If I had to define my baking M.O. in one word, it’d be “erratic.” With the exception of a few favorites, I rarely bake the same recipe twice, and find a sort of thrill in experimenting with different flours, sweeteners, fats, and other strange excuses for healthy substitutes (hi, black bean brownies).
Needless to say, the classic chocolate chip cookie has taken on many forms in my kitchen. So, when tasked with whipping up a version of the decadent treat with dark chocolate, I decided to take the opportunity to conduct a little experiment.
When you really think about it, baking a chocolate chip cookie is somewhat of a science. There are the ingredients for the dough, perfectly proportioned to allow chemistry to work its magic and yield a fluffier, chewier, cakier, or crunchier cookie. And then there are the chips, which, depending on the size, shape, and cacao level, can have a significant effect on both flavor and appearance. While your average cookie likely uses one of three baking aisle chip staples—milk, semi-sweet, or bittersweet—dark chocolate opens up a whole new world of chocolatey possibilities.
Which is how I found myself in the candy aisle on a recent afternoon, staring at a wall of BOGO Ghirardelli dark chocolate bars. (This happens more often than I’d like to admit.) My Southern Living Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe called for one 12-ounce package of dark chocolate morsels, but in the name of science, I opted instead for a combination of bittersweet chips (60 percent cacao) which I had at home, plus two varieties of deep, dark chocolate bars (Ghirardelli’s 72 Percent Intense Dark and 100 percent Cacao unsweetened).
Watch: Joanna Gaines Shares Her Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookie Recipe
For the ultimate cookie test, I whipped up the dough according to instructions—an easy, two-step process I was able to finish while the oven was preheating. I then divided the dough into threes, mixing the bittersweet chips into one and the two different varieties of dark chocolate bars (roughly chopped to yield both larger chocolate chunks and tiny shavings) in the others before popping in the oven.
Then came the fun part: eating and judging! Since this was a science experiment, I sent a batch of the cookies off to work with my NASA engineer fiancé to share with his rocket scientist friends for their official scientific opinions. Admittedly, the entire plate disappeared before the topic of conversation switched from sending robots to the moon to dark chocolate chips (which, funny enough, is where most of my conversations kick off). But the overall consensus, according to my fiancé and me, was this: 60 percent cacao is just fine, 100 percent (AKA unsweetened chocolate) is far too bitter, and 72 percent hits the perfect (not-too) sweet spot between the two.
The caveat, of course, is that you have to like dark chocolate. But if richer, heart-healthy cacao levels are your jam, I highly suggest hitting your supermarket candy aisle the next time you whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Happy baking!