Just about any chocolate chip cookie can be good. It takes a special recipe—like this one from Portland, Ore.—to make one that’s truly great.
Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Pearl Bakery, Portland, Ore.
Impressively thick, delicately crisp on the edges, chewy inside, and loaded with semisweet chocolate and toasted pecans, the chocolate chunk cookies at Portland’s Pearl Bakery (102 NW Ninth Ave., 503-827-0910, pearlbakery.com) are so alluring that customers actually show up as early as 9 a.m. to start the day with one.
Head pastry chef Teresa Ulrich understands that kind of devotion. After all, this particular cookie has been on the menu since the bakery opened 15 years ago. It’s among the shop’s most popular pastry items, with up to 700 sold each week. In 2011, when Portland Monthly named it one of the best chocolate chip cookies in the city, the adoration spread.
The family-run craft bakery, just over a block from Powell’s City of Books, makes these cookies with locally sourced butter. Ulrich adds Mexican vanilla rather than the usual kind because she likes its faint cinnamon and coconut notes. The zest of a whole orange also gets stirred into the dough. The citrus flavor remains in the background, she says, but it imparts an intriguing quality that adds to the cookie’s complexity.
The cookies are easy to replicate at home. Just use a light hand when mixing the dough, Ulrich says, so the cookies don’t end up flat or tough. The bakery favors Barry Callebaut 45 percent–cacao semisweet chocolate, but any dark chocolate up to 60 percent cacao works well.
“It really is a great cookie,” Ulrich says. “It spoils me for any other chocolate chip cookie.”
Pearl Bakery’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes about 18 cookies
Adapted with permission from the recipe by Pearl Bakery.
1 cup unsalted butter warmed to room temperature 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
Zest of one orange, finely grated
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (Mexican, if available)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted
2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chunks
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and orange zest on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. (Don’t cream too long, or the cookies might bake flat.)
2. Beat in the egg and vanilla until thoroughly combined.
3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture to the butter and sugar mixture. Blend on low speed until thoroughly mixed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
4. In a separate bowl, toss the pecan halves and chocolate chunks together. Add them to the dough mixture and mix until just combined.
5. Divide the dough into ¼-cup balls. Space the balls about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets and flatten them slightly. Chill for 15 minutes. (The chilling helps prevent a flat cookie.)
6. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the cookies until they just start to turn golden brown and are still a little soft in the center, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cookies to racks and allow them to cool. Serve promptly or store in an airtight container.
Photography courtesy Pearl Bakery
This article was first published in April 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.