Thursday 11 December 2014

Brandy and Chilli Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ho-ly butt monkeys. Let me tell you, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to make my own cookie recipe. Pfft, cookies? They have, what, 4 ingredients? Butter, sugar, flour and egg. How hard could it be to make the perfect cookie? Turns out, there’s like twenty variables. Butter temp, sugar colour, sugar crystal size, flour type, ratio of egg white to yolk, fridge time, oven temp, cooking time… you name it, it makes a freakin’ difference. Now I haven’t double checked my calculations on this one (or done any in the first place), but I’m fairly confident that there ends up being, like, a billion different possible combinations.

So, long story short, I may have just given myself diabetes this weekend.

But ’twas all for a good cause, for now I can present to thee… Fire Cookies! Sink your mind-teeth into these bad boys. They shouldn’t even be legal, because these sugary snacks are packin' heat! Plus, they’re like, totally not fit to drive. Brandy and chilli flakes, mixed with salted chocolate chips and toasty almond flakes. Slightly crispy edges, with a soft, chewy inside. Heck. Yes. Get festive on their asses eat those baked goods UP!

Seriously, the melty chocolate with the hint of chilli makes these the definition of perfection for cold winter evenings. There’s just enough heat in them to leave a tingle in your mouth, which has the magical effect of making you actually feel warmer. Plus the brandy makes them taste of Christmas.

But the best part? You can make them in the same amount of time as it takes to heat up the oven. No laborious creaming of butter, no chilling for hours in the fridge. Just mix, scoop and bake. That’s like, 20 minutes between the point that you realise you could really go for some cookies, and actually stuffing your face with them. Well, 25 minutes. Gotta let them cool first. Which, by the way, is honest to god the hardest part of the whole process…

You can call me Mister Cookie Monster.

1) Start preheating oven to 160ºC. Melt butter.

2) Partially dissolve brown sugar in some brandy, then mix in the butter.

3) Whisk in an egg and a second egg yolk.

4) Stir in chunky salt crystals and crushed chilli flakes.

5) Fold in flour, adding chocolate chips and almond flakes just before finishing.

6) Bake lumps of the dough on parchment paper for 11 minutes.

7) Let cool for at least 5 minutes. Eat. Repeat.

I’d tell you to wrap a bow around them and call them a perfect last minute present, but we both know they’re never gonna last that long.

Woah woah woah! You just finished telling me how darn tricky it is to make the perfect cookie. How the heck am I suppose to replicate it with those vague instructions?

True, I did say that. Kudos for paying attention. But the difficult thing about making the perfect cookie is that everyone has their own idea of the perfect cookie. The above instructions explain how to make cookies generally. Which is super easy! Below are the measurements I arrived at that made cookies just how I like them (while still being minimal effort). Feel free to alter the amount of sugar, type of sugar, type of flour, whatever, to get the cookies just how you like them. Keep reading if you wanna know more.

Ingredients (makes about a dozen)

  • 100g butter
  • 100g large crystal light brown sugar (Demerara)
  • 1 shot brandy (totally optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon large salt crystals
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 150g strong flour (bread flour)
  • 120g darkish chocolate (no more than 70%)
  • 25g almond flakes (or other chopped nuts)

Alright, so, feel free to substitute anything you don’t like/don’t have. Adding brandy gives a fancy richness to the flavour, but you could easily swap it out for another spirit and get a similar effect. Brandy just feels the most seasonal. But ohmygod I bet they would taste amazing with Malibu! Hang on while I make a mental note to try that…

Similarly, if you don’t like almonds, use some other nuts. Or leave them out, whatever. But nuts give a great texture. Oh, and the reason you shouldn’t go above 70% for the chocolate is that I tried with 85% and… well, nobody who loves chocolate should have to see that. Sniff. Okay, ready?

    This recipe is like, super quick to throw together, so get the oven preheating to 160ºC right away. If you know your oven is a little hotter or colder than most, adjust accordingly. Just use your noggin’. Now weigh out your ingredients so they’re all in front of you ready to go.

