'The true cook is the perfect blend, the only perfect blend, of artist and philosopher. He knows his worth: he holds in his palm the happiness of mankind, the welfare of generations yet unborn.'

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Darkest dark chocolate cookies

I received these Scharffenberger 99% chocolate and cocoa nibs in the post a few days ago. I had been wanting to have unsweetened chocolate for baking for some time since its high cocoa content gives me more room in eliminating sugar in the recipe. If you haven't figured out by now, I like my chocolate desserts very dark and minimally sweetened, but sadly a lot of recipes that require a whole egg foam or a meringue need a good amount of sugar for the foam to be stable. If I used a 70% chocolate in such a recipe, the dessert would end up too sweet for my taste. Much better, then, to use less chocolate quantitatively, but up the cocoa content to 99 or 100% so that you have complete control of how much sweetness you add!

I scratched my head looking for a good recipe to use these fruity and pretty acidic Scharffenberger unsweetened chocolate. I dug in my word document of recipes and was reminded of these very dark and quintessentially American chocolate cookies. They're unusual because they rely on beating whole eggs until they reach a stable foam before folding in melted unsweetened chocolate. A minimal amount of flour is then blended in along with more unsweetened chocolate chips. I saw versions of this cookie by David Lebovitz, Alice Medrich as well as Essence of Chocolate (by Scharffenberger). My version is based on Alice Medrich's with some amendments:

1. I'm using baking soda rather than baking powder to neutralise some of the acidity of all the unsweetened chocolate.

2. Since I've kept the sugar amount very low, it's difficult to keep the centre of the cookies moist and gooey. I came to think of these cookies as miniature cakes, and I use Shirley Corriher's technique for adding a little cream to flourless chocolate cakes to keep them moist. I therefore replaced some of the butter with cream. Use only butter if that's what you have on hand.

3. I also added some SP cake emulsifier to fight with the deflation that inevitably comes with folding chocolate into a whole egg foam. Your cookies will have less volume if you don't add SP, but the recipe doesn't use SP to start with. Worry not!

Darkest dark chocolate cookies - only for hopeless chocoholics!


These are very austere and dark - chances are you'll find them too intense if you aren't a hardcore chocolate aficionado. If you like your chocolate dark, like me, these are some of the most decadent chocolate treats you can lay your hands on. They're at their absolutely best within two hours of baking, when the edges are crispy and the centre is gooey.

60g (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, or 40g butter + 30ml heavy/double cream
150g unsweetened chocolate (for melting)
2 eggs
100g (1/2 cup) white granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
10g SP cake emulsifier (optional)
1 1/2 tsp ground espresso (optional)
40g (1/3 cup) plain flour (or glutinous rice flour if you want gluten-free)
1/4 tsp baking soda
100g unsweetened chocolate, chopped up to chip sizes (you don't have to be so austere here: use dark chocolate if you wish)
50g roasted nuts, roughly chopped - I used pine nuts

Mix the flour and baking soda in a large bowl and loosen them with a whisk.

Mix together the chopped chocolate and nuts together too.

Place the butter (and cream if using) with the chocolate in a large bowl and melt in a microwave in a few 30-second bursts. Stir until smooth and melted.

Whip the eggs, sugar, salt, espresso and SP (if using) with an electric whisk until it reaches the ribbon stage, and is thick and ivory in colour.

Fold in the melted chocolate in a few additions.

When the mixture is almost smooth, start folding in the flour mixture, followed by the chopped chocolate and nuts.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Drop level tablespoons of batter for small cookies or heaping tablespoons for large cookies 5 cm/2 inches apart on the lined pans. Pressed them down with your palm to desired thickness.

At this point I like to let them sit on the counter for at least an hour to dry out the surface slightly so that the edges end up crispier. (Professionals out there, am I deluding myself?)

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 180C/350F and set two racks in the oven.

Bake until the cookies are puffed, dry and slightly crackled on the surface but still soft and gooey within, 8-10 minutes for small cookies, 10-12 for large cookies. Rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Underbaking is better than overbaking for these cookies.

You can't get more chocolatey than this:

Ring up all your chocoholic friends to come over and eat soonest.

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