Are you looking to put a big smile on someone’s face? Because that tends to happen with these colorful M&M cookies! People can’t resist the perfect combination of flavor, crisp edges, and soft, chewy centers.
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Since my classic chocolate chip cookie recipe is a massive hit with readers, there’s no use reinventing the wheel. I have taken the base dough for this recipe and simply added colorful M&M candies and brown butter. It may take a few extra minutes to brown the butter, but trust me, it’s worth the effort!
Of course, the shell on the milk chocolate candies is not just for looks. It adds a delightful sweetness and crunch to each bite. However, to still get the gooey melted cocoa experience, I still fold a few chips into the batter. Be sure to have a glass of milk handy as you may have the urge to dunk.
Brown the butter
The recipe starts with melting unsalted butter. Once the fat is liquified, I take it one step further by browning the butter. Simply heat it for just a few more minutes to toast the milk solids in the dairy product. This process completely transforms the taste.
You can see the fat turn golden in hue while toffee and butterscotch aromas fill the air. Add in a few tablespoons of cold butter to bring the temperature down before making the cookie dough to prevent the curdling of the eggs.
I use two types of sugar to yield crisp edges and chewy centers. Granulated sugar has free-flowing crystals that give the cookie structure and crunch on the sides. Dark brown sugar has molasses, which enhances the flavor with notes of caramel. It’s also a humectant that attracts moisture and helps the cookies stay soft in the middle after baking.
Mix the melted butter and sugars
To maximize the flavor, mix the sugars with the warm butter. Doing so breaks the sucrose sugars down into the monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. These simple sugars caramelize at a lower temperature, which is essential because the cookies are only in the oven for 10 minutes.
It only takes a short period to build flavor! I use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to do the work. The unique mixing process is done four times, resting in between to create a super shiny and thick consistency.
Gently stir in the dry ingredients
All-purpose flour has a moderate amount of protein, 10 to 13%. This type develops a more dense chew structure instead of a light and cakey experience. Baking soda enhances the surface browning while lifting and spreading for crisp edges. I stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture by hand to prevent over mixing. You just want the flour to be hydrated.
There are two types of chocolate in this recipe; candy-coated M&M’s and semi-sweet chocolate chips. I use double the amount of M&M’s to ensure that you get the characteristic rainbow of colors. I use the regular size, but you can substitute the mini variety for more distribution throughout the dough.
I chose a higher level of cacao for the chips, the slight increase in bitterness balances the much sweeter and creamier milk chocolate in the candy. But you can use any kind, baker’s choice.
Chill the dough
Let the cookie dough chill or freeze once you mix it so it’s easier to roll and it will also prevent spreading. It will be around 74ºF (23ºC) due to the warm butter and mixing process. It’s ready to shape when it reduces to 65 to 70ºF (18 to 21ºC).
To really enjoy the transition of crisp to chewy, make dough balls 3 tablespoons in size. This amount gives thick, bakery-style cookies. I break each ball apart down the center, then smoosh them and back together to provide a more rustic surface. Reserve about ¼ cup of the M&M’s to push onto the tops to see more candies on the surface after baking.
After shaping, I bake the dough right away while just below room temperature to ensure even cooking and a thick texture. If the butter is too warm, the results will be flatter. If you make the dough ahead of time and it’s been refrigerated or frozen, let it sit on the counter to take the chill off before baking. Very cold dough causes raw centers.
The cookies bake at 375°F (191ºC) until the edges are set, and the center is puffy and slightly underdone. Before serving, let them cool completely on the warm tray to gently finish cooking to the centers. The cookies can be removed from the tray after 10 minutes if you want them a little less crispy. My kids usually can only wait that long anyway. They love them warm with plenty of melted chips!
Yes! The mini-size will pack the dough with more small pieces throughout. There are many flavors available like peanut, chocolate brownie, pretzel, peanut butter, almonds, crispy, can caramel that you can swap in to switch up the taste. During the holidays, look for seasonal colors and flavors.
The milk chocolate core is covered with a crispy sugar coating that creates a protective shell. It’s water-soluble, which is why it melts in your mouth. It doesn’t melt in the oven because there isn’t a lot of moisture, but some of the shells may crack over time. My thought is that the hardened shell gets more brittle when exposed to the oven’s heat, then breaks. The only way to avoid this is to press some on top after the first 5 minutes of baking, but there is more chance of them falling off.
Melted butter improves the texture
Creaming the butter and sugar together yields a more airy, cake-like texture. However, melt the butter first to achieve a more dense, chewy, and soft center. Doing so makes the water in the butterfat more available to bind with the protein in the flour. As the flour hydrates, more gluten bonding forms. Gently mix the dry and wet ingredients to prevent a tough bite.
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- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 cup M&M candies, divided
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Adjust oven rack to the middle position. Heat to 375°F (191ºC).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda, set aside.
- Cut the butter into 14 even-sized pieces. In a medium skillet, melt 10 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat, swirling to melt evenly. Stir and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula until butter is golden brown and nutty in aroma, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, and remove pan from stove. Stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter until completely melted.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the melted butter to the mixing bowl. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla. Whisk on medium speed (setting 5) until combined, 30 seconds.
- Add the whole egg and yolk to the mixing bowl. Whisk on medium-high speed (setting 8) until smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes.
- Repeat the whisking and resting process three more times: 30-seconds mixing at medium-high speed and 3 minutes of rest. After four total times, the mixture should be thick, smooth, and shiny.
- Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in ¾ cup M&M candies and chocolate chips. Give the dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
- Transfer the mixing bowl to the refrigerator for 30 minutes or freezer for 15 minutes, or until the dough firms up, around 65 to 70ºF (18 to 21ºC). The dough should not feel overly sticky.
- Divide the dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (about 60 grams, 2 ounces), and roll into a ball. If the dough starts to warm and get sticky, place it on a sheet tray and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- For a rustic appearance, tear the dough balls in half. Press the two halves together with the lumpy torn sides facing upward to expose the chips. Shape the sides of the dough back into a circle. Use the remaining ¼ cup of M&M candies and press some on top, so they pop out of the surface.
- Arrange dough balls at least 2-inches apart on lined baking sheets, 8 portions per tray. Smaller baking sheets can be used but will require baking in 3 batches. The dough should be room temperature or just below for even cooking, around 65 to 70ºF (18 to 21ºC).
- Bake one tray at a time in the center position for 5 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet. Continue to bake until the edges are golden brown and the centers look slightly underdone, about 5 to 7 minutes. The color will continue to darken during cooling. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool until they reach room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Make sure the oven returns to 375°F (191ºC) before baking the remaining tray.
- Make ahead: Cookie dough can be shaped into balls and refrigerated in a resealable plastic bag for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months before baking. Break the dough apart and combine right before baking for a rustic surface. Add more M&M candies on top.
- Storing: Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days or 3 months in the freezer.
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