I’m pretty sure that I could have an entire blog devoted to chocolate chip cookies and still neither run out of recipes nor get bored of eating them. 

When I was little (and, if I’m honest, now), I used to find it incredibly strange to think that each generation seems to be able to run faster or throw further than the generation before. That desire to be better – than you are or have been, than everyone else is – seems to be one of the driving forces in life.

Whether it’s sport or science or technology or anything really, great achievements come from that burning desire.

And, whilst I don’t pretend to do anything particular great with my time, I still have that desire. When I get to the end of a run, I have Ellie Goulding in my ears telling me that I’ve just run my fastest mile and I give myself a mental high-five (not, I should add, because Ellie Goulding is a friend but because she is one of the pre-recorded voices on the Nike running app I use to log my runs). At work, I sit in my annual appraisal and focus on what I need to do better. How I can be better. Every time I pick up a camera, I have to believe that the photograph I’m just about to take is better than every photograph I’ve taken before. 
It is a double-edged sword though – that same drive can be as demoralising as it is motivating depending on my mood. Some days, the battle to make today that bit better than yesterday isn’t worth the fight. Some times, it feels like we are destined to live a life that we feel is just not good enough. 
The trick, and one which I know I struggle with, is to turn that passion into something good and to not beat yourself up when you don’t live up to your own expectations. To enjoy that constant quest for something better and not see it as a failure if you don’t reach your destination. 
To tie it all back to where I started, I’m always on the hunt for a “better” chocolate chip cookie recipe. I may create something that I’m happy with in the moment but it doesn’t take long until a niggle sends me back into the kitchen. The number and variety of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there attest to the fact that I’m probably not alone in this. This version is vaguely adapted from one of my favourite blogs, Not Without Salt and are as close to the perfect chocolate chip cookie as I’ve come in a long time. 


Smoked sea salt chocolate chip cookies
Adapted from Not Without Salt
Yield: Approx 16 cookies

I urge you to read the post that accompanies Ashley’s recipe – as a perfectionist myself, I could relate to so much of what she says. Her variations to her original recipe came about, she says, as the result of necessity as were my changes to her recipe. Browning the butter, for example, makes it easy to make cookies when the urge strikes without waiting for butter to reach room temperature. The smoked sea salt gives an extra dimension beyond the sweet/salty combination that is so popular. It gives, unsurprisingly perhaps, a hint of smoke which makes you stop and think. I used a Maldon smoked sea salt but you could use regular old sea salt if you wanted. 


  • 115g (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 180g (1 cup) demerara sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 140g (1 1/4 cup) spelt flour (either white or whole wheat)
  • 40g (1/3 cup) ground almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt + extra for sprinkling
  • 100g (4 oz) dark chocolate, chopped

Cooking Directions

  1. In a small pan, heat the butter over a medium heat until it starts to bubble. When it has turned golden brown and is flecked with brown specks, take it off the heat and set it aside to cool slightly.
  2. When the butter has cooled a bit, beat it together with the sugar with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the egg and the vanilla bean paste and continue to beat.
  3. Fold in the flour, ground almonds, bicarbonate of soda/baking soda and the smoked sea salt.
  4. Fold through the chocolate chips.
  5. Chill the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
  7. Place large spoonfuls of the dough on a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper or a silicone mat – the dough will be dark and sticky, don’t worry too much about it! Sprinkle each one with a generous helping of smoked sea salt.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes until just set.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
37 Responses to "smoked sea salt chocolate chip cookies"
  1. Laura says:

    Ah, this post is wonderful, Kathryn. It is important to try to be the best version of yourself in all endeavors and to see that little failures work in favour of that transformation. Also, I use that same Nike app. The little congratulatory messages are a little hokey, but still awesome.

    Love these cookies too. I hardly ever make the same chocolate chipper recipe twice because I’m always convinced there’s a better one out there :)

  2. Jenny @ BAKE says:

    These cookies look amazing and I love that photo of the smoked salt it’s beautiful! I can’t believe you’re out running in this weather – that is hardcore! and if you’re going to strive for perfection anywhere cookies is a brilliant place to start!

  3. Oh yes, those are the good days when Ellie Goulding cheers on me after my run :) And you are so right about always wanting to be better. I also feel the same way when taking pictures. I have an idea of how I want the whole composition to be and if that’s not achieved I dislike my pictures! The cookies look wonderful, btw!!!