    Next thing you gotta do is melt your butter in a cup in the microwave. Just make sure not to do that thing where you put it on for like 2 minutes telling yourself that you’ll stop it once it’s melted but then you get distracted by something shiny and forget about it. Don’t think I don’t know you do that. Heat until it’s just completely melted, then stop. otherwise the butter separates. Most recipes tell you to cream solid butter together with the sugar, which either needs an electric beater or some elbow grease. Yeah, no. Melted works great here.

    In a mixing bowl, stir the brandy into your sugar. The reason I’ve specified to use large sugar crystals like Demerara is so that they don’t completely dissolve. Having some sugar crystals intact gives a much better texture to the finished cookie. If you prefer totally smooth cookies, go for small crystals. And the reason to use brown sugar is so that the cookie is chewier. For crispier cookies, use white sugar, or a mix of the two.

    Now add the melted butter and stir vigorously for about half a minute. Don’t stress yourself, just try to get it well mixed. Now beat in the egg and egg yolk. Egg whites give the cookie structure, so using a lot of whites will make it solidify more in the oven, catching air and resulting in a cakey sort of texture. Using less whites keeps the cookie chewy.

    Now add some of the flavours. Sprinkle in the salt and chilli flakes and stir to mix. The argument for large salt crystals is similar to that for the sugar. Larger crystals won’t dissolve, so you end up with bits of salt throughout the cookie. The occasional bite with release a burst of flavour, which works awesomely with the generally chocolatey taste of the cookie.

    Dump in the flour (don’t bother sieving) and fold it in. That means exactly what it sounds like, just “fold” the mixture over on itself a few times, so that it envelopes the flour, like some kind of blob-monster. Stirring the normal way would bring out the gluten in the flour. Gluten leads to structure. Structure leads to cake. Cake… leads to suffering. When you’re trying to make chewy cookies, anyway. All-purpose flour would also make it fluffier, as would adding a raising agent. Baking soda makes the cookies brown faster in the oven but, for me, that’s not worth sacrificing chew.

    Just before all the flour has been eaten by the dough, use a knife to roughly chop the chocolate into chips. I usually go half big chunks and half small chips, just to vary things. Toss the chocolate along with the almond flakes into the dough and stir just enough to spread them throughout the mixture. It might look more liquid than you’re used to if you’ve made cookies before, but that’s down to using the slightly hot, melted butter.

    Grab a baking tray and line it with parchment paper, which will help keep the bottom of the cookies from burning. Scoop globs of the dough onto the tray. I usually go for about 2 heaped teaspoons worth per cookie, which should give you a dozen cookies. But feel free to go wild and make four giant cookies, or thirty tiny ones (just change your cooking time if you do). Whatever you do, when you’re ready pop them in the oven to bake.

    If you go for standard size, they’ll be done in 10-11 minutes. The trick to cookies is to take them out before they look like they’re finished, then let ‘em rest for at least 5 minutes. They’ll firm up more as they cool, so if you take them out later, they’ll set too dry. This is super important if you wanna end up with a beautifully chewy cookie.

And there you have it. Gorgeous, chewy, melty, chocolatey, spicy, salty, nutty cookies. And if you’ve managed to get through reading all that without snickering, you’ve got a cleaner mind than I do. Now, the moment I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. Cookie Close-Up!

(If you’ve got left over brandy butter knocking around in the New Year, I suppose you could substitute it in for some of the butter and sugar in this recipe. However, the results aren’t the best. I’d recommend just smearing it on the still warm cookies when they’re fresh out of the oven, or else straight up mixing it with some ice-cream.)


  1. WHAT? WHAT? Brandy is like the pinnacle of perfect cooking booze - sooo dear to my heart. And then chilis - so beautiful and fruity and spicy and chocolate chips! IN A CHEWY COOKIE!

    Have mercy! This looks aaaamazing! WOW! You sir, are a genius!

  2. Well, genius is such a strong word... but yes. Yes I am.

    Seriously though, thank you so much for your comment Tora! I'm glad we're on the same page with the whole brandy-chili-chocolate combo being freakin' awesome. And I'll never understand those dastardly people in the "crispy cookie" camp. Us chewies gotta stick together.