The secret to great chocolate chip cookies

Aoife Noonan: Use condensed milk, good-quality dark chocolate (never cooking chocolate) and a dash of nuts

Condensed milk is not something I use much of when cooking. When I was growing up it was always there at the back of the cupboard gathering dust, behind the jam sugar, another ingredient that wasn’t used much either.

The only thing that little tin ever seemed good for was boiling for hours to make a sticky caramel to be used as a middle layer in millionaires shortbread, but even making this was a stretch. Patience is not one of my virtues.

Using condensed milk in cookies, however, is a different ball game. Cookies are one of the quickest bakes to make and provide instant joy. Condensed milk gives them a soft milkiness in flavour and helps achieve a beautiful texture; crumbly but still sturdy and a little chewy.

I add some finely chopped toasted hazelnuts to mine; they add delicious crunch and an earthy, nutty flavour throughout. These can be omitted if you prefer, or if baking for someone with a nut allergy. You can also throw in other nuts: pecans, almonds, or pistachios will all work wonderfully in place of the hazelnut and all tend to pair well with chocolate.


The chocolate I use when baking is always dark — anywhere upwards of 55 per cent cocoa solids is perfect. The dark chocolate adds a slight bitterness, which is something I want running through a sweet cookie to balance the flavours. The condensed milk will also add a little sweetness, so this is worth remembering here if you are tempted to use milk chocolate, which is much sweeter.

I buy good quality bars of chocolate and chop them by hand, for two reasons. The first is that whole bars in most supermarkets are usually better quality than chocolate drops (but please don’t use cooking chocolate bars), and secondly, when cut roughly by hand, you end up with various-sized shards of chocolate dotted throughout your cookie, which create gorgeous melty pockets of chocolate just warm from the oven.

This batch will make about 16 decent-sized cookies. They will spread a little in the oven, sometimes in a shape other than a perfect circle. Wiggle a large, round cookie or scone cutter around the warm cookies once baked to help attain that picture-perfect cookie shape.

Recipe: Chocolate chip and hazelnut condensed milk cookies