We have plans. Secret plans. And, while we won’t divulge those plans to you now, we will say that these cookies are integral to testing part of those plans. Intrigued? Us too!
We saw this recipe a long time ago, well, over a year ago, when we looked through The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman . We immediately knew that these cookies might be just the thing for … our plans, and that we’d have to try them out. But when?
As it’s getting closer to the time when we’ll be putting our plans into action, the time is now. We didn’t really change much from the original recipe, other than we used unsalted butter, but we compensate for that by increasing the amount of salt. You can find the original recipe over on the smitten kitchen website. So, with that in mind, let’s scratch out these cookies.
Normally, we talk about using the best cocoa you can find, but, in this case, we didn’t. Remember, these are an experiment for a plan we have coming up, so, if they turn out fine, we’ll be using Valrhona cocoa, but, for now, we’re using Trader Joe’s brand cocoa. The eggs, as always, are from happy hens that peck and cluck. Butter is unsalted, since that’s all we ever have; we compensated from the original recipe by adding a bit more kosher salt. Vanilla is 100% pure vanilla extract; there’s no substitute. Finally, if you compare this recipe to the original, it’ll seem as though we use less flour, but, actually, we call for the same amount by weight (which is how we measure most ingredients for baked goods). We just try to stick to 140g of flour per cup.
Procedure in detail:
Mix drys. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder, and set aside. Simple so far.
Make batter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, cocoa, vanilla, butter, and eggs, starting on low and working up to medium-low speed, until the batter is uniform in color. If needed, scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Now, you may wonder why we add the cocoa at this stage, rather than mixing it into the flour. We don’t know for sure, but we suspect that adding the cocoa to some of the moist ingredients eliminates the need for sifting. After all, cocoa is lumpy when dry, requiring sifting, but mix it with eggs and butter, voilà.
Add flour mixture. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, letting it mostly mix in before adding more. This will help prevent the flour from shooting out of the bowl (ours did anyway, but not too wildly). Once the flour is added, mix until the dough is uniform. Scrape the bottom of the bowl because some unmixed flour is lurking there, and mix again.
Shape. Turn out the dough and shape it into a square about 8 inches on a side and an inch thick. This will make it a bit easier to roll later.
Chill. Wrap in plastic and chill for an hour.
Heat. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment.
Roll. Divide the square of dough into four equal pieces, and, working with one at a time, place it between two pieces of parchment and roll out to a thickness of 1/4 of an inch. Or as thin as 1/8 of an inch. Your choice, whether you like thin cookies (you can eat more), or thicker cookies (each has more cookieness). The dough is very easy to roll, and, by placing it between parchment, you’ll have no problem re-rolling the scraps.
Cut and transfer. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes — we used a heart that’s about 1 1/2 inches across — and transfer to your prepared baking sheets.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies puff in the center and the edges are firm to the touch. Thin cookies will bake faster, and thick cookies a bit slower, so watch and adjust as needed.
Cool. Once baked, use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Just so you know, these cookies do not crisp up; instead, they remain soft, similar to brownies.
Since this is an experiment, we were really evaluating these for texture. But, we tasted them, too (naturally), and, we’ll say that, even using ordinary cocoa, these cookies are okay and they do taste similar to brownies, but they’re lacking in chocolate flavor. When you make them, go all out and use a dark, rich cocoa. We will next time. The texture is nice, soft with the slightest crispness around the edges, but they hold together and don’t crumble, which happens to be the texture we want. So, with that, we think our secret plan is a go, and these cookies get four stars, provided you use a good cocoa; otherwise, just three.