My distaste of milk started from a rather young age, when we’d holiday to France; the three petits filous in the back of the car, winding each other up and giggling until our stomachs hurt and our eyes were streaming with happy tears. Our fidgety bottoms would wriggle around on the backseats, brows perspiring in the Provençal summer air and cheeks flushed. Mum and Dad kept a collection of audiobooks at the ready to keep us entertained for the 20 hour drive south, air ploughing through the open windows and pushing back, what we thought, were “cool” 90s fringes.
Breakfast would consist of freshly baked croissants and pain au chocolats from the local boulangie where I’d bashfully order in my best rehearsed French (with help from Mum of course), “puis j’avoir cinq croissants et cinq pain au chocolats s’il vous plait” tiptoeing high enough so I could see the baguettes on the other side of the counter, stacked, cracked and crisp in their wooden crates.
We’d lay the table for five, each of us taking ownership of our own tiny triumphs: the fresh-out-the-fridge jug of milk, the cutlery, plates, glasses, the confiture and butter, juice and bread basket piled high with feuilleted pastry. I used to peel back the buttery layers of my pain au chocolat until I found the sticks of perfectly oval chocolate hidden beneath, dipping the excess pastry in my frothy hot chocolate, whilst everyone else dipped theirs in their cold milk.
As breakfast came to an end, we’d beg our parents to let us get in the pool, dipping our toes in from the edge of the glistening water, goggles strapped to our freckled faces. But after mouthfuls of delicious French patisserie , we were always told the same thing: “you need to wait at least an hour to digest your food”. Five minutes would pass. “Is time up yet?” we’d chortle… jumping up and down in eager anticipation of plunging into the cool liquid. When eventually we were allowed in, the three of us would line up in height order, Dad give the 10 second countdown before we bombed into the pool, water spilling excessively over the edge and underneath the sun loungers.
Hours later, exhausted and sun-kissed, we’d crave shade, nibbles and a cold summer drink. This is when, if I could, I would’ve chosen a glass of cold milk and a cookie. However, since my younger taste buds decided that French milk tasted entirely different to British milk, and even then, British milk made my nose wrinkle, it wasn’t until I was in my late teens that this idea started to appeal to me. And so for years, I’d have the French equivalent of madeleines. They do say however, that the best things come to those who wait. And they were entirely correct.
2 cups (284g) all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
½ pound 2 sticks; 227g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups (297g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp water
6 ounces (170g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into bite-size pieces averaging ½ inch with some smaller and some larger
1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350F. Line 3 baking sheets with aluminum foil, dull side up.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. Using an electric whisk, beat the butter on medium until creamy. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat for about 2-3mins until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and water then mix on low to combine.
4. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until combined. Add the chocolate stir into the batter.
5. Form the dough into 100g balls and place them equal distance apart on a prepared pan. Transfer to the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.
*After you put the first baking sheet in the oven, put the second one in the freezer.
6. Place the chilled baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10mins, until the cookies are puffed slightly in the center. Carefully lift the side of the baking sheet up about 4 inches and gently let it drop down against the oven rack, so the edges of the cookies set and the inside falls back down (this will feel wrong, but trust me, lifting each side so the middle spreads out and creates a crinkle edge makes the cookies look entirely delectable).
7. Leave in the oven for another 2mins and then repeat lifting and dropping the pan. Repeat a few more times to create ridges around the edge of the cookie.
8. Bake for 16-18mins in total, until the cookies have spread out and the edges are golden brown but the centers are much lighter and not fully cooked.
9. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan and transferring to a wire rack.
These cookies are rather large, but to get the edges to spread out and crinkle, they need to be on the big side. If you want to make the cookies smaller, you won’t get as many ridges on the outer layer, and your center won’t be quite as gooey. They will still be delicious, but not quite what’s intended.
If you skip freezing the cookies, they will spread too much on the pan and will not form the crinkly outer layer.
Chocolate chips are not a good substitution for the chopped chocolate; the cookies will not turn out the same with chips.
Using the dull side of aluminum foil to bake these cookies is a little trick I learned after hearing Alice Medrich speak. The foil helps make for an extra-crisp, golden brown bottom. Parchment paper can also be used with good results.
Recipe from The Vanilla Bean Baking Blog by Sarah Kieffer