  4. I’ve been using my smoked sea salt in cookies as well, and I love the complex flavour it contributes. I do have a favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe I go back to again and again – Kim Boyce’s whole wheat chocolate chip cookies (which starts with cold butter cut into little cubes, also voiding the wait for butter to soften) and often find other recipes disappointing by comparison. This though, with browned butter, spelt flour, and almond meal (which I happen to have handy) sounds like it could be a serious rival. I may just have to try these out this weekend.

  5. These look mighty fine – I actually have some of that salt from the 2011 FBC goodie bag :-)

  6. Emma Gardner says:

    Lovely post. I know exactly what you mean about using passion wisely and productively instead of beating yourself up. Ashley’s post hit a cord with me as well – I think I posted about the quote at the top and her post back in October. Gorgeous cookies, too!

  7. While I totally understand the desire to be in search of perfection, I learnt a long time ago that for me, I needed to focus that on the things that really matter. Otherwise I was in danger of having a meltdown (I remember being in tears at a presentational skills training course as I couldn’t find the ‘perfect’ topic to do a speak on and I had ended up in a state of paralysis. I was really poorly with a cold that day, but even so, it just wasn’t worth it.)

    Now, if it’s not going to matter to anyone other than me, I’ve learnt that 70% can be as good as 100%.

    Chocolate Chip cookies are, though, an entirely different matter. These do indeed, look pretty close to perfection. :)

  8. Megan says:

    Beautiful post, Kathryn. Your thoughts on trying to make everything better than before resonate with me all too well. I’m trying to make sure to not take myself too seriously these days, and hoping that striving to be better does more harm than good in my life.
    On another note, I just ordered some Maldon smoked sea salt so I can try your version of these cookies. They sound (and look) divine!

  9. All I know is that I need 45 billion of these cookies.

  10. Love your thoughts and can completely relate and at this stage of my life I feel I can let go of much of the comparisons. However in a business where we’re always trying to gain exposure its hard to not look at others and get a little case of the little green evils. And interesting that a voice from the Nike app stays with you all day! I know my Smudge would love for me to make these cookies. Thanks for sharing as always!

  11. I want to eat 100000000 of these. Girl, I couldn’t relate more to today’s post if I tried. It’s hard not to take yourself uber seriously but when you do, you lose the fun that is food blogging. It’s a double edged sword b/c you want to be taken seriously but you don’t want to lose what made you love cooking in the first place.

    Ya know?

  12. london bakes says:

    @Sarah – Ha, I think mine was from this year’s goodie bag!

    @Susie – Oh yes, it’s such a difficult line to tread. I’m such an all or nothing person that the idea of giving 70% seems so alien to me but I think you’re right, nothing is that important.

    @Heidi – In some ways, I think the comparisons that we make to ourselves are almost worse than those to other people (although goodness knows they are tough enough to deal with). I guess it keeps life interesting!

    @Claire – Oh yes, I know exactly what you mean. It’s difficult to keep it fun whilst taking it seriously at the same time. Such a hard line to tread.

  13. I adore this post! I didn’t know you were a runner? I hear ya about wanting to keep challenging yourself. It’s definitely hard some days, but these cookies make the process a little easier.

  14. london bakes says:

    @Lauren – Haha, I definitely do not call myself a runner and I don’t think anyone else would either if they saw my pathetic attempts to jog round the block!

  15. i’m pretty sure a blog about choc chips would go down very well… well especially if these sea salt choc chip cookies are anything to go by… and I say this as I stare at a jar of fleur de sel caramel i picked up in California last week… can’t wait to get using it!

  16. Leanne says:

    I’m loving all the introspection you’re sharing with us in the New Year, Kathryn– the happiness of living a calm life, and now the balance between improving and being content! Suffice it to say, these cookies look incredible– I myself am on a quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, too, though I am all too happy to suffer that load : ) Kim Boyce’s whole wheat chocolate chip cookies are a great one, but I am intrigued by this recipe, and I see these in my near future. All in the name of research, of course.

  17. Look at those smoked sea salt flakes. how glorious!! I feel like we’re always trying so hard to be the better person than we already are and we miss the entire point of things. life is just hard sometimes but it’s the journey of treading through it that makes it all worthwhile!

  18. I’m in a constant battle to figure out if I’m making things better just for the sake of being different and new or if it’s actually an improvement on an original. It’s a personal struggle that I see isn’t just me. Somehow that introspection is reassuring.

    Also – I would love to see you write a blog entirely dedicated to chocolate chips, and cookies – or the two of them together. And I’m sure that you could improve, innovate and create some absolute beautiful stuff.

