Nine years after opening her cult bakery in North Melbourne, Natalie Paull has published her recipes in a bake-your-own-adventure cookbook. Inside Beatrix Bakes, you’ll find these sweet-but-salty, slightly smoky chocolate-chip cookies.
“Each bite is a delight of crisp edge with yielding centre,” says Paull, who adds that a solid night’s rest does wonders for cookie dough and bakers alike.
“In a 2008 New York Times article, cookie professionals revealed that the secret to better chocolate-chip cookies lies in a long prebake chill,” she says.
“This is gospel to me. The resting hydrates the flour in the dough and deepens the flavour and colour. But you know, they are still gonna be great if you make and bake straight away.”
The dough lasts up to four days in the fridge, and can be frozen for up to three months.
The cookies get their smoky notes from ground lapsang souchong tea, but Russian caravan tea can be subbed in for a milder hit. “If you find the whole tea thing a bit spooky, just leave it out,” says Paull. She also recommends mixing up your toasted nut and chocolate couplings: consider pecan and white chocolate, hazelnut and milk chocolate or almond and dark chocolate.
“The world of variations is your oyster,” she says.
Smoky, salty chocolate-chip cookies
Makes 16 to 20
Prep time: 1 hour to make the dough, plus overnight rest
Bake time: 30 minutes
70g raw walnuts
170g dark chocolate (60–70% cocoa)
240g unsalted butter, cool and pliable
240g light muscovado (or soft brown) sugar
100g demerara sugar
5g (½ tsp) vanilla paste
50g egg (approx. 1 egg)
20g egg yolk (from approx. 1 egg)
220g plain flour
2g (heaped ½ tsp) lapsang souchong tea leaves, finely ground in a spice grinder
8g (1 tsp) bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2g (¼ tsp) fine sea salt
Cooking oil spray
Sea-salt flakes, for the salty sprinkle
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Put the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown all the way through. Turn the oven off. Cool the walnuts quickly in the fridge, then coarsely chop. Chop the chocolate into large gravelly pieces and mix with the nuts. Set aside.
Brown half of the butter in a 20cm saucepan. Set aside at room temperature.
While the brown butter is cooling, place the remaining butter, both sugars and vanilla in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on speed 4 (medium) for about 8 minutes. The mix will look more like sugary paste than soft and creamed. This is because the sugar-to-butter ratio is high, but this will be corrected when the brown butter is added.
Meanwhile, lightly mix the egg and yolk in a small bowl with a spatula. Sift the flour, ground tea, bicarbonate of soda and salt into another bowl and set aside.
Reduce mixer speed to 2 (above low) and slowly stream the brown butter into the bowl. Beat for 3 minutes. Add the egg mix in two batches and beat for 2 minutes on speed 8 (under high). The mix should look pale and creamy, holding a very soft (but not liquid) structure.
If the creamed mix has overheated and is slack and melty, remove the bowl and attachment from the mixer and place in the fridge until it starts to harden around the edge of the bowl. Place back on the machine and continue beating. A melted base makes the cookies overspread, and a little greasy when baked.
Reduce to speed 2 (above low) again, add the chocolate and nuts and mix for 1 minute until only just incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix for a final minute. Take the bowl off the mixer and give the dough a thorough and final mix with a stiff spatula.
A final mix with a plastic spatula ensures no butter streaks are left in the dough. Any buttery seams will show in the baked cookie – while still delicious, it will bake a little funny lookin’.
Line a tray with baking paper or plastic wrap. Using a #20 ice-cream scoop (about 5cm in diameter), fill a scoopful of dough and level the top. Release the scoop onto the tray. This will give you a compact portion of dough. Place the scoops closely together on the tray. Alternatively, measure the dough as 2 full tablespoons each or weigh to 40g and roll into a sphere. Cover and chill overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 130°C. Lightly spray a baking tray with cooking oil spray and line with baking paper. Arrange the dough balls on the tray, spacing them about 3cm apart to allow for spreading. Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt on top of each cookie. Bake for 25–30 minutes until golden brown. The cookies will still be soft but will firm up when cool. Bake a little more if they are too pale or if you prefer a crispier cookie.
Most importantly: optimal wait time before eating is 20 minutes.
Note: If you get severe overspread, reshape the cookies by stamping with a cookie cutter while they are still warm. If you declare cookie failure, crush them for a cheesecake crumb, or serve cookie shards with good vanilla ice-cream and chocolate fudge sauce (a kinda DIY chocolate-chip cookie sundae).
This is an edited extract from Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull, published by Hardie Grant Books. Buy it online or in bookshops.