Recipe developer, cookbook author, and food stylist Susan Spungen bakes her (almost) famous (especially by grandson Jonah's standards) Triple-Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
On Play Me a Recipe, your favorite cooks will walk you through their most treasured recipes, offering all the insider tips, stories, and tricks you won't get from a written recipe—and you'll be right alongside them, every step of the way. Feel free to pause, jump back, or navigate the steps via the podcast chapters.
If you're cooking along, here's the recipe we're making today. Go ahead and grab the ingredients below (Susan starts listing them at 1:19) before starting the episode.
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Triple-Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies
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Lobby Time Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
(P.S. Missing some tools? We've linked to the equipment that Susan uses throughout; use promo code COOKWITHUS for a slight discount at checkout. OK, back to the recipe.)
Jonah (singing): I love chocolate cookies, me too!
Susan’s husband, Steven Kasher (singing): I love chocolate cookies, me too!
Jonah: No, no, no, I love cookies!
Susan: This is Play Me a Recipe. I'm food stylist and cookbook author Susan Spungen, and today I'll be making my Triple-Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies, which can be found in my new cookbook, Open Kitchen as well as on Food52.com.
The recipe is linked in the show notes if you need to refer to it, but otherwise we'll be gathering ingredients, whisking, rolling, baking everything alongside each other. Feel free to pause or jump back if you need a second.
Susan: These cookies are a huge hit in my house around the holidays, especially with my grandson Jonah, who will be making, hopefully, a cameo later. I came up with this recipe many years ago when I was the food editor at Martha Stewart Living, when I decided to add chocolate to my childhood favorite cookie—a chewy molasses crinkle. An already dark, rich cookie dough—fragrant with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and molasses—gets a chocolatey makeover thanks to cocoa powder and chocolate chunks.
Susan: For this recipe, you'll need baking basics that you should already have: all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt. Our warm spices—which you probably also already have—cinnamon, ginger, and cloves—a couple of egg yolks; some softened, unsalted butter; dark cocoa powder; and two four-ounce chocolate bars that you'd be happy to eat on their own. Molasses, and brown sugar, and freshly grated ginger. And last but not least, candied ginger and vanilla.
We are going to chop the chocolate, I’d say, coarsely, It’s okay if some of it gets, kind of, in tiny little pieces. That's totally fine, too. But you want fairly big pieces so that you're going to kind of get these beautiful puddles of chocolate in the cookies. And when you bite into them, you don't want it too small so that it just kind of gets mixed in thoroughly to the dough. So leave some bigger pieces. And for the candied ginger as well, I kind of like to sliver it. Don't want to chop that too small, either, because you want those sort of chewy bits that you're gonna bite into when you're eating the cookie and get that burst of ginger flavor.
You're also going to need two bowls, one large and one small, a small whisk, a stand mixer or a hand mixer, if you don't have a stand mixer. And a couple of baking sheets, parchment paper, and a cooling rack. Go ahead and gather all that stuff and I'll be waiting for you when you get back.
We've got our mix-in’s chopped and set aside. Next thing we’ve got to do is measure our flour. So usually if you don't have a scale, you're gonna wanna spoon and level the flour, which means you're gonna kind of lightly fluff up the flour with a spoon. Hopefully, you've got a canister that you're measuring from and then you're going to spoon it into your measuring cup and then level it off. We want 285 grams or 10 ounces of flour or two cups plus two tablespoons, but weighing is going to give you the most accurate amount. So we've got our flour in the bowl and we're gonna add two teaspoons of baking soda. So this recipe, you know, it's gone through a lot of changes over the years. That original recipe that I developed back in my Martha days—this is a lot different. There were certain things I wasn't as happy with. I was always happy with the flavor, but the texture, I always thought, could use a little bit of work. So that's one of the things that I've worked on over the years. So we've got one tablespoon of cocoa powder. I'm using this delicious and super dark Valrhona cocoa, which I love, and now our spices.
So I've got ground cloves and ground ginger. And what was the other one? Cinnamon, of course. Now, if you wanted to put a little cardamom, you could. Stuff like this isn't gonna throw off the recipe in the least. So let's see, one and a half teaspoon of ginger. Wait. How much cinnamon? Sorry. One teaspoon of cinnamon.
I have to read my own recipe; sometimes people think that's funny. Okay, one and a half teaspoons of ginger, a quarter teaspoon of cloves. No more than that, because cloves could be really overwhelming and overpowering. Half a teaspoon of salt, kosher salt. And I've got my little whisk and I'm just gonna whisk this up and then I'm going to set it aside.
Susan: I've got three-quarters of a cup, or a stick and a half, of unsalted butter that's been softened to room temperature, and I'm using a stand mixer, but you can use a hand mixer if you don't have one. Then we're gonna add two-thirds of a cup of light brown sugar, so we're gonna cream it until it's really light and fluffy on medium speed.
