Jeff Baena’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

From the Talkhouse Reader, the writer-director shares the recipe for the best cookie in the world, which he took 12 years to develop.

My attempt to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie started when my wife Aubrey was working on Parks and Rec, and the production designer, who had a farm, knew I made chocolate chip cookies. They had a goose and some ducks, so they gave her a couple of goose eggs and a couple of duck eggs and said maybe I’d want to try something with those. I experimented with the duck eggs and discovered that if you use one full duck egg (which is more viscous) and one yolk from a chicken egg, it gives the cookie a little bit more creaminess and richness.

After that, I began playing with other things, like swapping crappy American butter with European butter, which has a higher fat content, and then turning that into brown butter, which is when you take butter and stir it over a medium high flame until it caramelizes. Since we think of chocolate chip cookies as having a butterscotch flavor, it’s perfect, because brown butter has a nutty, caramel taste to it. I also started using more brown sugar than white sugar, to make it a richer cookie, and using a mixture of light brown and dark brown sugar. For the chocolate, I use Valrhona 62 percent féves, which are medallions that you just snap in half and then add.

I also experimented with the flour, because you want the cookie to be a relatively flat disk that’s gooey on the inside, but not so gooey it feels like you’re eating a soufflé. There’s a fine balance, and adding just a little more flour and a little less baking soda helps you get it just right. I also add one whole Valrhona féve in the center of each cookie, so it’s almost like there’s a lava cake-style gush that comes out.

One of the main components of a really good chocolate chip cookie is the caramel, so the longer the cookie mixture sits in the fridge, the more the sugars break down and caramelize, which is what makes it a really beautiful tender cookie.

1 cup European butter
1 duck egg
1 chicken egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup white sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2¼ cups artisan baking flour
1ish cup Valrhona Satilia 62% chocolate féves
Maldon salt or large-flaked sea salt

To start, brown the butter by stirring it over a medium high flame until it caramelizes, then pour into a measuring cup and cool it in the fridge, stirring intermittently until it becomes congealed. You can try the freezer as well, but make sure to keep checking on it and stirring.

Combine the eggs, vanilla extract and white sugar and beat for five minutes until it becomes opaque and peaky.

Once the brown butter is congealed, combine it with the light brown and dark brown sugar in a blender, mix for 30-seconds, then wait three minutes. Repeat this three times.

Mix the flour, salt and baking soda together and then introduce this, little by little, to the egg and white sugar mixture, carefully combining while beating.

Next snap the chocolate féves into halves or thirds and add them, piece by piece, while still mixing, until there is as much chocolate as you like. Place the batter in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.

Take out the batter from the fridge and form the cookie mixture into golf ball-sized balls. Finally, stick one full chocolate féve in the center of each ball.

Put the balls in the fridge and let them sit for 28 to 36 hours. When you take the desired number of balls out of the fridge, let them cool to room temperature and pre-heat the oven to 365º. Once the oven is hot, bake the cookies on ungreased baking sheets for about 10 minutes, until the ridges and cracks form across the middle of the cookie. Remove them from the oven and immediately sprinkle a little Maldon salt or large-flaked sea salt on top of each cookie and gently tamp down to let them set into the surface. Let the cookies sit for 15-20 minutes, then enjoy.

Photo and painting both by Annie Fell. bruhThe Talkhouse Reader’s Food Issue is out now digitally and in print. 

Jeff Baena is a writer and director currently living in Los Angeles. He grew up in Miami and studied film production at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Baena co-wrote I Heart Huckabees with David O. Russell. He made his feature directorial debut with Life After Beth (2014), and has since followed it up with Joshy (2016), The Little Hours (2017) and Horse Girl (2020). His latest project, Cinema Toast, a found-footage anthology series, started airing on Showtime on April 20. (Photo by Katrina Marcinowski.)