These cookies have a fabulous depth of flavour – caramel, chocolate, butterscotch – and they take on a characteristic crispy edge but soft chewy centre which is down to a combination of using dark brown sugar, melting the butter and by allowing the sugars to dissolve before baking …

Half eaten cookie next to a stack of cookies

Ever wanted to know how to achieve the ultimate chocolate chip cookies?  Well get comfy and read on.

We all know that sugar adds sweetness.  But do you know that sugar also plays a crucial part in the outcome of textures in baking (and desserts but we are only talking about baking here)?

It’s all down to science …

Black board with text and drawings

Sugar can be a single molecule of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – like fructose and glucose.  Or it could be made of two or more molecules such as sucrose (which actually consists of one molecule of fructose and one of glucose).  You still with me?  Good.

Sucrose is abundant in many plants but especially in fruit.  What’s interesting though, unlike in fruit, some plants such as potatoes, convert the sucrose they make by photosynthesis into starch.  This process is reversible which explains why some vegetables become sweeter when stored in the fridge.

Our ‘ordinary’ or table sugar is produced from sugar cane or sugar beet and is highly soluble.  Sugar doesn’t melt, at least not in the traditional sense like an ice cube, but instead decomposes when it is heated to temperatures between 160C and 186C.

So how does sugar affect the texture in baking?  And in this post, cookies in particular?

Well, it’s all down to moisture.

All sugars are hygroscopic.  In other words, they attract and hold moisture.  But not all sugars do this to the same extent … but more of that later.

The hydrogen and oxygen atoms in both sugar and water attract each other.  When water and sugar are combined, they form strong hydrogen bonds that take a lot of heat energy to break them.  As a result, table sugar holds on to moisture in food and because of this, sugar slows the evaporation of moisture in cakes and cookies.  This is important when producing moist, tender baked products.

Now, stay with me here because there’s a little more science to explain …

When sucrose is heated with some acid, it breaks down into two molecules, sucrose and fructose.  This results in something called invert sugar. What’s so special about invert sugar you say?  Well, fructose in the presence of sucrose does not easily crystallise (or form hard, brittle sugar granules). 

As an aside, this is why invert sugars are always viscous liquids e.g. liquid glucose or glucose syrup

Anyway, back to the significance of invert sugar … invert sugar is particularly hygroscopic and it will pull moisture from anywhere it can – mostly from the air around.

Now, when it comes to baking, brown sugar has more invert sugar than granulated sugar.  Can you see where this is going? …

Brown sugar in a bowl

Therefore, the best results for chewy cookies, will be achieved using brown sugar – all because the invert sugar will keep absorbing moisture even after the cookies have baked and are cooling on the side.  And as they cool, because of the invert sugar properties, the fructose will not easily recrystallise (go hard) because of the presence of sucrose.

Got that?  Excellent.

Stay with me now because that’s not quite all …

Melting the butter rather than creaming it with the sugar will also have an effect on the chewiness of a cookie.  Butter contains water and on melting the water is released and when combined with the flour, gluten is formed.  It is these gluten strands that aid our quest for chewiness.


The other protagonist in this story is egg.  You will see in the recipe to follow that I only use the yolk of the second egg.  This adds richness and removes the cakey effect that egg white has; again aiding our quest for chewiness rather than cakeyness (if there is such a word?!).

Eggs in a tray


Still with me?  Cool.

How do you achieve the complexity and depth of the flavour profile?

Not only do I melt the butter but I brown it, i.e. I make a beurre noisette which produces a fabulous nutty flavour.

And …

It’s back to our old friend sugar …

I allow the sugars to dissolve in the liquid provided by the melted butter, egg and vanilla before adding the flour. Why?  Well, dissolved sugar breaks down into glucose and fructose which caramelise at a lower temperature to form several different flavour compounds a lot quicker.  As the dissolved, caramelised sugar cools, it takes on a brittle structure which is more evident on the outside edges than in the centre.  And this is because, as explained above, the remaining moisture is retained by the sugar, keeping the centre soft and chewy.

Now here’s the recipe …


Half eaten cookie next to a stack of cookies

Chocolate chip & pecan nut cookies

The ultimate chocolate chip & pecan cookies. You can of course use any other nuts of your choosing in equal quantity.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Afternoon Tea, Coffee break, Coffee time, Dessert, Tea & Cake, Tea time
Cuisine American
Servings 40 cookies (approx 7cm diameter)


  • 210 g butter
  • 125 g dark brown sugar
  • 110 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50 g egg (approx 1 medium egg)
  • 20 g egg yolk (approx 1 medium yolk)
  • 260 g plain flour
  • 185 g dark chocolate chips
  • 75 g pecans, chopped & toasted (or any other nuts of your choosing e.g. hazelnuts, brazil nuts, almonds


  • Preheat the oven to 190C with the middle shelf in place.
  • Prepare two baking trays (approx. 35 x 29 cm or similar) lined with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Place the nuts on a baking tray and lightly toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Watch them carefully to avoid burning them.  Set aside to fully cool.
  • Now make the brown butter (if you don’t want to do brown butter, simply heat the butter gently until fully melted and then follow the recipe from step 4). Melt 150g of the butter in a small saucepan on a medium heat until fully melted. Turn up the heat between moderate to high heat.  The butter will go through 3 phases:  
    a.    as it melts you will see the white milk solids appear;
    b.   it will then start to sizzle and bubble (give the pan a little shake at frequent intervals here to prevent the solids sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan);
    c. the bubbling then stops and a foam forms on the top. This indicates it is done.  This could take 2-3 minutes to reach this stage depending on the level of heat being applied.
  • Take it off the heat and pour into a heat proof bowl.  Add the remaining 60g of butter cut into small pieces and stir until fully melted.
  • Add the sugars (brown& granulated), salt and vanilla extract and whisk with an electric hand beater until fully combined.
  • Add the egg and yolk and whisk until the mixture is thick and creamy and any sugar lumps are dissolved.  Set the timer and allow the mixture to stand for 3 minutes, then whisk again for 30 seconds.  Repeat this process of whisking and resting 2more times (do yourself a little countdown list) when the mixture will be lighter in colour, thick, shiny and creamy.
    Raw cookie mixture in a bowl
  • Add the flour, chocolate and nuts and fold in by hand with a spatula until fully combined and no evidence of flour remains.  You should have a soft, but not wet, dough.
    Bowl of raw cookie dough and a spatula
  • For small to medium sized cookies take 25g of dough and roll into a ball then flatten slightly between the palms of your hands and place onto the prepared baking tray. Allow5 cm between each cookie.  For large cookies, use 50g of dough.
    Balls of raw cookie dough on a baking tray
  • Bake for 10-12minutes (12-14 minutes for larger cookies) until slightly golden.  Baking one tray at a time and turning the tray halfway through baking will help achieve an even bake.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking tray for 5-10 minutes before putting the cookies onto a cooling rack.
    Baked cookies on a baking tray
  • They will keep in an airtight container for a week.  They will also freeze.


Recipe inspired by Cook's Illustrated 'The Science Of Good Cooking'
Keyword choc chip cookies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate nut cookies, chocolate pecan cookies, ultimate chocolate chip cookies

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