Dancing Tomatoes

Coookeessss!  This is the way a French person pronounces “cookies” and when they say this, there is only one variety they are referring to: the chocolate chip cookie.  An American import, it has invaded the patisserie, boulangerie, home-cook’s kitchen here in France.

On the Palate of the Taster

And for good reason, for a delicious chocolate chip cookie is an amazing thing indeed!  But what is a delicious chocolate chip cookie? I believe that it is like the aphorism: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Chocolate cookie tastes are personal.

We’ve got something special for you

The French Version

The French version all seems to have stemmed from the same recipe.  They are fairly good-sized, flat and pale, and flecked with tiny chocolate chips.  Mostly they look undercooked, and the only one I ever tried was achingly sweet.  They do not fit my definition of a delicious chocolate chip cookie.  There is one big reason for this: they don’t contain vanilla, an essential ingredient.  And they’re not baked enough, but don’t get me started on that.

…And All Variations in Between

I seem to remember that in the U.S. there were fans of the flat, bendy chocolate chip cookie, while others liked the puffy crisp kind.  And then there are the million variations in between. I cannot speak to all of that, but to what I look for in a chocolate chip cookie: I like mine baked dark golden, crisp on the outside, a little crisp-cakey on the inside (which means a fair amount of butter), neither dry nor hard, nor bendy.  Sometimes I like walnuts but they aren’t a deal-breaker.  I like mine sweet but not so they make my teeth ache; I like  a generous hint of vanilla and many, many, many pieces of dark chocolate.  No chips for me. 

Why Chop Chocolate?

Why?  Because the only chips that I can buy are made with less then excellent chocolate.  They’re new on the French scene; when I began making chocolate chip cookies in Paris (does anyone remember the café at the Village Voice Bookstore and its chocolate chip cookies? That was me; those were mine and they flew off the shelf) there wasn’t a chip to be found. I would buy large, thick “plaques” or bars of semi-sweet Valrhona chocolate and chop it myself.  I wasn’t making chips, I was making shards, and they were unevenly shaped. I folded these into the cookie dough, shook in a big handful of fresh walnuts and baked them. 

Cookies with Knife and Fork

They were a hit; I could hardly keep up with the demand. They were a novelty at the time, and I’ll never forget peeking into the dining room from the kitchen to witness a customer eating one of the cookies with a knife and fork.  So French.

I’m Still Chopping

Anyway, the point of that story was to say that I still chop my chocolate into shards and chunks so my cookies would be more accurately called Chocolate Shard and Chunk Cookies.  I am picky about the chocolate and I now use Kaoka, a French-owned, equitable cooperative whose chocolate is delicious. I blend 72% and 58%, bittersweet and semi-sweet for nuance. 

Shards and Chunks

What happens is that some of the shards are just that, some are large chunks.  In baking, the chocolate melts and it doesn’t entirely re-solidify so that when you bite into a cookie, there is soft and delicious chocolate inside!


Essentials for a perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie:

  • The proportions I’m giving you for the flour/sugar/egg component
  • Vanilla, plenty
  • Salt, enough that you taste it from time to time (you can sprinkle some on top of the cookies before they’re baked)
  • Plenty of chocolate
  • Additions that are nice:
  • Unsweetened coconut
  • Fresh and delicious walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Cinnamon
  • Rolled oats

Bake away, and Bon Appétit!



  • 3 cups (about 460g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 18 tablespoons (9 oz;270g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (140g) dark (muscovado if you find it) sugar
  • ¾ cup (125g) vanilla sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 to 16 ounces (360 to 480g) bittersweet and/or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Sift together all the dry ingredients onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter until it is light and pale yellow. Add the sugars and mix until thoroughly combined and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix just until thoroughly combined. With the mixer running slowly, add the vanilla and mix well, then the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Remember to scrape the bowl of the. Mixer. Finally, with the mixer running slowly, add the chocolate. You may need to finish mixing in the chocolate by hand so that it is thoroughly mixed throughout the dough.
  • Scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough, and place the mounds 1-1/2 inches (2.75cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the center of the oven 12 to 15 minutes, depending on whether you like your cookeess soft, or fully baked!


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