Saturday, December 17, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Baking: World Peace Cookies

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin...with these cookies.

This cookie recipe was a newcomer to the Christmas baking rotation this year. I honestly picked it for the title alone. A cookie that promises to be so delicious that, if given the opportunity, it may possibly serve to unite the nations of the world. A recipe that comes with such a lofty description is worthy of a try.

The recipe was a breeze to put together. The baking method is very similar to that of sables and shortbread, where the dough is refrigerated for several hours before being sliced into rounds or squares and baked.

After allowing the cookies to cool to room temperature, Paul and I performed a taste test. They sure didn't look like much, but they blew us away. Paul instantly declared: "WOW...these might be my new favorite cookies."

And I have to agree. They are that good.

They are completely different from any other cookie we have tried because of the addition of fleur de sel. This special type of salt has very wet flakes that are not as harsh on the palate as table salt. The soft flakes stay whole during the baking process and serve to enhance the chocolate and provide the taster with a delightfully surprising salty aftertaste. It is pretty hard to describe - but the finish of these cookies is both incredibly interesting and exotically exciting (how's that for some kick-ass alliteration?).

Matthew could not get enough of them. And his palate is the most difficult to please around here.

There really is no substitute for fleur de sel, although you could try using a fine sea salt. Fleur de sel should be available in the spice section of most grocery stores - although expect to get a bunch of funny looks when asking people at the grocery store for help locating it. One guy asked me if that was a type of plant food.

Paul is already preparing to whip up another batch. He is rarely motivated to make anything (besides steak) this is kind of a big deal.

World Peace Cookies
from Baking: from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (if using fine sea salt, reduce to 1/4 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces or a heaping 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda together.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt, and vanilla and beat for an additional 2 minutes.

Turn off the mixer and pour in the dry ingredients. Drape a kitchen towel (or use the protective shield of your stand mixer, if you have one) over the stand mixer to avoid being covered in flour. Pulse the mixer at low speed 5 times for 1-2 seconds until moistened. Remove the towel and continue to mix on low speed for 30 additional seconds - just until no more flour is visible. Try to work the dough as little as possible. Add in the chocolate pieces and mix just until incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide in half. Working with one half at a time, shape into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Repeat with the second half of dough.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Remove one log from the refrigerator and slice, using a sharp, thin knife, into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. The rounds will probably crack a bit, but just use your fingertips to press the pieces back into place. Arrange the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between each cookie. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove immediately and let the cookies cool to room temperature on the baking sheet set over a wire rack.

Repeat with the second portion of dough.

You should be able to get approximately 36 delicious cookies.

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