Do you remember your first favorite cookie? Ross Canter does. His grandfather was one of the original Canter brothers who ran Canter’s Deli, which at the time had a location in Boyle Heights, along with the Fairfax deli that is open to this day. “I really remember being a little kid and walking around the bakery counter and just looking at all of those cookies all the time,” he says. “The sprinkle cookie got me.”
Canter started out as a film and TV writer and made his first foray into baking in college, running a brownie business out of his parents’ kitchen between summer internships. “I would task myself to take a brownie and not only make the best chocolate brownie, but figure out five different flavors every day that would be fun and interesting,” he says.
That journey continued after he met his wife Melanie (who grew up on Long Island and continues her search for the perfect black-and-white cookie) and began baking for their children’s school Halloween carnival bake sale. “I always tried to make something that at the bake sale would be the best and sell the fastest and the most,” says Canter.
When the 2007 Hollywood writers’ strike took away Ross’s main source of income, Melanie encouraged him to bake for money – any money. The two now own Cookie Good in Santa Monica, an eclectic bakery featuring more than 100 cookie flavors (though not all at once).
Whether you’re baking this Hot Cocoa cookie or another type of cookie, Canter has some solid advice for home bakers: “Just don’t be afraid to have fun.” He says that the food buzz and the herd of celebrity chefs on TV make many people feel intimidated by baking, but that we should all relax. When you find a favorite recipe, play a little. The marshmallows on top make this recipe the Hot Cocoa cookie, but you could put crushed candy canes in to make a chocolate peppermint cookie or add nuts or another favorite candy. “It’s a really good, basic chocolate cookie that has flavor and good texture, but you can do a million things to it with that simple base,” he says.
Canter advises freezing your cookie dough before you bake and warns against leaving cookies in the oven too long. “When they seem like they’re done, they’re probably overbaked,” Canter says, advising bakers to try a finger test. “As soon as you can just barely lift up the edge of the cookie off the pan and it doesn’t fall apart, it’s probably ready.” The result will be crispy edges and a nice, chewy middle. I followed his advice, and the batch of Hot Cocoa Cookies I baked up didn’t last long!
Hot Cocoa Cookies from Cookie Good
8 ounces butter
7 ounces granulated sugar
7 ounces dark brown sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
12 ounces flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
14 ounces milk-chocolate chips
Mini marshmallows for topping
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together. Add the salt. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Mix in the cocoa powder on lowest speed, very slowly, so that the cocoa doesn’t “explode” and become airborne.
Whisk the flour, baking soda and baking powder together in a separate bowl until well combined. Slowly add the combined dry ingredients to the creamed butter-egg-cocoa mixture. Once the ingredients are incorporated, beat the mixture well (scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well mixed). Mix in the milk-chocolate chips.
Form the dough into balls of the desired size (at Cookie Good, bakers use a number 24 cookie scoop and weigh the dough balls to 48 grams each) and place on a cookie sheet or tray. Wrap the tray well with plastic wrap and freeze until the dough is chilled.
Once chilled, unwrap the tray, place the dough balls on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12 minutes. You’ll know they are done when the cookies spread, the tops are crackly and you can just barely pull up the edge with your fingertips without the cookie falling apart. The cookies might not look fully baked in the center, and that is good.
Remove the sheet from the oven and top the cookies right away with mini marshmallows, approximately four per cookie. The marshmallows will sink in, melt a bit and fuse to the hot cookie so that they stay put. Let cool (if you can) on the baking sheet, then eat up!