Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tender Loving Crackle Cookies

It's no coincidence that the acronym for this cookie recipe is "TLC" because that is exactly what they do. They offer tender loving care.

Tiny little bites chalk full of chocolate flavour.

Even though these look like the typical cookie you might find on your annual Christmas platter or cookie exchange, they are made in a rather unique way.

No creaming butter and sugar. No beating. Just one or two bowls, a spoon and your crafty hands.

The first steps in making these cookies seems a bit deceptive.

You might think you're on your way to making a pie. It looks like the beginnings of chocolate pastry dough but trust that they will turn into cookies. Have faith in the method. Have faith in the science of sweetness.

Step 1: Whisk all of the dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and then add cubes of cold butter.

Step 2: Rub the butter into the dry stuff until it is well distributed and the mixture looks like soil.

Sounds like pastry right? Trust.

This is how we create the "tender" in these TLC cookies. This technique physically coats the flour particles with fat from the butter. Fat acts as a moisture barrier to protect the proteins in the flour from coming into contact with water and forming gluten, which would otherwise give these cookies more cohesiveness and chewiness. Instead these turn out melt-in-your-mouth crumbly and perfectly delicate.

Unlike pastry, you want to really incorporate the butter - no need for little pea-sized pieces. We're after tender, not flaky. Plus, this dough is too wet for flaky, so we'd end up with unattractive greasy pools in the cookies if we were to leave bits of butter.

The chopped chocolate goes into the flour/cocoa/butter mixture before the wet ingredients.

A well beaten egg with some vanilla extract is all the moisture this needs to come together. Stir it into the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Then, a trip to the ice box is necessary to firm up the dough so that we can roll it into perfect little balls.

Before baking they need a generous coating of icing sugar to make these beautiful cracks look that much more evident.

To sum up, we've got little bites of tender melting chocolate cookies with bursts of dark chocolate throughout. It's twice the chocolate and twice the love. Just don't inhale too hard or you'll suck icing sugar straight up your nose. That's real.

With TLC,

Tender Loving Crackle Cookies
16-18 cookies

½ cup (71g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (25g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (115g) sugar
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp (42g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
85g (3 oz) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 large egg
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment papaer.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Rub butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in chopped chocolate.

Whisk together egg and vanilla in a small bowl. Add egg mixture to chocolate mixture and stir with a fork until mixture is moistened and combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Shape dough into small heaped teaspoon-sized balls. Douse each in powdered sugar to coat; place on prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just set but still slightly gooey in the dead centers. Let cool on sheets for just a minute before carefully transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Serve warm.

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