  19. I’m a bit of a perfectionist (I think it’s a massive trait of food bloggers)and often worry about whether what I do will live up to my exacting standards. But sometimes it’s important to let go and enjoy things in the moment, not judging them by the past or future. Eating one of these cookies I think I could get completely lost in the moment :-)

  20. Wow! Burnt butter and smokey salt. Sounds like this cookie really has it all. I’m very intrigued now, and I guess the only thing that would fix my curiosity is to make it for myself. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Erin says:

    Such an insightful post. :)
    And these cookies look just about perfect too.

  22. What a fabulous recipe! These cookies look awesome.

  23. I know what you mean – I’m always trying to be better at, well, everything, and sometimes disappointments come but I’m learning now to be happy with what I have.

    Oh and these cookies – yeah, I need about a dozen of these for lunch right now.

  24. Oh yum. Would love to convert these babies to gluten-free xx

  25. Kasey says:

    Kathryn, I so needed this post right now. I know exactly what you mean about that drive to always do things better, have something better. It’s that whole ‘grass is greener’ mentality and it is definitely hard to escape. You’ve so eloquently captured the struggle and also offered some great perspective. It’s so true that turning these burning desires into something ‘good’ is just as commendable, and beating yourself up about not achieving some sort of ambiguous level of perfection can often just lead to unhappiness. Also, I can never have too many chocolate chip cookie recipes…

  26. Samantha says:

    Hi Kathryn,

    These look really great! I was just wondering though if you knew whether ingredients such as spelt flour and vanilla bean paste are avaiable in supermarkets or would I need to go somewhere specialist?


  27. london bakes says:

    Hi Samantha,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure where you’re from but I know that spelt flour and vanilla bean paste are both available in the UK in supermarkets – I buy both from Waitrose. I think they are widely available in other countries like the US too. If you can’t find them, though, you could just use normal flour and vanilla extract or the seeds from a vanilla pod without too much ill effect!

    If you want to know any more, please shoot me an email :)


  28. Samantha says:

    That’s great, thanks Kathryn! I live in London so I’m pleased to hear this – it means I can grab the ingredients on my way home tonight!

  29. london bakes says:

    Super! I hope you like them :)

  30. Samantha says:

    Hi Kathryn,

    So I made these and they tasted great but I think I overdid them a bit as they were more on the hard side than the soft texture of ‘cookies’. How did yours come out? Any tips on making good soft cookies? Also, I didn’t want to spend 6.99 on vanilla paste in Sainsbury’s so I just used vanilla extract and that seemed to work well enough!


  31. london bakes says:

    Hi Samantha, I’m so sorry that they weren’t as soft as you hoped. Mine were firm round the edges but stayed pretty chewy in the middle.

    In terms of making good soft cookies, I think there are a couple of tips. One is to check the temperature of your oven and work out if there are any hot or cold areas. I know, for example, that my oven generally runs at the temperature on the dial but the back right hand corner gets much hotter so I have to keep things away from there or turn trays so half my cookies don’t burn. Chilling the dough also helps a lot as it means that the cookies don’t spread as much and stay puffier and thicker (and therefore softer in the middle). It’s also worth under baking them to begin with – they never take quite as long as you think they will to cook and you can normally take them out the oven when the edges are just firm and the middle of the cookies will set up as they cool.

    I hope that helps!

  32. Samantha says:

    That really helps! Thanks! I’m going to try your recommended Heston chocolate chip recipe tonight to master the perfect cookie!

  33. I used to be like that, but only with chocolate chip cookies. But since I’ve tried the NYT version, I have no desire to try to find another one. :)

    These DO look good, though. And I like that there’s some ground almonds in there!

  34. late in the coming here, but eating one of these right now. they are so good! i didn’t have smoked salt so i went with coarse regular. brown butter man!

  35. Rachel says:

    I’m not sure how I could mess up a cookie recipe so badly, but these cookies ended up spreading out a lot and they turned out as flat as a sheet of paper! I measured all of the ingredients with a scale and was pretty sure that I followed the instructions as written. Any ideas why this happened?

    • kathryn says:

      How bizarre! I’ve never had a problem with this recipe and I’ve looked at the comments on Ashley’s post and nobody seems to have struggled. I’m so sorry :( Usual culprits for spreading include beating the sugar and butter together for too long so there’s too much air, too much sugar or not chilling the dough enough. It sometimes happens too when your oven isn’t quite hot enough because the cookies start melting before they start baking if that makes sense. It’s always a good idea to check your oven temp with an oven thermometer if you haven’t already. I hope that’s helped, I’m so sorry that I can’t give you a more precise answer and the cookies didn’t turn out for you.

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