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Better Than Ben's

There are few things in this world as comforting as a chocolate chip cookie, and even few things as comforting as the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie. I'm currently preparing for my Qualification Exam (also known as Quals to those in the know, aka sad and stressed out graduate students) which means that my mind is constantly searching out for fun and tasty distractions. I found this latest distraction in the form of a copycat Ben's Cookies recipe online.

If you've never heard of Ben's Cookies before, then boy is your world about to change. It's a chain of bakeries across the UK that make just the largest ooeyist gooeyist most incredible cookies. I first tried them when I studied abroad at Oxford about 10 years ago, and I have been changed ever since. I have been looking all over for bakeries that sell cookies that could even be considered comparable to Ben's to absolutely no avail. Every time I've had the good fortune to visit the UK, I've been sure to stop at Ben's at least a few more times than could be considered healthy and I've been known to nag any visiting friends coming from the UK to bring a few (dozen) cookies in their carry on for me.

So imagine my delight, when on one very stressed out day, I came across a copycat recipe on Marmalade & Me. The thing that is just so special about these cookies to me is not just their size and texture, which are seriously super awesome, but the flavor of the dough. So many people make a very simple mistake with their recipes - they make them way too sweet. The sweetness can be a little cloying, especially if it has lots of chocolate chips as well that help to make the cookies even sweeter. These cookies do not have that problem. The dough tastes almost like a custard, rich and decadent but not sweet or overwhelming. The upside to this is it will blow your mind it's so delicious, the downside is that it will also blow your waist band as it's way easier to want more than just one of these tasty suckers.

I've changed the recipe for flavor as well as modified the recipe for bakers in the US as the original uses the metric scale for its measurements and refers to ingredients that are not very common over here. I always recommend using a scale to bake, rather than measuring cups, as you will keep your ratios precise and therefore maximize the likelihood of keeping your baking true to the recipe. A second advantage of this is that if your final product doesn't taste very good, you can blame the recipe writer and not yourself! Unless of course you do something like forget to add an ingredient, then the blame is right back on you, or your oven. It's always a fine idea to just go ahead and blame your oven. But if you do follow this recipe (and if your oven cooperates), you will be treated to something that's arguably Better Than Ben's. Of course... it's possible it's only successfully arguable to me, a person who hasn't had a real Ben's Cookie in several years, but still - that counts!

And so, without further adieu, here it is, the key to your future weight gain:

Double Chocolate BTB* Cookies

  • 400g (3 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 170g (3/4 cups) unsalted butter

  • 200g (1 cup) dark brown sugar

  • 100g (1/2 cup) white sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk

  • 100g (1 regular sized bar) milk chocolate (I used a no-sugar added brand to limit sweetness), broken up into 12 chunks

  • 50g (1/2 regular sized bar) dark chocolate, broken up into 12 chunks

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F

2. Melt the butter either in a large bowl in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop with flame set to low. Make sure you keep an eye on it and don't let the butter burn or let too much liquid evaporate out.

3. Combine the butter, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract. I prefer to use an electric mixer here and to keep the mixer running for at least a minute so that everything is ultra-creamy looking. I'm convinced this improves the final flavor

4. With your electric mixer running on low (or if you're doing this by hand, with your non dominant hand steadily stirring the dough), add the egg mixture. I prefer to do this before the butter has cooled down so that the eggs get tempered into the batter, rather than just mixed into a cooled batter. This helps give the cookies that wonderful custard flavor I love so much. However, because the butter is hot, you must be constantly stirring the batter while you add the eggs so that they get incorporated into the dough, rather than just cooking from the butter's heat and then looking like a blob of scrambled eggs somehow made it into your dough. It may sound kind of hard, but it really isn't. Trust me, you got this.

5. Stir in the baking powder, flour and salt. Stir well until fully combined.

6. You're probably thinking now is the time to add your chocolate bar pieces, but no no my friend. These cookies use chunks of chocolate so big that you simply cannot stir the chocolate into the dough. Instead, you should divide the dough into 12 equal balls. Take a moment to consider how lucky you are, that in just a few minutes you will get to eat some really, really, really big cookies. If you are like me, and spent over 10 years working in labs and really really like to precisely measure things, you can divide the dough with a scale. Each cookie ball should be approximately 80 grams.

7. Push the one milk chocolate and one dark chocolate chunk into each dough ball, re-shape the dough and then flatten slightly.

8. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, or until the bottom edges start to brown. The cookies should be firm but still soft in the center.

9. If you have the self control that I so desperately lack, let the cookies cool on a rack before eating. If however, you are like me, enjoy them fresh out the oven with a big glass of milk and don't ruin even one second of these cookies by thinking about calories.

* BTB = Better Than Ben's (...duh)



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