I’ve been making these delicious cookies for so long that friends and family no longer refer to them by the name I gave them—Mocha Chocolate Chips. They’ve become simply “Annie’s cookies.” Over the years, I have also brought these cookies to the Fine Cooking office—I’m the associate art director for the magazine—for various birthday celebrations, baby showers, and magazine milestone parties. In fact, I can detect a not-too-well hidden look of disappointment in my colleagues’ eyes if I dare to bring in something different. “This cake is good,” the look says, “but where are the cookies?”
Finally, one day the editors demanded that I share the recipe—and the secrets that make it so good—with our readers. I was happy to oblige.
Use an instant coffee you’d actually drink and a cinnamon with personality
My recipe evolved from a chocolate-chip cookie recipe passed along by a friend. What intrigued me was that the recipe called for adding coffee and cinnamon, two flavors that I love, to the dough. The cookies I made from that recipe were fine but not as flavorful as I had hoped. So I reworked the recipe and wound up tripling the amounts of both the cinnamon and the coffee.
Because the coffee and cinnamon now have such a strong presence, I experimented with different brands and styles of both. Made with cinnamon from the supermarket, which is usually cassia cinnamon imported from Indonesia, the cookies are really good. But made with cinnamon bought from a spice retailer, they’re even better. My favorite is the Chinese cassia cinnamon from Penzeys, which you can easily mail-order. Chinese cassia has more flavor than Indonesian. More potent still is Vietnamese cassia, which Penzeys has begun importing; if you want to experiment with Vietnamese cassia, start by using a little less than the recipe calls for and then adding more if you like an intense cinnamon flavor. Ceylon cinnamon, which is botanically different from cassia, has a more complex flavor, but its subtleties can get overshadowed by the other flavors in the cookie.
Perhaps even more important than the style or origin of the cinnamon is its freshness. Even supermarket cinnamon will taste better if it hasn’t been sitting around for ages. (Stored airtight, cinnamon keeps its flavor for a year or two.)
To get the best coffee flavor, I switched from instant coffee granules to espresso powder. For one thing, the powder saves the step of crushing the granules. (If you do use granules, seal them in a plastic bag and roll a heavy rolling pin back and forth over the bag to crush them.) A good-quality brand of instant espresso, like Medaglia D’Oro, gives you a clean coffee flavor without the sour taste that some instant coffees can leave behind.
While using my favorite ingredients keeps the delicious flavor consistent, I do find that the height and texture of the cookies can vary slightly. I prefer the cookies on the flat side and crisp, and I’ve found a few ways to ensure this result. First, I start with very soft butter (butter that barely holds it s shape when poked with a finger). Next, I use a light hand when measuring the flour. My cup of flour weighs close to 4-1/2 ounces, maybe a tiny bit less. If you don’t have a scale, be sure not to pack the flour into the cup. Finally, I bake the cookies until the edges brown. The actual time may vary depending on your oven, but for crisp cookies, be sure at least that the edges have darkened. I let the cookies rest for a minute or two on the baking sheet before moving them to a cooling rack. This step lets the cookies set up a little so that they don’t fall apart, and it also helps guarantee crispness.
Wrap them tightly or freeze them
Once the cookies are cool, wrap them in plastic to keep them flavorful and crisp. They also freeze beautifully. Just don’t think that keeping them in the freezer will prevent you from eating them. They may be out of sight, but I like them even better straight from the freezer.