Sunday, December 31, 2006

World Peace (Cookies) in the New Year

Technically, I still have through today to bake Christmas cookies, right? Who's gonna stop me? The Diet Police won't be issuing calorie violations until next week. And they won't start running the gym membership and weight loss program commercials on an endless loop until then either, nor the low-fat, lightened-up recipe programs on the Food Network for a few more days. So I say, what better way to ring in the New Year than with COOKIES?! And I made two winners this afternoon. The first I happened upon, of all places, at NPR's website. I had heard a program that aired recently with Dorie Greenspan promoting her new cookbook. The particular cookie featured was rugelach, but when I did a search for the recipe, I happily discovered some wonderful-sounding sable recipes as well. I will get to the "plain" sables and their variations (pecan, spice, and lemon) in good time, but today, we wanted something chocolately in the house. So I tried the cookies formerly known as Korova Cookies but re-dubbed World Peace Cookies when a taster decided that one bite of these exquisitely chocolatety gems could bring together all nations and peoples. What an appropriate sentiment as we usher in 2007! The cookies remind me quite a bit of the beloved Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies, but richer and more chocolatey, with a bite of saltiness instead of the heat from cayenne and cinnamon.

The second cookie I made was a white chocolate macadamia variety. I have been jonesing for some of these since I brought home real white chocolate chips from Trader Joe's just after Thanksgiving. And macadamia nuts are one of my favorite foods in the whole world. You know, I spent four years in Hawaii as young child (from infancy to age four), so of course, I don't remember much about it. But I still love swimming in the ocean, going barefoot, and eating things like rice and macadamia nuts (not necessarily together, but then again, that doesn't sound bad...a kind of tropical pilaf, perhaps?). In any case, Anna at Cookie Madness must have been on the same wavelength, as she baked two different versions of macadamia cookies this week (one with white chocolate and one with butterscotch chips). I took guidance from both recipes and sort of amalgamated the two with one or two teeny adaptations of my own. They turned out just heavenly! The secret? Browning then cooling the butter back to a solid form before making the cookies. YUM! If there is anything in the world better than the flavor of browned butter, I'm sure I don't know what it is! It adds such a nutty, salty flavor with overtones of caramel that pairs perfectly with the macadamias and the white chocolate. Delish! The recipes follow.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone! (And don't let them take your Christmas cookies away until they pry them from your cold, dead hands!)

World Peace Cookies

(Source: Dorie Greenspan on

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Makes about 36 cookies (I only got 16 out of each roll=32)

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek -- if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough -- for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don't be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you've frozen the dough, you needn't defrost it before baking -- just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you're cutting them -- don't be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes -- they won't look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

SERVING: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature -- Greenspan prefers them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest -- and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.

STORING: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen for up to 2 months.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
(Source: Cookie Madness )

2 sticks butter (Anna used salted, and so did I)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
scant 1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (could omit salt altogether if using salted nuts)
1 generous cup halved macadamia nuts (I used the roasted and salted kind)
1 cup white chocolate chips (real ones, not "white morsels")

First, brown the butter. Place butter in a saucepan and heat over medium until the butter melts, smells good and turns brown around the edges. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Butter might foam up a bit. Remove from heat and pour butter into mixing bowl. Place mixing bowl in refrigerator for two hours or until butter is just set but still kind of soft. If you leave it in longer, you’ll need to soften it again. (I used a fairly shallow bowl, and the cooling time was just over an hour.)

Add both sugars to the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and cream together. Beat in egg, vanilla and milk. Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture just until incorporated. Mix in toasted macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips. (Then this is an optional step, but I chilled my dough for at least an hour before baking off the cookies--I always think this is best with buttery doughs.)

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto a Silpat (or parchment)-lined pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes (11-13 – check at 11). Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 4 dozen.

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