Has anyone ever asked you what your favorite movie, band, or author is and you come up short for a definitive answer? That’s not a problem when someone inquires what my favorite cookie recipe is. Not that anyone has ever asked, but when they do, I’m prepared!
The best cookie recipe in all of time and space is the chewy chocolate-gingerbread cookies that appeared in the December/January 1997 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. And I had the privilege of baking many batches of that very recipe in the actual MSL test kitchen way back in 1998.
The Upshot of a Fumbling Internship
A jillion years ago, I did an internship at Martha Stewart Living. It was a hellacious experience at the time, but I learned a lot and came away with some great stories. If you work for someone famous and don’t get a few good stories out of it, what’s the point?
When Christmas approached, the higher-ups of the test kitchen staff prepared to send their annual tins of cookies to all of their important vendors and contacts. This being a Martha Stewart enterprise, of course those tins were packed with a perfectly curated selection of Martha Stewart cookie recipes baked by the test kitchen staff.
Someone handed me the Chewy Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookie recipe, a recipe that all of the food editors spoke of in hushed, reverent tones.
I was told to make 14 dozen. That’s 7x the recipe. A single batch requires seven ounces of chocolate and one tablespoon of finely grated ginger, so in total I hand-chunked a little over three pounds of chocolate and grated about half a cup of fresh ginger. Have you ever grated that much ginger on a microplane? Let me tell you, it takes foreverrrr.
In the process, I memorized the recipe. And when I got to taste one of the cookies, I was a goner. It was the best cookie I’ve ever had.
A Complex Cookie for Discerning Gingerbread Connoisseurs
Why do I love these cookies so much? They bundle everything that matters in a complex, chewy package of a few bites of sheer ecstacy. Every element is perfectly balanced. The rich chocolate chunks make a fitting foil for the fiery ginger. Classic gingerbread spices–cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg–come through without whacking you over the head.
Best of all, chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies are, by weight, about 50 percent chocolate chunks. The cookie dough merely binds them together. I’ve never had a cookie so chocolatey. A bite into one rivals a chocolate truffle for intensity.
Not for Everyone, But Very Much for Some
Of course I baked these for my family once I went on Christmas break from my internship. My mom in particular loved them. We hid them from my dad and my brother. She made a batch of her own and shared them only with her friends who’d get them.
These are not cookies for those who simply want straightforward, passing gratification. They are an experience. They also have, like, $12 worth of chocolate. Bake an easy batch of super-solid cookies like peanut butter blossoms as decoys to distract anyone not worthy of the chewy chocolate-gingerbread experience. Seriously, it works. Everyone’s happy.
The Keys to Success With These Cookies
The recipe online has a shockingly low 3.5-star review, but I realized that’s possibly because the reviewers got a few critical things wrong. Here’s how to do right by chewy chocolate-gingerbread cookies.
- Use only the best chocolate. Because the chocolate chunks make up half the cookies, the quality of the chocolate itself matters a lot. I tend to use chunks cut from a Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet Baking Bar.
- You must cut the chocolate chunks by hand. If you even think of using chocolate chips, just quit now and go to another recipe. It’s a bother, I know, but the random sizes of hand-cut chocolate chunks are a lot of what makes the cookies so delightful to eat. Every bite is a new experience because you might get a few smaller pieces or one giant chunk.
- Don’t overbake them. The cookies will seem a bit wet in their centers at the 10 to 12-minute mark, but don’t be tempted to continue baking them. Pull them from the oven at this point and you’ll be rewarded with fudgy, chocolatey middles. Baking them even a minute or two longer will render the cookies totally unexceptional.
How I Make Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies Now
I have one tweak to the recipe. I use five ounces of bittersweet chocolate chunks and two ounces of unsweetened chocolate chunks. It’s a next-level chocolate experience for the extra-bitter set. If you go this route, use high-quality unsweetened chocolate (Scharffen Berger, Guittard, or Vahlrona are all good choices) and not those paper-wrapped squares of baking chocolate.
My best friend’s mom hides her cookies in the freezer and doles out one a day, warming it gently in the microwave. I prefer mine at room temperature. However you choose to eat yours, it should be a private ritual.
They’re one of those small indulgences that you sneak away for, like a Calgon bath. And when you meet someone who likewise covets these cookies, you know you’re dealing with a kindred spirit.