The siege of dampness continues. The weather’s more suited to successful porridge-making than to producing a nice, crisp edge on a cookie. But I haven’t been cooking like a person who is interested in good food. I have been more of the ‘holy nuts, it’s almost 9pm, do I have anything to make a frittata with?’ school of culinary forethought and execution. So it’s cookies for you, because that was the last successful Cooking that took place around here–and in the hopes that there is some crispness to the air that surrounds you, since we sorely and surely lack it here.
As I hoped, this cookie was in fact a winner, tweaked for prevailing conditions at the time I made them–prevailing conditions being the Mexican-themed dinner on our itinerary, where gluten-free and egg-averse persons would be interested in dessert. In general, I think it’s good to poach a pear, or assemble a bowl of perfect berries, or shell out for a delicious sorbet under these circumstances. But on rare occasions, baking without the staples of good baking can work, and is worth the effort.
Other efforts presently deemed worth it: I love my rebounder, and as you can see, others in my house feel similarly. The old bones can’t take running on pavement anymore, but this little item and my headphones plugged into some can’t-sit-still music approximates the experience for me. “Well,” said a daughter last week, coming upon me thus engaged, “SOMEONE’s enjoying themselves.”
We took a break from rural life and headed to Boston for a visit with cousins. This UnFreshAir interlude was a delight, for the company we kept, for the glimpse of city kid life, and for the NO MOSQUITOS feature. However they achieve that, we enjoyed it.
But we were talking about cookies.
I am sure you can make these cookies with regular flour, as that’s what the original recipe called for. I subbed in that GF flour I was prattling about, and was happy as can be. I shoved the cookies south of the border with some heat and spice, and dressed them up for company with a sparkly sugar suit that I spiked with a little salty edge. Overall not a lot of sugar in here, which is nice, and shockingly simple to prepare. (The recipe only looks long because I got sort of chatty). You won’t thank me for pointing this out (though I hardly need to): this is dough you need to shield carefully from the greedy eyes of BatterEaters, should your household (or skin) contain such a beast. I managed to salvage enough to bake, but only thanks to my toned, aerobic ninja moves.
chocolate chunk shortbread
adapted from Broma Bakery
- 1c unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
- 1/2 c confectioner’s sugar
- 1 1/2 c flour (GF or all-purpose)
- 1/4 to 1/2 t cayenne pepper
- 1/4 to 1/2 t pure chile powder (ancho, pasilla, or similar)
- 1/2 t cinnamon
- 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa
- 1 t vanilla
- 1 3-4 oz bar of good-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped*
- 3T granulated sugar
- 1/2 t nice sea salt
*A note on the chopping of the chocolate: you may think it will be elegant and pleasantly rustic to leave the chunks on the large side. You will find, in this case (or I did, anyway) that in fact it just makes the dough hard to slice and you will have to do some swearing and eat a lot more dough as you try to pat everything back together. Or perhaps that is just me. In any case, I’d err on the side of finer chopping.
Cream the butter and sugar well. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, pepper, cinnamon and cocoa together, and add those to the butter mixture. When they are well-combined, stir in the vanilla and the chopped chocolate.
Mound the dough onto a sheet of wax paper, in a row of lumps. If you care deeply about producing round cookies, use my friend Alana‘s trick and slit a paper towel tube open lengthwise, and slip the dough roll in there in its wax paper suit and form a nicely tubular log. If you are racing the dough-snatchers or feel content with a rhomboid, pat the dough into an even(ish) rectangle(ish) shape. Because the cookies are not very sturdy when baked, aim for a narrow gauge, comparable to the tube whether you use it or not. Wrap securely in wax paper and set in the fridge to chill.
On a plate, combine the granulated sugar and the salt. If your salt is coarse, smish it a bit with your fingers as you add it. Once the dough roll is cool enough to be lifted out of its paper without falling apart (in which case you’d have to eat all of it or watch the vultures do so), set the log into the salty sugar and use a combination of rolling, spooning, sprinkling and your best MacGyver skills to get an even(ish) coating all over. Chill the dough for several hours or overnight, well-hidden.
When you are ready to bake, ignore the crouching dragons muttering “you’re going to BAKE that? what a waste,” and line a baking sheet with parchment and heat the oven to 325. Using a thin, sharp knife, slice the dough into not-quite half inch slices and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are just set and dry. Overbaking is a no-no; they easily veer towards tasting burnt and will lose that melty shortbread texture. Cool them on the sheet for a few minutes and carefully remove to a rack. They are delicate, but tasty even when broken.
Get back on the rebounder.