I came across the perfect chocolate cookie when I visited Portland years ago. The cookies were popular in the coffee shop I would visit, and I loved them. Each cookie was a crackle-edged puddle of chocolate with a texture that made me think of a collision between soft meringue and a fudgy brownie. I fell hard. In the years since, we’ve come to call them chocolate puddle cookies, and there are just six ingredients between you a baking sheet of them. No mixer necessary, just a big bowl and wooden spoon.
Chocolate Cookie Inspiration
As far as the origins of this recipe? I came across a recipe shortly after my return from Portland that sounded very close to the cookie I tasted there. The Portland chocolate cookies seemed to be a version of François Payard's Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookie. But, the recipe I was working from didn't work all that well for me. The good news is, it did provide a good starting point. I adjusted a few ingredients, tweaked my technique, and now I've been able to make them reliably making little tweaks along the way. All my insights and ingredient notes are integrated into this page and recipe.
Chocolate Cookies: The Ingredients
The ingredient list here is short and direct. There’s a good chance you have all the ingredients on hand - cocoa, powdered sugar, egg whites, walnuts, vanilla, and a bit of salt. A few related notes:
- Cocoa powder: I’ve used a wide range cocoa powder in these cookies over the years. The key here is to use unsweetened. For a long time I tended to use non-alkalized cocoa powder (Scharffen Berger or Dagoba) but also tested with Droste, which is a Dutch-process cocoa powder. And! I just made a fantastic batch using Guittard Cocoa Rough last week. Pictured here. So, use what you like, just be sure it’s not sweetened.
- Walnuts: On the walnut front, be mindful of how you toast your walnuts, it's the single factor that impacts the personality of these cookies most. Using deeply toasted walnuts makes for a much more intense, nutty cookie. Lightly toasted walnuts can sometimes be mistaken for chocolate chips, and make for a much more mild cookie. Both good!
- Powdered sugar: I've used both 365 organic powdered sugar from Whole Foods, and Hain organic powdered sugar with success.
- Eggs: Use large eggs, I suspect if you use extra-large, the batter will run, and you'll have to compensate with more powdered sugar.
Technique and Pro-tips
Reading this far will pay off, I promise. Here are a couple things that really make a difference here.
- Sift. Really, don’t skip this step. Get all those lumps out.
- Add ingredients in the correct order. This is what your mixture should look like after mixing in the walnuts. (below)
- Consistency. This is roughly what your cookie batter should look like after mixing in the egg whites.
- Bake & Cool Completely. Do your best to avoid under-baking, and after baking, allow the cookies to cool completely. A couple hours is best. They will set up beautifully. The goal is a clean break-away from the parchment paper. It’s sometimes hard to tell when these cookies are fully baked, the ones in the picture directly above are slightly underbaked for my tastes. So I adjusted with the remaining two cookie sheets.
Chocolate Cookie Variations
I like to make these just as written in the recipe below. It’s one of those rare cooking endeavors where I don’t mess around much. But there have been many great comments over the years. A lot of people make these chocolate cookies with toasted pecans in place of the walnuts. Some add the zest of an orange. And another person recommended dried cherries. Espresso powder was something I’ve considered but never tried (although some of you have!).And numerous people like to freeze these cookies, and crumble them over ice cream for the win!
I hope you enjoy these as much as I have. They've become family favorites.
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More Chocolate Recipes
Also known around here as chocolate puddle cookies. The main thing, as mentioned up above, you don't want to over or under bake here. Over bake, and your cookies will cool to a crisp. Under bake, and they are too floppy and crumbly. Also, underbaking makes it more difficult to remove the cookies from the parchment paper after baking. You’ll get the swing of it after a sheet or two!
- 3 cups / 11 oz / 310 g walnut halves, toasted & cooled
- 4 cups / 1 lb / 453 g confectioner's (powdered) sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons / 2 oz / 60 g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon real, good-quality vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 320°F / 160°C degrees and position racks in the top and bottom third. Line three (preferably rimmed) baking sheets with parchment paper. Or you can bake in batches with fewer pans.
Make sure your walnuts have cooled, then chop coarsely (pea-sized chunks) and set aside. Sift together the confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder. Stir in the salt and walnuts, then add the egg whites and vanilla. Stir until uniform and well combined.
Spoon the batter onto the prepared sheets in mounds of about 2 tablespoons each, allowing for PLENTY of room between cookies. These cookies really expand. Don't try to get more than 6 cookies on each sheet, and try to avoid placing the batter too close to the edge of the pan.
Bake until they puff up. The tops should get glossy, and then crack a bit - about 13 -15 minutes. Have faith! They look sad at first, then really blossom. You may want to rotate the pans top/bottom/back/front, but I typically don’t bother.
After removing from the oven, slide the cookies (still on parchment) onto a cooling rack, and let them cool completely. They are best after they’ve cooled for a couple hours if you can wait. They will keep in an airtight for a couple days.
Makes 18 large cookies.