Tag Archives: Cookie

Triple chocolate cookies

All right. Time to let these cookies out into the world.

These started out as a Nigella Lawson recipe that failed on me. I followed the recipe to the letter, and came away with a single amorphous cookie-blob on a baking sheet. Normally I would have just chalked it up to bad luck and let it go, but something about this recipe stuck with me. Maybe it’s the fact that it calls for three types of chocolate: melted, cocoa, and chips. Maybe it’s that I’ve never had a chocolate-chocolate-chip cookie that really lived up to my daydreams. Whatever it was, I had to perfect these cookies.

I don’t think I’ve ever obsessed over a recipe like I have this one. I’ve tweaked and fiddled and ruined more batches than I care to count, all in service of my one dream cookie: intensely dark and decadent, sturdy at the edges and soft in the middle, with an absurdly high chip-to-dough ratio. It’s taken at least a year of frenzied testing; at the end of it, I was back at approximately the same proportions as when I started. But I think I’ve finally cracked the chocolate chip cookie code, and it comes down to four things:

  • Melted butter. I don’t own a stand mixer, and beating cookie dough with a hand mixer never goes well for me. So I always cream sugar and butter by hand, and that can make for wildly inconsistent cookies. Melting the butter along with the chocolate solves this problem, and helps the cookies stay soft and yielding. It does, however, make for an almost alarmingly gooey dough, so soft that you may worry it won’t hold together when scooped. Trust me–it will.
  • Size. I’ve tried shaping and scooping the cookies several different ways, and there’s no getting around it: bigger is better here. Larger cookies hold their shape better in the oven, are more resistant to overbaking, and yield a lovely range of textures: crumbly on the sides, crisp on top, soft and melting in the middle. I’ve had best results with my beloved #16 cookie disher, but you could also use a 2 oz (1/4 cup) ice cream scoop, as long as it’s got some sort of spring release mechanism.
  • Temperature. You could certainly scoop and bake the cookies straight from the mixing bowl–they’ll spread quite a lot and become chewy-crisp all over. But if you have time, I highly, highly, highly recommend that you scoop the cookies in advance and freeze them. Just portion the cookies out onto a baking sheet, freeze them till rock-solid, then pop them into a zip-top bag and bake as many as you want, when you want, straight from the freezer. Baking the cookies when they’re ice-cold means they’ll spread less and rise more, yielding a tall and tender cookie with a crisp exterior and a luscious, fluffy center. Yum.
  • Time. The cookies are best when baked until they’re just barely set–there should be a thin, firm crust on top, but the interior should still feel gooey and unstable. For my oven, the magic number is 12 minutes for fresh cookies, and 14 minutes for frozen. Once they’re out of the oven, let the cookies cool for at least 15 minutes on the baking sheet, so that the heat from the metal underneath can gently coax the interior to doneness. You want the cookies set enough to handle, because breaking into that pillowy interior is an absolutely glorious thing. And don’t worry about losing the fresh-from-the-oven magic–the cookies will stay warm for at least 30 minutes, and the chocolate chips inside will stay molten for at least an hour.

Oh, and about that chocolate: don’t bother with the expensive stuff here. You’re going for big, brawny, chocolate-dense, nothing subtle or refined; supermarket chocolate fits the bill nicely. This is San Francisco, so I use Ghirardelli all the way–bars, cocoa, and chips. The cookies are still seriously indulgent.

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Hazelnut biscotti

Several months ago, the lovely and talented Daisy over at Daisy’s World did a giveaway featuring hazelnut flour and polenta from Bob’s Red Mill. As one of the lucky winners, I was tasked with sharing a recipe using one of the products. I can do that, I said. The moment the box arrived on my doorstep, with my winnings tucked securely inside, I tore open the bags and went to work.

I’m still working on finding a polenta recipe worth sharing–I slipped quickly into the tasty rut of topping it with crispy mushrooms and sausage, and haven’t deviated much since. The hazelnut flour, on the other hand, has gotten a serious workout. I’ve worked it into chocolate chip cookies, blended it into mole sauce, and used it as a crust for turkey tenders. But I keep getting drawn back to the most unassuming recipe I’ve tried: hazelnut biscotti.

They’re deceptively simple, these cookies, with the round richness of hazelnuts front and center. Unlike many biscotti recipes, which bulk up with butter, these rely only on the fat within the hazelnut flour itself. (Near as I can tell, that brings them closer to the spirit of the original Italian almond biscotti, which contain no added fat.) They’re pebbly-crisp and subtly nutty, with a breath of cinnamon for warmth and a kiss of orange zest for brightness. And they’re flecked with chopped hazelnuts–but finely chopped, almost invisible, not the massive tooth-testing nut-hunks you usually see in biscotti.

“Biscotti” translates to “twice cooked,” which is where the cookies get their unmistakable shape and nubbly texture. First, the dough is formed into logs, and baked until it puffs and sets, almost like a cake. Then it’s sliced, breadlike, into thin flat cookies, which are toasted on both sides until they’re dry and crumbly all the way through. These work best when they’re formed small and sliced thin, for maximum crumbly crunch. Once they’ve cooled and crisped, you could dip them in chocolate, if you wanted to. But I prefer them naked.

These are nice enough on their own, but they’re just about perfect with a cup of tea. Coffee or hot chocolate would work also, but good black tea is my favorite. Dunked in something hot and soothing, these biscotti make an ideal after-dinner wind-down.

Thanks, Daisy!

hazelnut biscotti

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Shortbread cookies

Disclaimer: I have been on an epic sweets-making bender for the past week. The next few posts here are going to be devoted to cookies and candies. I hope you don’t mind too much.

I’ll start with something on the savory side of sweet: rosemary shortbread cookies. I got a packet of them as a party favor from my office’s holiday shindig last week, and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

I don’t celebrate Christmas, but these seem like the perfect Christmas cookie: salty-sweet and tinted with honey, fragrant in a way that reminds me of evergreen trees. They’re sturdy enough to be packaged as gifts, but sophisticated enough that you’re bound to really impress someone. I love these little guys.

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On “Inside the Actors’ Studio”–one of my not-so-guilty TV pleasures–James Lipton always starts his famous questionnaire with, “What is your favorite word?”  Were I to suddenly, magically, improbably become a movie star, and get invited onto the show for a profound exploration of my life and craft, I’m not sure I could whittle down my list to just one word.  Not even for the great, scrumtrulescent James Lipton himself.

I’m a fickle creature.  Right now, on this day, in this room, my top five are:

Gandy-dancer, n: an old slang term for a railroad maintenance worker

Soporific, adj: causing sleep

Yurt, n: a tentlike dwelling

Chortle, v: to chuckle gleefully

Snickerdoodle, n: a type of sugar cookie made with cream of tartar and rolled in cinnamon sugar

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Crispy fluffy chewy yum

Here’s a life lesson I learned this week.

If you end up with some extra egg whites on your hands, and you decide to make meringues, and you already know how to make the crumble-in-your-mouth kind but want something a little softer and more ethereal, and you decide to bake the meringues at a lower temperature just for funsies, and then you realize you have a bridal shower to go to in half an hour, and you turn off the oven and fly out the door, and you come back six hours later and the meringues are still kinda sticky and chewy and marshmallowy but totally done on the bottom, and you say what the hell and take them out anyway…

…people will go apeshit over them. True story.

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