All right, I'm gonna give it one more scrape and just mix it again. But I can see that the color has lightened considerably. This recipe has only light brown sugar in it, which helps keep the cookie soft and moist rather than granulated sugar. I assure you, I tried it every which way and decided that this was the best way. So I'm going to give it one more little mix and then we'll be moving on.
Okay, that's all mixed. I'm going to add the egg yolks and freshly grated ginger. Now again, I tested this with whole eggs, with yolks, and I really liked the yolk version the best, because it kept them from being too cakey and puffy. I can see that this is ready because it's so much lighter than it was before, both in color and in texture. Very, very pale compared to how it was. And my mixer bowl is pretty big. So it's hard to see the fluffiness per se, but it's definitely fluffy and it's definitely ready. And this is the structure that our cookie is going to be built on. So we're gonna end up adding these egg yolks. I’m separating the eggs right now. Save the whites for something else. Morning omelet—that's what I use them for. I just put them in a jar. I might just add them to my eggs in the morning, even if I'm eating a whole egg. Or sometimes I just keep them in a jar and just save them for other baking projects. We're gonna add one at a time, whipping one in before we add the other. Yeah, right. Okay, that one is mixed in, so I'm adding the other.
Now we're gonna add the molasses, so we've got a half a cup of Grandma's molasses. I really suggest that you use the good old supermarket brand Grandma's, which you will always find. It may not work quite the same way if you use something like blackstrap molasses or something from your health food store. All right, I'm gonna pour that in, and then I'm gonna just beat it one more time, and then I'm gonna add the vanilla. Your cookies will not be cookies without vanilla. You wanna make sure that everything's being combined really evenly, so that's gonna require scraping at least once.
All right. I'm gonna add my mixed dry ingredients, which I have right over here. I always lower the bowl to do this and also, you know, like, be careful when you do this. Don't let the dry ingredients land outside of the bowl, because again, if you've got a tablespoon of flour lying on your counter, that really could affect the outcome. So be careful. Get it all in the bowl. That is our goal. So we're gonna mix that in—always on low, low speed at first, so the flour doesn't go flying.
And then, as all the dry ingredients are kind of mixing into the wet, then you can raise the speed. Just to make sure it's mixed together. But you don't want a cloud of dust for a lot of reasons. Oh, my gosh. This smells so classic. It's so holiday time. Here we go. We are all mixed up. All right, we're all mixed up. I'm just gonna give it one scrape, get all that dry flour from the side of the bowl and mix it one last time. Actually, you know what? I don't even have to turn on the mixer again. I'm gonna add the chunks and the ginger and run the mixer. And that will mix it adequately. Sometimes I bake these, I make a big batch of dough around the holidays. And then I would just bake off a plate of cookies before I was going to someone's house so they could eat them when the chocolate is still warm and the cookies—or maybe not warm but super fresh—and it just makes a huge difference, really. Let's chill our dough and I'll meet you back here after the break.
And we are back. I'm food stylist and cookbook author Susan Spungen, and today I'm making my almost famous Triple-Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies. You can find this recipe linked in the show notes. I've just now pulled my dough from the fridge, which is, yep, totally firmed up now. It was in there overnight. Or actually, if I'm gonna be honest, it was in there for two nights, which is also fine, even though you could just chill until it's firm, which will take two or three hours. I'm going to heat up the oven to 350°F.
Susan: I like to weigh my dough. You don't have to, but if you do, it's about an ounce and a half. It just helps keep things consistent. And an ounce and a half is also going to be about the size of a golf ball. Ping pong ball, golf ball, right in there. So I'm just cutting off chunks of dough and then it's easier to break them. I'm just taking a nice—I’m not even cutting all the way through—kind of just breaking off chunks of dough, and I've got my scale, my digital scale, set up right here with a little plate on it on. I'm just plunking them on there to get close to an ounce and a half, which I just think makes the best sized cookie. If they're too small, they might not be quite as kind of soft in the center. I just like a really good size, a big size, for this cookie. So it sounds like my oven is getting hotter; I’m rolling these balls, putting them on the baking sheet.
They don't have to be perfect, perfect balls, but I do like to kind of smooth them out a little bit because they might be wonky as they spread and just spread unevenly, which is not really a problem. But sometimes they might run into each other a bit more, if you can't predict the roundness of this spread, so I usually just give them a nice quick roll in between my hands. After a while, you won't need the scale because you're going to know exactly how big these need to be. You do not have to bake these all at once. You could bake what you want; maybe you're just a couple people. You could just leave them in the freezer as frozen dough balls and just take them right from the freezer onto a baking sheet. 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes approximately. We'll get into that timing a little bit more. So I'm just going to roll these in the sugar. This is like I said, the first roll. And really roll them around. Good. Get a good coating of sugar on them.
