I have an extensive Amazon wishlist. Once upon a time it was full of all manner of things, but now it’s essentially just cookbooks. The problem with this is that cookbooks tend to cost quite a bit more than your standard paperback novel, and so buying three or four in a blinded, lustful daze can easily set you back a bit of money. So I have to ration myself, and only buy one now and then. Or when there’s something I really want, obviously.
In bookshops it’s even worse. I have to actively avoid the cooking section in most of them, because I never walk away without something new. They’re so tempting, cookbooks: beautiful and tactile, heavy and reassuring, full of delicious things. I am a big book lover in general and have curated a huge collection of fiction since childhood, but cookbooks are a different thing entirely. A novel is full of mysterious, hidden promise, and you don’t know if it will deliver until you have invested some time in it. A quick flick through a cookbook will reveal its bright offerings, and you can know in two minutes whether or not it’s a tome you want to cook from.
The book definitely passed the ‘flick through test’. When I first get a cookbook, I tend to sit down and mark up all the recipes I want to make from it immediately. In The Violet Bakery, there were literally dozens. Inviting, interesting, delicious-looking things. Raspberry and star anise crumble muffins. Apricot kernel upside down cake. Wild blackberry tart.
And the first thing I made from the book was a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
I mean, I like chocolate chip cookies, but they are a humble delight and I certainly wouldn’t say they were my favourite thing to bake, or anywhere near the most enticing thing in this book. But the recipe called for three egg yolks, and I just happened to have three egg yolks sitting around in the fridge, waiting to be used up (all the whites had gone on macaron-related escapades). And since I had everything else I needed for this recipe in the cupboard, I thought it was worth a go.
Source: As above, the glorious cookbook from The Violet Bakery, by Claire Ptak. I really would advise you to go and buy it if you are at all interested in happiness and joy.
Notes: I only made a couple of minor tweaks to this recipe. This is very, very unlike me, but I have actually dialled the salt down slightly, because I felt that it was too much, and increased the vanilla because I thought it needed to be a clearer note. Also unlike me, but I recommend using a good quality milk chocolate, rather than dark as suggested. As you can see, I made them with a mixture of milk and dark chocolate, and I found the dark chocolate too overwhelming here.
I found these cookies were actually a bit better on the second day – they softened a bit and became more chewy than crispy, which is my preference.
250g butter, softened
200g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or, if you have it on hand, vanilla bean paste
3 large egg yolks
325g plain flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g milk chocolate chips, or a chocolate bar broken into chunks
- Line a baking tray which will fit in your freezer with parchment paper – I had to bake these cookies in batches because I can only fit one baking tray in my freezer at a time. In your largest bowl, beat the butter and both types of sugar together with an electric mixer until just combined and even, then beat in the vanilla and egg yolks – all at once is fine.
- In another bowl, sieve your flour, salt, and bicarbonate together. Add this to the butter mixture along with the chocolate and mix until combined – it will be a stiff, firm dough.
- Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the dough into cookies and pop them on your cold tray. Freeze for an hour, or up to a month. I could only do half at a time because my freezer is absolutely full of stuff, and I couldn’t fit all the dough on one baking sheet, so I put the rest of the dough in the fridge while I was waiting for the first cookies to chill in the freezer.
- Heat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and take the cookies out of the freezer. Make sure they are well spaced on the tray as they will expand massively when baked. Let them rest at room temperature for five to ten minutes while the oven heats up, and then pop them in. Bake for 15-20 minutes (it was 16 in my oven), until the outsides of the cookies are baked and crispy, but the insides still feel soft and underbaked. Let them rest on the counter to firm up for at least 10 minutes.