Does the world really need another chocolate chip cookie recipe?
You bet, if it’s by Nancy Silverton.
The renowned pastry chef can do no wrong. At least in my book. Over the years, I’ve made many of her recipes, and none have ever disappointed. She’s also the co-owner of my favorite pizza joint, Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, as well as nearby sister restaurants Osteria Mozza and Chi Spacca.
“Chai Chocolate Chip Cookies” is from her newest cookbook, “Mozza At Home” (Alfred A. Knopf), of which I received a review copy. It was written with James Beard Award-winning journalist Carolynn Carreno.
It’s a dirty little secret that most chefs don’t cook much at home. They just don’t have the time. Silverton was the same way for many years, until a trip to Italy reconnected her to the pleasures of cooking for friends, family, and even herself.
These more than 150 recipes are based on those soul-warming meals. They are recipes that for the most part don’t require sub-recipe upon sub-recipe just to assemble one dish. Instead, they’re as simple as “Oven-Roasted Grapes on the Vine,” in which you stick a bunch of grapes in the oven for an hour until they get blistered and shriveled, concentrating their flavor. She recommends serving them with a selection of cheeses.
Or there’s the clever “Pastrami Popcorn,” which is stovetop-popped popcorn drizzled with orange zest-flavored butter and showered with a mix of cumin seeds, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and salt to give it the taste of your favorite deli meat sandwich.
“Chai Chocolate Chip Cookies” are her revved up version of a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe by Pastry Chef Jacques Torres, whom she thinks makes the very best chocolate chip cookies.
As the name implies, Silverton’s cookies are imbued with a plethora of spices in generous amounts — ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground black pepper and 1 1/2 whole nutmegs.
There’s a cup of pecans for a naturally sweet crunch. And 1 1/4 pounds of chocolate, which makes these cookies plenty chocolatey. In fact, I used Guittard bittersweet chocolate baking wafers, and left them whole so that you get a really big wad of chocolate in every bite.
Just note that Silverton, much like Ina Garten, uses extra-large eggs in her baking recipes.
Mix the dough and refrigerate it overnight so that it can become completely hydrated and the flavors can meld. The next day, get baking to your heart’s delight.
The cookies bake up crisp on the edges, with middles that are soft and tender. They smell and taste kind of like spice cake or chai tea minus the ginger.
With its wealth of wintery spices, it is a most season-appropriate version of a chocolate chip cookie. It’s just made for snuggling up to.
Chai Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes about 3 dozen cookies)
1 cup pecan (or walnut) halves (about 3 1/2 ounces)
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour; 8 1/2 ounces)
1 2/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour; 8 1/2 ounces)
10 ounces (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 whole nutmegs (about 1 1/2 tablespoons grated)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds chocolate (preferably 60 percent to 70 percent cacao), roughly chopped into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks
Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Set up a cooling rack.
Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until they’re lightly browned and fragrant, shaking the baking sheet and rotating it from front to back halfway through the cooking time so the nuts brown evenly. Remove the pecans from the oven and turn off the oven. Set the nuts aside until they’re cool enough to touch. Coarsely chop the nuts and set aside.
Combine the cake flour and bread flour in a large bowl and stir to combine.
Combine the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and pepper in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream at medium-high speed until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on medium speed until the egg is incorporated into the dough before adding the next egg. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate it. Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture and mix until no flour is visible. Remove the bowl from the stand. Add the chocolate and pecans and mix to combine.
Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour to chill it, or preferably overnight.
Adjust the oven racks so one is on the top third of the oven and one is in the bottom third and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set up two cooling racks.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it into 1 3/4-ounce balls (each will be a bit smaller than a Ping-Pong ball). Put 6 to 8 balls on each large baking sheet with at least 2 inches between each ball of dough. Put the remaining dough balls in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake them or for up to 2 days.
Put one baking sheet on each rack in the oven and bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, until they are light golden, but still soft, and not wet looking in the middle, rotating the baking sheets between the upper and lower racks and from front to back halfway through the baking time so the cookies bake evenly. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and set them on the cooling racks to cool for about 5 minutes. Remove the cookies form the baking sheets and put them directly onto the cooling racks to cool completely. Repeat, baking the remaining dough the same way.
To serve, stack the cookies no more than two high on a flat platter or cake stand.
From “Mozza At Home” by Nancy Silverton
More Nancy Silverton Recipe to Try: Nancy’s Pizza Dough and Littleneck Clams, Garlic, Oregano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Pecorino Romano Pizza Topping