(NEW YORK TIMES) - Last fall, an aberrant chocolate chip cookie turned up in my Instagram feed. As wide as a salad plate and flat as a flounder, it appeared thin, but it was somehow layered with slabs of chocolate. Oddest of all, it was ringed, like a tree trunk – as if a chunk of chocolate had been dropped in the centre and somehow made waves out to the edges. I assumed it was a mutant, posted by a troubled baker as a cry for help, and I kept scrolling.
But soon, the rippled cookie appeared again: as a one-off from a bread blog, then in 42burners, the Instagram account of Martha Stewart’s vast test kitchen. It showed up, insistently, as baker/photographers like Ruth Tam kept posting it, crowing about the crispiness of the ridges and the softness of the centres.
I grew curious. It seems impossible that there’s anything new to say about basic chocolate chip cookies (a version from the pastry chef Jacques Torres, from 2008, is one we keep going back to, and for good reason). But a recipe that spreads across Instagram (and isn’t galaxy-, unicorn- or ombre-decorated) cannot be lightly dismissed.
When I spotted a new post that was simply a collage of photos of the cookie, I broke down. I tracked down the recipe, and then its author, Sarah Kieffer, who described the sacred rite of the ripples.
“It’s all in the pan-bang,” she said.
Here’s how it works: After the cookies have risen a bit in the hot oven, she pulls out the cookie sheet and bangs it hard on top of the stove, or on the oven rack. Just as a half-done cake falls in the centre when bumped, the middle of the cookie collapses, pushing barely-baked dough out to the edges. She returns the pan to the oven and, at intervals, repeats the process, building up the crinkled rim that makes it possible to have both soft and crunchy textures in a single cookie. It is, I can attest, a leap forward in cookie technology.
It’s not clear even to Kieffer how the pan-bang came to her. But as a trained baker, she had the skills to develop a recipe around it that maximises the ripple effect: making the cookies very large, chilling the dough balls before baking and using chopped chocolate instead of chips.
“I can’t imagine a better chocolate chip cookie,” said Kieffer, who makes and posts the cookies often, usually generating over 2,000 “likes” for each image. “But you never know what someone else will think of.”
Giant crinkled chocolate chip cookies
Makes 10 cookies
Time: 30 minutes, plus chilling
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
226g unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsps pure vanilla extract
170g bittersweet chocolate (about 60 per cent cacao solids), chopped into coarse pieces, bits and shards
1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Heat the oven to 176 degrees Celsius. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil, parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium until creamy. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla and 2 tablespoons water, and mix on low to combine. Add the flour mixture, and mix on low until combined. Add the chocolate and mix on low into the batter. (At this point, the dough can be refrigerated for several hours or overnight.)
4. Form the dough into 100g balls (a heaping 1/3 cup each). Place 4 balls an equal distance apart on a prepared pan, and 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.
5. Place the chilled baking sheet in the oven and bake 10 minutes, until the cookies are puffed slightly in the centre. Lift the baking sheet and 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.) Bang it down, if necessary, to make the centre fall.
6. After the cookies puff up again, 2 to 3 minutes later, repeat lifting and dropping the pan. Repeat a few more times, every 3 minutes, to create ridges around the edge of the cookie. Bake 16 to 18 minutes total, until the cookies have spread out, and the edges are golden brown, but the centres are much lighter and not fully cooked.
7. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack; let cool before removing the cookies from the pan.
8. Repeat with remaining cookies, using the first sheet pan for the third batch of cookies.