By mid-afternoon, the line at Culture Espresso stretches out the door and onto the sidewalk. Once inside, Midtown office workers are handed white paper cups with artful foam and, if they are smart, a chocolate chunk cookie as big as a basketball player's palm, still warm from the oven.
"Nothing really beats a good chocolate chip cookie," owner Jody LoCascio says, echoing our cookie-crazy thoughts exactly. "We have a full-time cookie guy," he adds, an oddity for a small coffee shop that focuses on expertly brewed espresso drinks and coffees. "We do over 100 a day."
Related: How to Make Oreo Cookies at Home
The cookie is golden crisp at the edges, an inch-thick, and soft--blissfully almost undercooked--with melty dark chocolate chunks inside. I've eaten a lot of chocolate chip cookies in my day, but this one balances near the top of the heap.
The cookie's been a customer favorite since Culture first opened and a Culinary Institute of America-trained pastry chef created a menu of treats. Back then, "a basic little home mixer from Macy's" could keep up with demand, said LoCascio. The coffee shop has since upgraded to an industrial-sized mixer made for large-scale batches to keep up with demand. "We just kinda hit it," he says. "It's taken off."
Related: Creative Ways to Use Store-Bought Cookie Dough
Three little tweaks take this chocolate chunk cookie recipe from simply delicious to sensational:
• Culture uses a higher-fat unsalted European-style butter. "It's more expensive," says LoCascio, "but it's better." Most butter clocks in at 80 percent butterfat, but a European-style stick can have up to 84 percent butterfat. Look for it in the grocery store with the other butters. Organic Valley makes a version.
• "Another trick of the trade is refrigerating the dough," he says. "We make the dough, shape it into balls, refrigerate and bake it the next day. It keeps [the cookies] a little bit thicker but still moist."
• "The key is getting really good chocolate," advises LoCascio. "We use a darker chocolate." Buy your favorite dark chocolate bar and cut it into chunks yourself, or buy the best quality dark chocolate chunks you can find in the baking aisle.
We say: pass the milk, please.
Best-Ever Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Baking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) European-style unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate chunks
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt until well combined.
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between additions and scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and mix. On low speed or by hand, stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips, mixing until just incorporated. Do not over-mix. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
Using a cookie scoop, ice cream scoop, or two spoons, form dough balls and place on prepared cookie sheets with a few inches of room in between. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 F with rack in the center. Line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Bake for 10-13 minutes (depending on the size of your dough balls), until they are golden brown around the edges and puffy in the center. Let cookies cool a few minutes on baking sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.