Merrill and I had a cookie bake-off in 2015 where each of us was tasked with creating a holiday cookie that incorporated vanilla. I wanted a cookie that merged the benefits of a chewy chocolate chip cookie with the fragrance of a holiday spice cookie. I began by using a chocolate chip cookie base that’s made with vegetable oil rather than butter — inspired by Ovenly’s vegan chocolate chip cookie. I infused this base with vanilla by grinding up a whole vanilla bean with the sugar; I increased the chocolate and chopped it so there would be a mix of shavings and chunks; and I gave it a little holiday oomph with cinnamon and ground chile.
- 2 cups (250 g) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon (preferably Saigon)
- ¼ rounded tsp ground chilli (preferably piment d’Espelette) (see Note)
- 6 oz (170 g) dark chocolate, chopped into ¼-inch (6 mm) chunks; reserve any shavings
- 1 vanilla bean, cut crosswise into 6 pieces
- ½ cup (100 g) sugar
- ½ cup (110 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 135 ml canola oil
- 75 ml water
- Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time: 12-24 hours
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and chile. Fold the chocolate chunks (and all the shavings on your cutting board) into the flour mixture. Look at that—you’ve barely started the recipe and you’re already done with half of the ingredients!
In a blender, combine the vanilla bean and sugar and blend until the vanilla is reduced to flecks in the sugar. In a separate large bowl, whisk the vanilla sugar and brown sugar with the canola oil and water until you have a smoothish liquid.
Sprinkle the dry ingredients onto the sugar mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula until just combined.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. As Ovenly says, do not skip this step!
The day of: Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop the dough into 2-inch (5 cm) mounds, placing them on the prepared baking sheet and flattening them slightly with your hands. If your chocolate chunks are big, you may also need to press the dough together with your fingers. Sprinkle the dough with flaky salt and slide the baking sheets into the freezer for 10 minutes.
Bake for 6 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees and continue baking until the edges are beginning to toast, about 6 minutes more. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. You can bake off the rest of the dough now, or do it in a single batch when you want to serve them. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to a week.
•If you consort with spiceaphobes, just leave out the chile; there’s still plenty of zip from the Saigon cinnamon. And they make great ice cream sandwiches — try them with cinnamon ice cream to double down on the spice.
Recipe from Food 52 A New Way To Dinner by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (Ten Speed Press, hb, $59.99). Read more about the book here.