I have written before about my obsession with food blogs, and many of my friends know that I’m often happiest in the kitchen, baking or cooking for people I love. Yet, I don’t think I have ever actually shared a recipe on my blog. I’m not sure why that’s been the case, but luckily there’s a first time for everything. Read on, cookie seekers/eaters.
Whenever my mom comes to visit—as she did two weeks ago—I always make it a point to indulge in the area’s touristy things. Like any good Chicagoan would, I showed her Millennium Park, the “Bean,” Lake Shore Drive, and Wrigley Field—all in the fuh-reezing cold, I’d add. But we also indulged in other ways, like one-slice-too-many of Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza, expensive Intelligentsia coffee, and a bag of Garrett’s Chicago Mix popcorn.
Chicago Mix popcorn is half caramel corn, half cheese popcorn—and before you say, “That sounds weird,” back your-ignorant-self up, grab a bag, and let it blow your mind. I’ve been obsessed with stove-top popcorn as a snack for…like, years now, but for better or worse, that bag of Garrett’s popcorn changed my life. I want to meet Garrett and thank him for butter and caramel and powdered cheese that likely is full of preservatives and also the best thing I’ve eaten in a very long time.
So anyway, my mom came. And then popcorn!
But that’s actually where this story is headed. While my mom was here, we baked popcorn cookies, a recipe from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen cookbook (which I purchased on impulse solely because I saw these cookies on the book jacket). If you’ve never been to Deb’s site, go now. Her recipes are genius, and her food photography is drool-worthy to boot.
Not surprisingly, Mom and I agreed that the cookies also were drool-worthy—chewy, buttery, crackly caramely—yet lacking one key ingredient: chocolate. And I say chocolate only because a Chicago-style/caramel-cheese cookie sounds bad, though I’m sure stranger kitchen feats have been attempted. Anyway, we each vowed to re-make them with chocolate.
You can imagine my delight, then, when I came across Joy the Baker’s riff on these cookies literally hours after I dropped my mom off at the airport. As far as cookie coincidences are concerned, I’m not saying this was cookie-baking fate. I’m just saying they were basically asked to be baked ASAP.
…so I did. And the recipe is good enough to share.
Note: I’ve never blogged a recipe before, but let me just say that I don’t know how anyone who writes instructions for baking can take themselves seriously. I want to share recipes more often, but I don’t know if I can do it if I have to write serious step-by-step instructions.
If you want the succinct, serious, and sans-snark recipe, visit Joy the Baker’s blog or buy Deb’s cookbook, which I recommend you do anyway. However, if you want to know how cookie baking really goes down in my kitchen, follow my destructions—I mean, instructions. The only procedural difference in my instructions is that I refrigerated my scooped cookies, which kept them from spreading out too much. I recommend you do that, too.
Salted Dark Chocolate Popcorn Cookies
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Makes about 24 cookies (this depends on how much cookie dough you eat before baking, which is an estimate they never tell you)
For the popcorn:
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1/4 cup popcorn kernels (but you might as well make extra for snacking)
- Optional: 1 tablespoon melted butter to coat popcorn (I omitted; only had one stick of butter)
- enough salt to coat popcorn
For the good stuff—er, I mean, cookies:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup pack light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, or chopped dark chocolate
- coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Destructions (or, How to make a mess!—and also some cookies):
- To make the popcorn, add oil and kernels to the bottom of a large, lidded saucepan over medium-high heat. When you hear the kernels begin popping, shake pan gently to keep from burning. This should be obvious, but the popcorn is done when the popping stops. Pour it into a large bowl and toss with salt (and butter, if using) to coat. Eat some. Okay, eat a lot, which is why you made extra.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Clean up the flour you spilled on the counter.
- In your roommate’s stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars for several minutes, which is approximately as long as it will take you to line two baking sheets with parchment paper, wrestle with parchment to get it to lay flat, and eventually get so frustrated that you set the trays aside. You may have to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice.
- Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Turn down the mixer to keep it from flinging egg-butter-sugar mix everywhere. Clean up mess. (It really helps to clean up your messes as you go)
- With mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients gradually until combined.
- Fold the popcorn into the dough using a spatula. [So much popcorn. On this one, I defer to Deb, who says, “This will seem like a ridiculous instruction.”] You want the popcorn to break up a bit, so no need to be gentle. Fold in the dark chocolate.
- Using a cookie scoop (or a spoon), drop equally sized balls of dough onto the parchment-papered cookie sheets. Not optional: If you have space, refrigerate the scooped cookies for about 15 minutes; if you don’t have fridge space, refrigerate the dough before scooping. Optional: This step is especially convenient if you realize that you’ve accidentally preheated your oven to 375 instead of 350. In that case, turn off oven, open door for a while, and then turn on again to 350.
- Sprinkle with sea salt before baking for 10 to 13 minutes. I baked mine for 11 minutes (rotating trays after 6 minutes) and they came out perfectly. Let the cookies finish cooking on the sheets for several minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
- Consume ALL THE COOKIES.