Susan: I'm also going to get my sheet pans ready. The nice thing about using parchment—you could just use naked baking sheets, of course—but I think we've all gotten quite used to using parchment paper. It makes making multiple batches of cookies so much easier because you don't have to clean up the baking sheet in between batches. But if you don't have it, just use your baking sheet. It's fine.
Susan (to Jonah): Jonah, are you ready? Let's go. Okay. Come on! We're gonna make cookies.
(Jonah comes in)
Susan: Come on. Come on, I have a chair for you. Here. Here we go. So we're just rolling these and putting them on this sheet pan close together so they can go in the freezer and then I'll put them on the baking sheet with some parchment paper and two inches apart. But for now, we're just gonna put them on this little quarter-sheet pan.
(Jonah and Susan divide dough into balls and roll in sugar)
Susan (to Jonah): Hey, good job. Let's wash our hands. Let me wash my hands first, so I can scratch your head. I think we'll move you over and wash your hands.
Susan: My dough balls have been chilling in the freezer for about 10 minutes. You could go a little longer. I don't like to get all the way frozen solid even though you could. And I'm going to roll them again in sugar and space them out on my baking sheet. I like to do two, then one, then two, you know, so they have plenty of room. When you're doing this, the second sugar, you're gonna notice they get quite white, which is what we want. Then by the time they're baked, they're gonna have a really nice sugar crust on the outside. (While positioning the cookies on a sheet) So, actually, just to be safe, let's see...get one more in here. It's kind of like hopscotch. Yeah, I think we could get eight on a baking sheet. So you might have to do two batches and a couple extras.
Susan: Now, if you see like there's a giant chunk of chocolate somewhere on your cookie ball, put that face up. That way you'll get a nice, possibly a puddle of, chocolate on the top. And it's not gonna, you know, kind of leak out all over the baking sheet. You can feel the chocolate chunks sticking out, And if you really want to, you know, do the Instagram thing and insert a little piece of chocolate on the top if you really want puddles, but I don't usually do that. I just sort of let the chips fall where they may.
Susan: I’m going to put these in the oven. And if I can, I like to bake these one sheet at a time if I'm not in a big hurry. They just bake a little bit better, a little more evenly. That's what I'm gonna do right now. I'm gonna set my timer for probably—let’s do 11 minutes. Usually they take 10 to 12. It depends on your oven. It depends on how cold they are. It depends on whether you're doing one sheet or two sheets. They're going to bake a little bit faster with just one sheet, so we'll be back.
Susan: We are about at the halfway point. And I'm just gonna switch these around. Oh, my gosh. They look, smell so good. Can't wait to try one…
Susan: Give it a look here. Oh, my God. These look amazing. I have, like, a couple with giant rivers of chocolate running through the middle, which is exactly, exactly what I want. Okay, so these are very soft when they come out—they look so, so good. A couple of them did run together. So I'm just gonna take a knife and separate them now because you can shape cookies when they're still warm, and you won't even know that they ran together. So just take a knife and you can kind of round it off again. So it doesn't have that flat look on the edges and they won't stick together.
If you can imagine the best qualities of a chocolate chip or a chocolate chunk cookie and a chewy molasses cookie rolled into one unbelievable cookie, that's what we've got here. So I need to let these cool for at least two minutes on the baking sheet, and then I'm going to transfer them with a spatula to my cooling racks. And then I will use all of my willpower to just wait a few minutes until they cool so I can try one.
Susan (to Jonah): I'm bringing the cookies to the table so you could pick a good one.
Susan: Which one do you think looks the best?
Jonah: The one that has the most chocolate.
Susan: The one that has the most chocolate? Which, which one do you think that might be?
(Steve and Jonah pick a cookie)
Susan:* Mm. That looks good, Jonah. Maybe you should give me a taste of yours.
Jonah:Why don’t you get your own?
Susan: (Laughs) All right, I'll get my own.
Susan: I know it's a really, really hard job, but somebody has to do it. So I'm going to taste one of these cookies, and I'm going to take one of the ones that has a virtual river of chocolate on the top. These are really soft right now, but they are going to firm up once they cool. I like them pretty moist inside, so I like to pull them a little bit early.
(While tasting) Mhm. Oh, my God. Honestly, I never get tired of this flavor combination—just so good. It's full of spicy, gingery flavor, and almost hot and spicy from the ginger, and then the chocolate...mhm, but crunch from the sugar. I don't know if you can hear that [crunch]. So, so good.
Susan: Thank you so much for joining me today to make these Triple Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies. How did yours turnout? Are they chewy? Crunchy? Are you already dreaming up other flavors or mix-ins to experiment with? Let me know how it all went by leaving a review. Again, you can find the recipe in my cookbook, Open Kitchen and on Food52.com. I'm Susan Spungen, and this is Play Me a Recipe. May your cookies be chewy and chocolatey, and your holiday sweet.