Have you heard of Sarah Kieffer's Chocolate Chip Cookies?
They're known for their large, round, flat shape and crisp, wrinkly edges - it kind of reminds me of a mud pie (or a cow pie - I was tempted to call these Cow Pie cookies, but I'm not sure that would have gone over well...). They have developed a reputation on Instagram and the image of big round golden wrinkles are easy to spot if you follow food bloggers and bakers alike.
Although they are not typically my style of cookie (I prefer the more thick-edged, crackled, super chewy style) - it is a nice variation for those who like crisp edges and bigness, and there's always room for another chocolate chip cookie recipe! Plus, those caramelized edges are like candy.
Sarah says the trick to getting wrinkles is to "bang" the pan about half way through baking, hence she calls these cookies "pan-banging chocolate chip cookies". She asks you to reach into the oven, lift the pan off the rack and let it go so that the force of the pan hitting down will cause the semi-cooked cookie dough in the center to deflate and ripple out. An article on her recipe was published in the New York Times who claimed "pan-banging" is a leap in cookie technology...
But what if your mom calls, or you get caught up in your laundry or the doorbell rings (ha! like anyone ever comes to the door anymore), or you do absolutely anything else in the 16 minutes it takes to bake those cookies and you forget that critical step of banging your pans not once, not twice, but at least 4 times?! That demands a lot of your attention.
You don't need to bang on a pan to get this particular look of chocolate chip cookies! The trick to achieving those rippled caramelized edges is all in the proportions of ingredients in the recipe, and I'm about to break down the science! No unusual suspects, no fuss, no funny business - just scientifically sweet proportions with 9 simple ingredients 😉
Sarah's recipe uses mostly typical chocolate chip cookie ingredients with one extra unusual one - water. Two tablespoons of water go in the dough. This essentially makes the cookies spread more.
My recipe below might seem suspicious because it will look very similar to your already favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe. It uses only the same ingredients you'd expect (butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, vanilla, flour, baking soda and salt) and at first glance you'll probably think it's not much different than your standard go-to... but the science is in the proportions that have been technically designed to produce the rippled effect sans banging. Just set your timer and forget it!
What should you expect?
Shatteringly crisp (almost candy-like) caramelized edges and wonderfully chewy right dead in the middle.
Let's look at the science...
The ripples form because the cookies spread, and they spread almost instantly over the whole length of the baking time. This continuous spreading is what causes the ripples. As the first bit of dough melts, it spreads from the bottom of the dough ball. It looks like a ball of cookie dough sitting in a puddle of batter. This "puddle" now has a high surface area because it is spread out flat so it begins to cook quickly. As it sets, the rest of the cookie dough in the middle is still raw and continues to melt and push the cooked dough out. Alas, ripples start to form.
What makes this cookie dough spread so quick is the higher ratio of butter. That doesn't mean that this recipe calls for more butter per batch compared to other recipes, it just means that there is more butter in comparison to flour by weight.
In other words, the butter:flour ratio in this recipe is higher compared to my Thick & Chewy cookie recipe. That's ½ cup butter (113g) and 1 cup flour (142g) vs. say ½ cup butter (113g) and 1 ⅓ cups flour (190g).
The total amount of sugar is about the same as my go-to Chewy cookie recipe but slightly more than Sarah's pan-banging cookie recipe to produce ultra crisp edges and also keep them so chewy in the middle and keep them from drying out. These cookies are great days after baking and don't need to be eaten all in the same day for best results (although you might want to anyway!). The difference is in the proportions of brown to white. Generally I use more brown sugar, but in this recipe I use equal parts. White sugar will create those crisp edges and caramelization reactions will happen much faster without molasses in the way.
½ teaspoon for just 1 cup of flour is generally a lot in most baking situations, but here it performs two important functions: 1) promotes spread - baking soda spreads while baking powder puffs, and 2) promotes browning by way of accelerated Maillard browning reactions that produce delicious nutty, roasted, caramel, coffee flavours. Maillard browning is a reaction that happens between specific proteins and sucrose (sugar). In our cookie dough protein comes from egg, flour and trace amounts in butter.
Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour to help the flour hydrate and the baking soda to distribute itself. No need to chill this dough for multiple hours or overnight because we actually want to encourage some spread here, and there will be so much caramelization that the flavour benefit of prolonged chilling will be less evident. That means these cookies get from mixing bowl to mouth sooner!
I rarely bake without parchment paper anymore, but for those crisp edges and for rapid spreading, metal contact is key! Bake the cookie dough directly on a greased, nonstick baking pan. Heat transfers instantly from the metal to the dough so that you get instant spread.
High Temp baking:
OK, we want big flat cookies, but we're not making tuiles. Totally slimmed-out cookies can merge into each other, grease out and result in all sorts of odd shapes. They might taste great but they're not "take them to work" worthy, ya know? Bake the cookies at 375 F (that's in a conventional oven, if you're using fan then try 350 F). This will make sure that your cookies spread initially, but also set quickly around the edges to eventually stop the spread and bake to golden caramelized perfection. Leave plenty of room between dough portions - I do 6 per tray.
Chocolate of choice:
You can make these delicious cookies with milk or dark chocolate - whichever you prefer. Just avoid using chocolate chips which are designed to be bake-stable and withstand melting. Good quality eating chocolate - like that from a block and then chopped up (I love a Lindt 70% bar!) - or flat discs or feves are the best choice. They melt gently into the dough and taste superior! Bonus: some of the chocolate around the edges of the cookies bake right into the caramelized dough and it makes a sort of chocolate toffee! Unreal.
So, check your pantry. I bet you have everything you need... Bake some cookies, and let me know what you think!
Caramelized Ripple Chocolate Chip Cookies
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle/flat beater attachment, beat butter on medium speed until creamy. Add both sugars and vanilla and beat for 3 minutes on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in egg until evenly incorporated. The mixture should look a bit whipped at this point.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda to blend evenly. Add this to butter mixture all at once and mix on low until just combined. Add the chopped chocolate and mix on low for a just a few seconds to distribute them.
- Cover the dough in the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. Lightly grease two large baking trays with soft butter (I like to use a spent foil wrapper from a stick or brick of butter to do this - no waste!).
- Scoop 1.5 oz portions of dough onto prepared baking trays leaving at least 3 inches of space between them. Do not flatten - they will spread well enough on their own. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until nicely browned around the edges - like the colour of a copper penny. The center should be lightly golden and just started to puff up - that's how you know it won't be completely raw in the middle. Remove trays from oven and transfer to wire racks. Let cookies cool 2 minutes on trays before transferring individually to the racks to finish cooling.