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What-if Cookies 

Experimenting with brown butter and chocolate chunks

click to enlarge After much experimentation, a cookie with four flours, tahini, brown butter and very dark chocolate.

Photo by Simona Carini

After much experimentation, a cookie with four flours, tahini, brown butter and very dark chocolate.

In my first piece of the new year, one might expect me to urge readers to eat more vegetables and offer one of the recipes I seem to be constantly developing. In our household we consume plenty; I find them endlessly inspiring. Often, my last thought before falling asleep is some idea for a soup, side dish or salad: "What if I pair X with Y?" The next day I spring into action to answer the question. But to dispel the notion that I eat only vegetables, this week I share a recipe for chocolate-rich cookies. (I also consume a fair amount of chocolate.)

At the end of last May, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a three-day weekend of cycling around San Luis Obispo. On the second day, after the ride, we drove to the oceanside town of Cayucos (north of Morro Bay) to visit a park. We lined up outside the popular Brown Butter Cookie Co. store and, while nibbling at half of a Chocolate Chunk, I decided to make my own version. A few days later, I saw a recipe for chocolate chunk cookies. After some research and recipe comparison, I chose it as the base of my experiments.

First, I used brown butter like the bakery in Cayucos. Then, I reached for whole-wheat flour for nutrition and texture. I complemented wheat flour with some with rye flour because I like rye and it goes well with chocolate. I played around with the sugar. I tried a smaller amount with coconut sugar. Chocolate cookies call for good quality chocolate, in my case extra-dark. I chop it by hand on a cutting board with a serrated knife and a pinch of patience. One day, while adding tahini to a dish, I remembered it is sometime used in cookies — what if I used a small amount in mine? It worked nicely.

These have a whole-grain texture and a stronger chocolate flavor, are softer and less sweet than those that inspired me. The chocolate is in small chunks to bite into and slivers that melt in your mouth. I rely on them as energy recharge after a run or bike ride. In this cold season, it is comforting to brew a cup of tea and nibble a cookie — or two. Bake some, then bake some more and gift them. They'll bring a big smile to anyone you share them with.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

For the whole wheat pastry flour, I use Beck's Bakery Stone Ground Whole Wheat and Soft White pastry flour. And for the Sprouted whole wheat, I use Humboldt Grain Girls Sprouted Organic Soft White Wheat Flour. Chop the chocolate and brown the butter in advance, so both ingredients are ready when needed.

Makes 16 cookies.

Ingredients:

5 ¼ ounces extra-dark chocolate (85-88 percent cacao) or your preferred percentage

2 ounces unsalted butter

Tahini or mild-flavored vegetable oil (such as avocado oil) to add to the brown butter to yield 2 ounces

2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus enough light brown sugar to yield 3 ½ ounces sugars total (or 2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons coconut sugar plus enough light brown sugar to yield 3 ½ ounces total)

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

1 large egg (preferably pasture raised), at room temperature

1 ½ ounces sifted all-purpose or pastry flour

1 ½ ounces dark rye flour 

1 ½ ounces whole-wheat pastry flour

1 ½ ounces sprouted whole wheat flour )or an additional 1 ½ ounces whole-wheat pastry flour)

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Place the chocolate on a cutting board and chop it using a serrated knife. Start at one corner of the chocolate and work your way toward the center approximately 1/8 inch at a time. Chop again with the blade perpendicular to the pieces for a small dice. The chocolate will also break into irregular shards which you'll also use.

Cut the butter into pieces and place in a small saucepan. Melt the butter and continue to stir over medium-low heat. The butter will foam then quickly turn golden and smell nutty. Remove the saucepan from the heat, pour the brown butter into a ramekin and let cool completely. It will set and can be refrigerated until ready to use.

Place the brown butter in a mixing bowl to bring it to room temperature. Add tahini or oil to yield 2 ounces total. Add the sugars to the fats and cream them, then beat in the egg and the vanilla extract.

Combine the sifted flours in a small mixing bowl. Sift in the baking soda and baking powder, then add the salt. Add about half of the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix briefly. Add the rest of the flours and mix just until the flours are incorporated. Finally, fold in the chopped chocolate using a spatula.

Place the mixing bowl in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, 1-2 hours if possible.

Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator. Weigh 1.1-1.2 ounces of dough for each cookie, roll it into a ball, place it on the baking sheet and tap the top to flatten it slightly. Leave 1 ½ to 2 inches of space between cookies.

Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely.

Store the cookies in a sealed container.

Simona Carini (she/her) also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog www.pulcetta.com and shares photographs on Instagram @simonacarini. She particularly likes to create still lives with produce from the farmers market.

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