Quarantine Cuisine: How Dark Horse Espresso’s Deanna Zunde makes her decadent chocolate chip cookies

Quarantine Cuisine: How Dark Horse Espresso’s Deanna Zunde makes her decadent chocolate chip cookies

We’re asking Toronto chefs to show us what they cook up using basic pantry supplies while they self-isolate at home

Like many of us, Dark Horse Espresso founder and co-owner Deanna Zunde is confined to her home. We asked the social-distancing chef to whip something up with ingredients she already had on hand. Her recipe: salted espresso chocolate chip cookies.

More Quarantine Cuisine

Deanna Zunde is a bit of a snob—but only when it comes to coffee. The instant kind is something the café owner wrinkles her nose at. “A lot of baking uses instant coffee and espresso powder, but I want to use real, actually good coffee,” says Zunde, who has spent the lockdown experimenting with espresso-infused butter in cookies, cinnamon buns and other toothsome treats. (She hasn’t tried to make the much-hyped Dalgona coffee, though—we asked.)

Since temporarily shuttering her six locations back in March (the Queen East café recently opened for pickup, and the Geary Avenue bakery is slated to open shortly), Zunde has been baking up a storm, at home with her two Great Danes. During the lockdown, Zunde started product testing for Dark Horse’s online store, which is now selling beans, baking supplies, booze and oven-ready cookie dough. Here’s how she makes her most recent cookie creation.

Here’s what you’ll need

For the butter infusion:
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
2 tbsp finely ground espresso

For the cookies:
1 1/2 cups firmly packed golden brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt fine
2 tsp finely ground espresso
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Flaked salt for topping (optional)

The recipe

Start by making the espresso-infused butter because it will need to cool for a stint before you can start baking. Gently melt the butter in a small saucepan, then stir in the ground espresso. (Zunde uses Detour because she thinks they’re the best local roastery.) Allow the espresso to infuse for 20 minutes with the heat off.

Time to make coffee butter


Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a measuring cup and discard the espresso grind. Next, throw that now-infused butter into the fridge for five minutes to expedite its re-solidification. (The butter keeps in the fridge, so you can prep this days or weeks in advance. Just make sure to bring to bring the butter back to room temperature before cooking with it.)

The (almost) finished product. Now put it in the fridge


In a big bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and the ground espresso.

To cream the sugars and butter together, Zunde uses her stand mixer, but a wooden spoon and some elbow grease work just as well. With a stand mixer, this should only take three minutes. If you’re going low-tech, however, keep mixing until the butter and sugar are completely blended.

Then it’s time to add the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla extract, mixing all the while until everything’s incorporated.

Elbow grease works just as well if you don’t have a fancy mixer


Now it’s time to add in the dry mix. If you’re using a stand mixer, use either the pulse function or turn the speed down to its lowest setting. If hand mixing, slowly add in the dry mix bit by bit, working the dry and the wet together. Make sure not to overmix the dough, though. Zunde says that once it starts to look crumbly, you should add in the chocolate and mix just enough to spread it through the dough. “Over-mixing causes the proteins to toughen up, so you’ll get tough cookies,” says Zunde. “Calling someone a tough cookie might be a compliment, but no one wants to eat one.”

Hey, yeah, I wanna scoop, baby


Zunde uses an ice cream scoop to make flat-bottomed domes of dough, but you can also hand-shape the cookies using one and a half tablespoons of dough, flattening them on a baking sheet. If you’re eyeballing it, keep in mind this recipe yields about 20 large cookies. Should you opt to roll smaller cookies, you’ll need to shave off a few minutes from their bake time later on.

Although Zunde says the flaked sea salt is optional, she thinks it enhances the flavours of the espresso and the chocolate, and balances the sweetness in the cookie.

We’re on Team Salt


“For the best results, chill the cookie dough for a full 24 hours before baking,” says Zunde. You can even throw the dough balls in the freezer—they can be baked from frozen.

Preheat your oven to 360°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and space the dough balls out so they’re around three inches apart. Bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes. If using a convection oven, check the cookies at 12 minutes. Bake until just barely golden on the edges for a softer gooey cookie, and a bit more if you prefer them crispy throughout. Remember that the cookies will continue to bake on the tray while they’re cooling.

They aren’t for you, Rosie:

That little head tilt, though


They aren’t for you either, Saffron:

What willpower


We mean it. Don’t look at us like that. Stop it:

She knows what she’s doing


Here’s a stack of the finished goods…

A pandemic-sized single serving


… and a closeup.

That’s the stuff


Zunde’s always giving away cookies to friends. What a sweet idea for a socially distanced drop-off.

Zunde and her doggos making one of her sweet-but-distanced drop-offs