How to cook the perfect chocolate biscuits – recipe | Felicity Cloake (2024)

Would I risk it for a chocolate biscuit, as Tinie Tempah asks? Of course, it’s difficult to say without knowing exactly what it is, but I’m fairly confident I wouldn’t. Unpopular though it may make me, from Alabama to Adelaide, for the most part, chocolate biscuits (as distinct from chocolate-covered ones) are mediocre affairs, carried by the promise, rather than the reality, of luxury. Though there’s a certain nostalgic pleasure in them, Bourbons are bland, Oreos dry and powdery, and Tim Tams, well, let’s just say they’re a fine vehicle for tea. Honestly, however, none of them is really very chocolatey at all.

The good news is, it’s possible to do much better at home; to make a snappy, crunchy biscuit that tastes of chocolate, too. Perfect for dunking, excellent with ice-cream, and utterly delicious straight from the baking tin. Actually, the dough’s pretty nice, too.

The chocolate

How to cook the perfect chocolate biscuits – recipe | Felicity Cloake (1)

Obviously the most important aspect – and, as in general with baking, cocoa powder, rather than chocolate itself, packs the most punch. London baker Lily Vanilli’s biscuit brownies, from her book Sweet Tooth, are made using copious amounts of melted dark chocolate and are a glorious colour. But, though they’re deliciously squidgy, the flavour is a little muted when tasted side by side with cocoa-rich competitors.

Harold McGee explains in On Food & Cooking that, as “the solid particles of the cacao bean are the source of chocolate’s flavour and colour”, cocoa is therefore “the most concentrated version of chocolate”, so it makes sense that recipes with a high cocoa content, such as those from pastry chef Stella Parks’s book BraveTart and online bakery Biscuiteers, prove the most intensely chocolatey.

Parks calls for high-fat Dutch-process cocoa powder, which Sue Quinn explains in her excellent new book Cocoa has been treated with an alkaline substance – potassium carbonate – to reduce the acidity, giving “a milder flavour and darker colour”. Milder, perhaps, but also, according to US website Serious Eats, “Dutch-process cocoa has a more intense ‘chocolatey’ flavour” and, “since it isn’t acidic, it doesn’t react with alkaline leaveners like baking soda to produce carbon dioxide, which means it won’t work so well in recipes relying on bicarbonate of soda as a raising agent”.

The vast majority of UK cocoa powders are Dutch-process, but in this instance it doesn’t matter too much, because I’m not going to use a raising agent, so use whichever you happen to have or, indeed, prefer if you have the choice.

You can never have too much chocolate in a biscuit, however, so I’m also going to add some large chunks, as in Dorie Greenspan’s recipe, to add interest to both flavour and texture. I like dark chocolate, but you can use milk or white if that’s your jam.

The texture

How to cook the perfect chocolate biscuits – recipe | Felicity Cloake (3)

Nigella Lawson’s “Granny Boyd’s biscuits” are so fine-textured they actually melt on the tongue; Vanilli’s, as billed, combine the “brownie qualities of a fudge-chocolate middle and a perfect crisp finish”; while Greenspan’s World Peace cookie recipe – so named, she says, because “if everyone had it, peace would reign o’er the planet” – is based on “a chocolate sablé, a French shortbread cookie”, crossed with the classic “all-American chocolate-chipper”. Unsurprisingly, all go down pretty well with testers, who each have their own favourite, but I’ve made an executive decision that I’m looking for a dunkable biscuit, rather than a cookie or a cake, which excludes them from the race, unless you’re particularly nimble with your fingers. More suited to the task is the sturdy, crunchy Biscuiteers’ biscuit, but, good as it is, it lacks the satisfying snap of Parks’s version, rolled thin and baked high. That said, if you’d prefer a softer texture, just reduce the baking time as below.

How to cook the perfect chocolate biscuits – recipe | Felicity Cloake (4)

The crisp rather than tough texture I favour, however, requires a dense, low-moisture dough, which means no raising agents such as baking powder or self-raising flour (the bicarbonate of soda in Parks’s recipe is more for flavour, I assume, because there’s no acid for it to react with) and no damp, soft sugars such as the muscovado that helps make Greenspan’s cookies so deliciously chewy. Eggs, with their high water content, are out for much the same reason: instead, Parks binds her dough with golden syrup, which also supplies a more complex, caramelised sweetness that’s missing in those made with caster.


For the crispest results, it’s necessary to roll the dough fairly thinly – or, indeed, chill it and cut into slices, as Greenspan recommends, if that’s easier. Chilling also has an advantage not mentioned in any of the recipes I try, but which I remember from chocolate chip cookie testing back in 2012: it allows the dough to absorb more of the liquid element, giving a crisper, and incidentally better-tasting result. According to PJ Hamel, writing on the King Arthur Flour website: “As the dough chills, it gradually dries out, concentrating the flavours of all the ingredients … [and] something else happens as the dough rests: part of the flour breaks down into its component parts, including a simple carbohydrate, sugar. Thus, since sugar is a flavour enhancer (like salt), the cookies may taste more flavourful, as well as sweeter.”


How to cook the perfect chocolate biscuits – recipe | Felicity Cloake (5)

As well as the bicarbonate of soda, Parks says that “a little coconut extract gives the cookies an even more authentic flavour – just don’t ask me how!” I can’t find any at short notice, but, as I’m not looking for an Oreo facsimile but a delicious biscuit, I’m not too troubled by this – if you are looking to recreate America’s favourite biscuit, however, I’d highly recommend Parks’s almost criminally lovely buttercream filling.

Vanilli adds flaked almonds to the top of her biscuits, which are a nice, crunchy touch in a softer biscuit, but feel unnecessary in a crunchier one. They won’t feel crunchy when they come out of the oven, mind; but don’t worry, they’ll firm up as they cool. If you let them.

Perfect chocolate biscuits

Prep 15 min, plus chilling
Cook 15 min
Makes About 20

100g dark chocolate
150g butter, at room temperature
130g caster sugar
70g golden syrup
215g plain flour
45g cocoa powder
½ tsp fine salt

Start by roughly chopping the chocolate into shards of the kind of size you’d like to find in a biscuit.

How to cook the perfect chocolate biscuits – recipe | Felicity Cloake (6)

Put the butter in a food mixer and beat briefly to soften, then add the sugar and syrup, and beat on a medium speed for about five minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until fluffy.

How to cook the perfect chocolate biscuits – recipe | Felicity Cloake (7)

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. With the mixer running on a low speed, add the dry ingredients and continue mixing until everything comes together into a dough. Which it will, don’t worry.

How to cook the perfect chocolate biscuits – recipe | Felicity Cloake (8)

Roll into a sausage shape about 5cm in diameter. Wrap well and chill for at least 30 minutes, and up to 10 days.

How to cook the perfect chocolate biscuits – recipe | Felicity Cloake (9)

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Cut the sausage into thin rounds and arrange, fairly well spaced out, on the trays. Bake for 25 minutes (for crisp biscuits; or 15 for squidgy, or 20 for somewhere in between), then leave to cool on the baking tray.

How to cook the perfect chocolate biscuits – recipe | Felicity Cloake (2024)


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