked with before and kind of love) and semisweet baking chocolate. The kind I got comes in little 1 oz squares, which is super convenient for recipes like this.
For the milk chocolate, I will admit I cheated a bit. Alton suggested 4 oz coarsely chopped, but, dear reader, let me admit something to you. I hate coarsely chopping chocolate. I have yet to figure out what the appropriate tool for that is, at least out of what I have in my kitchen. I knew I was going to be chopping at least 11 ounces of various other chocolates, and I just couldn’t bring myself to want to chop more. So I cheated and bought chocolate chips. And you know what? I think it worked awesomely. Chocolate chips exist in cookies a little differently than chocolate chunks and it added a nice contrast. Since I was lacking the food scale, I just sort of estimated how many chocolate chips would make me happy, and it ended up being a little under a cup.
The final two chocolates on the list were the biggest concern. I could not find 70% baking chocolate anywhere in the bakery aisle. I was about to give up in despair when it occurred to me . . . The candy aisle! So I ended up buying a plain old Lindt 70% dark chocolate bar and chopping that up. It ended up being less chunky than maybe baking chocolate would have been, since it was a thinner piece of chocolate to begin with, but it worked well enough. Also, a chocolate bar (or at least that chocolate bar) was 3.25 oz, so it gave me what Alton suggested plus just a little bit extra.
I never did manage to find cocoa nibs. I honestly am not sure where to recommend you get them. The only place I’ve seen them sold just by themselves is at Mon Amie Chocolate in the Strip District in Pittsburgh. I feel like I have also seen them at Bittersweet Café in Oakland, but that might be a misrememberance on my part. You can also find them online if you’re planning ahead. I will say this: cocoa nibs are wonderful. If you can find them, I think they’d be an awesome addition to the recipe. That being said, if you can’t or you didn’t plan ahead far enough, skip em. These cookies have a lot going on and are really satisfying even without. If you really think you’re going to miss having some crunch, I’m pretty sure finely chopped nuts would work. If anyone tries that, let me know!
One final caveat: This is a messy recipe. Take off your wedding rings. Take off your cheap fashion rings you got at H&M. Say goodbye to your manicure. Plan to spend like fifteen minutes washing bowls and spoons and paddles.
Also plan to pour yourself a tall glass of milk and be rewarded. These are heavenly.
Chocapocalypse Cookie (adapted from Alton Brown)
Yield: Alton says 55. I got roughly two dozen. I imagine he made his tiny, and I’ve just never had it in me to make a tiny cookie.
6 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate (54%) coarsely chopped (don’t get hung up on a good chop here because you’re just going to melt it)
2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped (see above)
½ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 oz (or one Lindt bar) 70% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1. Melt the semi-sweet baking chocolate and the unsweetened baking chocolate in a medium, microwave safe mixing bowl (you could also use a double boiler if you are so inclined). Alton suggests microwaving on high for two 30 second intervals, and then doing 10 more seconds if you need it, but I’ll admit it too me three 30 second intervals. Do make sure that when you take the chocolate out of the microwave you stir diligently. Chocolate kind of holds its shape until you mix it up, and the pieces that didn’t melt will usually melt when they come in contact with all the hot liquid chocolate in the bowl. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
3. Beat butter and sugar together using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, why not? They are amazing. But a hand mixer would probably suffice, if you insist.)
4. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl. Turn the mixer on low speed and slowly add the egg mixture until fully incorporated.
5. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix to combine. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of your bowl!
6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until integrated.
7. Stir in your 70% chocolate chunks and the milk chocolate chips.
8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes. (This is very important. The dough is impossible to work with until you’ve let it set up).
9. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
10. Scoop the dough (I used an ice cream scoop, Alton suggests a 1 ¼ inch diameter disher) onto parchment lined cookie sheets, placing 2 inches apart (if you have silicon mats, you can use those, but I find parchment paper is easier to work with for a messy cookie like this).
11. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, rotating after 5 minutes. Don’t over bake these. You will be tempted to, because they will look wet and doughy. That’s because there is so much chocolate in these suckers that as long as they are warm they will look undercooked. 9 minutes is the max here.
12. Cool the cookies on the pan for at least two minutes. Here’s another place I’m going to differ from Alton. He says after 2 minutes you can transfer the parchment paper to a cooling rack. I did this, and my cookies fell apart, dripping off the edges and cracks in the rack. What ended up working for me was letting them sit about 5 minutes on the pan, about another 5 minutes on the parchment paper flat on the counter, and then onward to the cooling rack.
Like I said, these cookies are delicious and really decadent. I like them warm, though they are messy to eat that way, but once they cooled they traveled well and were good party cookies. I also have it on good authority from a poet friend that they are good the next day dumped in a bowl with milk poured over them. Options people!