Why It Works
- Melted white chocolate gives the cookies a fudgy, brownie-like interior.
- Toasted sugar plays up the flavor of dry-roasted macadamia nuts.
- Choose a quality white chocolate bar over "white"-flavored morsels, which are entirely devoid of cocoa butter.
When I was growing up, the band kids would regularly set up a makeshift bakery by the back doors to the elementary school. From their toaster oven perched on a card table, they'd crank out endless trays of Otis Spunkmeyer cookies to sell as an after-school snack. The fake-butter aroma seemed to permeate the walls, driving us to distraction some 20 minutes before the bell.
Those bake sales were my introduction to white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, sold for two bucks a pop and dangerously hot, streaked with lumps of molten white chocolate. It was all an eight-year-old could ask for, really—a warm mess of salty-sweet bliss.
Homemade versions have never really cut it for me. More often than not, they start with a basic chocolate chip cookie dough and swap the standard chips for white chocolate and macadamia nuts.
The results inevitably taste too buttery, with a tangy brown sugar note that overwhelms the creamy vanilla flavor of white chocolate and the toffee-like aroma of macadamia nuts.
For my version, I wanted more of a sugar cookie base, but one that would put white chocolate center stage. To that end, I replaced half the butter of a normal sugar cookie recipe with melted white chocolate, and switched from plain to toasted sugar.
The first adjustment reduces the cookie's butteriness, instead amplifying the already delicate flavor of white chocolate. Meanwhile, the lightly caramelized sugar emphasizes the toasted nuts, while tempering the sweetness overall (a crucial move, given the high sugar content and lack of bitterness in white chocolate).
It's otherwise a pretty straightforward cookie dough, with the butter, white chocolate, and sugar creamed together until fluffy and light.
I beat a whole egg into the soft mixture, followed by a splash of vanilla, and then add all the dry ingredients one by one: flour, loads of dry-roasted macadamia nuts, and white chocolate bars chopped into chips. (Beware bags of "white"-flavored morsels, which are entirely devoid of cocoa butter.)
Instead, look for white chocolate in bars from Green & Black's or blocks from Callebaut (both readily available at supermarkets like Whole Foods). Or peruse this article on our favorite white chocolates and shop online.
For the macadamia nuts, I prefer to buy in bulk to drive down the cost in comparison with what you'll pay for skimpy little bags from the grocery store. Look for brands like MacFarms online, or check out the bulk bins at your nearest supermarket.
After scooping, if you want to stash it away to bake up one or two or 15 at a time, the portioned cookie dough can be stored in a zipper-lock bag and refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for up to three months. Let the dough warm up to about 68°F (20°C) before it goes in the oven.
When I'm ready to bake, I smash each ball into a disk and top it with extra white chocolate and macadamia nuts, plus a sprinkling of salt to finish. It's a bit of eye candy that makes each cookie all the more alluring, but it also ensures at least one bite of caramelized white chocolate in every cookie and a hit of salt in every bite.
They may not be the greasy, sugar-sweet cookies of my childhood, but they're everything I want in a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie now—a treat that's equal parts creamy and crunchy, nutty and caramelized, soft and chewy, with a huge note of vanilla running through it all.
4 ounces white chocolate, minimum 30% cocoa butter (about 1/2 cup, roughly chopped; 115g), from brands such as Green & Black's (see note)
8 3/4 ounces plain or lightly toasted sugar (about 1 1/4 cups; 250g)
1 3/4 teaspoons (7g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces unsalted butter (8 tablespoons; 115g), soft but cool, about 60°F (16°C)
1 large egg (about 1 3/4 ounces; 50g), straight from the fridge
1/2 ounce vanilla extract (about 1 tablespoon; 15g)
9 ounces all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal (about 2 cups, spooned; 255g)
8 ounces salted, dry-roasted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped (about 1 2/3 cups; 225g), from brands such as MacFarms, plus more for garnishing
5 ounces roughly chopped white chocolate, minimum 30% cocoa butter (about 3/4 cup; 140g), from brands such as Green & Black's, plus more for garnishing
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate using three or four 15-second bursts at normal power; to prevent scorching, pause to stir the white chocolate between rounds. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, then add sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and butter. Cream mixture on medium speed until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes, pausing at the halfway mark to scrape the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula.
Resume mixing on medium speed. With mixer still running, add egg, followed by vanilla, and continue beating just until well combined. Pause to scrape bowl and beater with flexible spatula, then resume mixing on low. Add flour all at once; when flour is fully incorporated, use flexible spatula to fold in macadamia nuts and remainder of white chocolate.
Using a cookie scoop, divide dough into 2-tablespoon portions. If you like, these can be transferred to a zipper-lock bag and refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months; soften to about 68°F (20°C) before baking.
Arrange portions on a parchment-lined half-sheet pan, leaving about 2 inches between cookies to account for spread. Gently flatten each portion into a disk, then top each with a few extra pieces of white chocolate and macadamia nuts and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake until puffed and firm around the edges, though rather pale overall, about 12 minutes. (Due to their low lactose content, these cookies will not brown as you might expect. When fully baked, they will still be quite pale.) Cool directly on baking sheet until crumb is set, about 5 minutes. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days at room temperature.
Stand mixer, flexible spatula, 2-tablespoon cookie scoop, half-sheet pans
The flavor, aroma, and sweetness of this recipe hinge on real white chocolate, so cheap chips won't do! In larger supermarkets, such as Whole Foods, look for bars of white chocolate from Green & Black's or blocks from Callebaut; otherwise, shop online for one of our favorite white chocolate brands.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7g||9%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||20%|
|Total Carbohydrate 21g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 14g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|