Sun 24 May 2009
Posted by Bria under Baking
We’re going to talk about cookies for a moment, one variety by way of another. I think cookies might be the first thing I ever made from scratch by myself. It was a recipe called Cowboy Cookies that my mom kept in a black recipe binder – the kind I keep telling myself I should start. Sure, I keep copies of recipes on my computer, both good things I’ve tried and things I tinkered with myself. And were you to crawl between the sofa and its accompanying sofa table to see behind the shelf where I keep my cookbooks, you’d find a neon rainbow of sticky flags marking all the things I mean to cook one of these days.
But more often than not, I end up transferring a recipe or an adaptation of a recipe to a scrap of paper that can get down and dirty on my kitchen counter as its progeny springs forth. My go-to pizza crust recipe lives on an index card on the side of our fridge, and many a sauce-spotted post-it have found their way to the top of the flour canister at the hands of Nora, the wonderful woman who cleans for us once a week. There, they await my discovery, and are eventually discarded. I should really get a binder.
My mom’s binder holds about a hundred pages of recipes – clippings from newspapers and old issues of Good Housekeeping, index cards from friends, and a dozen pages of careful, adolescent script – the remnants of her 8th grade cooking class. The pages are covered in plastic and lie flat, both qualities are invaluable in the kitchen. No matter how pronounced the nimbus cloud of cocoa becomes during the too-hurried assembly of a chocolate cake, the pages are easily wiped clean; a new slate for the next cake.
The Cowboy Cookies were not complicated or profound. Just a good, buttery chocolate chip cookie with a hearty helping of oatmeal stirred in at the end. It was making those Cowboy Cookies where I first learned that brown sugar makes flatter, crisper cookies when it takes on a solo act in place of its usual duet with granulated white as the recipe intended. And it was a batch of Cowboy Cookies that fell victim to my experiment with mint extract. Through it all, the Cowboy Cookies endured as simple, reliable, and intoxicatingly delicious.
I remember loving the recipe card itself, too. It wasn’t just an index card. It was illustrated with a joyful drawing of a woman in the throes of cooking. My first memory of the illustration came at that pre-school developmental stage where the only things worth noticing in the world around you are cookies and cartoons, and this was the promise of both. At the time, any brightly-colored illustration gave way to the possibility, no matter how remote, of cartoons; I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Better still, whenever the card came out, cookies were sure to follow.
And so my love of fresh cookies began. Even back then, I knew many children whose mothers didn’t bake, whose class birthday treats came from a bakery or the grocery store. In making Cowboy Cookies, I learned that there was more to baked goods than the end product itself. There was the anticipation, building itself into a craving-laden crescendo throughout the assembly process and fueled by the many opportunities to taste along the way. And oh, the tasting. A finished cookie is all well and good, certainly, but it would be criminal to spend one’s entire life overlooking the various stages of a batter’s life cycle. Cookie dough ice cream-lovers have an inkling of what I’m talking about here (though to base your fondness for cookie dough on that miserable, pellet-form is like listening to a Ride of the Valkeries ringtone and saying you like Wagner). Fresh cookie dough does not have an equal. Neither does the prospect of licking the spoon after all the cookies are made and it’s time to do the dishes.
As you can probably gather, my thoughts on the necessity of making your own cookies are closely aligned with my thoughts on making your own bread. You must. It’s another process that is far less complicated than it seems to the uninitiated, and yields results that will delight you more than you can know.
This is a very fun recipe for cookies that look fantastic and taste even better. They are just the ticket for the chocolate craving that refuses to be satisfied with a single layer of chocolate. These are the big guns, the really intense chocolate assault that will definitely cure what ails you. And surprisingly enough, they do not call for any flour. I made them a few weeks ago in honor of the impending departure of one of my friends at the office who was bound for his upcoming wedding and journey to a year of adventure in Chile. They were well-received; I hope you will agree.
As for those Cowboy Cookies, well, for now they’re between me, my mom, and the joyful woman on the index card.
Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies
Makes 24 cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2008
1 ½ cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
3 large egg whites (room temperature – run the eggs in warm water for a few minutes if needed)
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T cornstarch
¼ t salt (table salt is fine)
- Melt half the chocolate
- Beat the egg whites, adding powdered sugar as you go
- Whisk the dry ingredients
- Add the dry ingredients
- Stir in the chocolate
- Roll in sugar
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover a large cookie sheet with parchment or a Silpat. If you have more than one cookie sheet, prep another as well. This recipe makes more than a single sheet’s-worth of cookies and will necessitate baking in two batches. If you don’t have two cookies sheets, don’t worry about it – just let the sheet cool down a bit between batches.
Measure 1 cup of the chocolate chips into a glass bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, stir, then zap for another minute while watching closely. When things start to look really shiny, pull it out and stir again until the chips are completely melted.
Beat the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric (or stand) mixer. Leaving the mixer running on medium, sprinkle in the sugar in three or four additions so you work it in gradually. Crank it up a notch and keep beating until it looks thick and creamy.
In another medium bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. Crank the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients in a few batches until fully incorporated.
Stir in the (now slightly cooled) melted chocolate and the remaining chocolate chips. If the dough seems stiff at this point, proceed to the next step. If not, set it aside for 10 minutes or so – it will continue to gain body as it sets up.
Dump some powdered sugar in a small bowl. Using a spoon, small ice cream scoop, or your fingers, gather a rounded tablespoon-worth of dough and gently shape in to a ball. Roll the ball of dough in the powdered sugar until it’s fully coated. Place the sugary ball on the cookie sheet and repeat until you have 12 cookies on the sheet. Be sure to space them 2 inches apart as they will spread as they bake.
Bake 10 minutes, until they are puffy and the tops have cracked. Once you pull them from the oven, let them cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to fully cool.