January 23, 2011

Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies

It is a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon here in Berkeley. We have just returned from our Sunday routine, broken only for really rainy weather. Lucia and I get up, lounge around for a couple of hours, we both are notoriously early risers. Me with my Four Barrel coffee and her with her warm chocolate milk....watching Curious George or Olivia, reading the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times. This am, the dappled sun shining warmly in the window of our West Berkeley home, we were more inspired that others.

We awoke Troy finally at about 8am and by 9am we were out of the house and on our way to Mama's Royal Cafe on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland for breakfast. The kitchen was a little slow this am, but we had little to complain about with the temps in the mid 60s (yes....it is January folks!) and (gasp!) no line at all out front. True, we had to wait nearly 20 minutes for our food to arrive, but the wonderfully diverse, tatood servers were in amazingly friendly form and the coffee strong and good. We also, never go out to breakfast without Lucia's bag of tricks. For those of you without little folks in your everyday life, this is kid-code for color books, reams of drawing paper and several sets of washable markers. I ordered a version of eggs benedict (their hollandaise is light and lovely tarty lemony creamy goodness) with smoked salmon in place of the ham. Perfect eggs, really nicely brown and crisp potatoes with caramelized onions and of course the light yellow heaven on top.

As is our Sunday am tradition, we always go for a long, brisk walk after our Sunday breakfast out, and today, we found our way up to Lake Temescal in the hills approaching the Caldecott Tunnel. We parked the car in the shade, got our dog Bella out of the car and headed up the gentle rolling hills around the lake. It seemed that everyone was smiling today, happy for the sunshine and mild temperatures, bicyclists, kids, dogs, families playing soccer. It was lovely. After a stop at a playground for Lucia to cavort and burn off some energy and Bella to stare longingly at a handsome chocolate nosed would be boyfriend canine across the way, we headed home.

Daddy and daughter landed at the computer to play games and I.....who had been craving chocolate like crazy for several days on end, headed into the kitchen.

Having bookmarked several appealing recipes for chocolate cookies lately, I quickly read over several and landed on David Lebovitz's version of Cotilde's Very Chocolate Cookies. As I am a chef, and not a pastry person, I never (NEVER) follow a recipe to the letter. I should (sometimes) but alas, I don't. Today was no different. But in keeping with one of my vows for the new year, I actually wrote down the changes that I made.

The cookies, are delicious and as David plainly posts, you may not get to the baking of the cookies as the dough is soooo dense and chocolaty. The texture is slightly dry, but the lack of eggs in the formula quickly made me think that this recipe would easily and deliciously be made vegan by subbing out vegan chocolate and vegan margarine.

So, the next time the chocolate bug strikes, try these little gems. Use the best butter and the best chocolate that you can afford, and even if you think a little salt is weird with your chocolate, try a few sprinkled with Fleur de Sel. I am absolutely addicted to the combination. Also, make sure to cool the little disks completely before moving them as the dry texture firms up quite a bit when cool and they crumble easily when warm.

½ cup (70 g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (55 g) whole-wheat flour
¼ cup (25 g) unsweetened Ghiradelli cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
5 ounces (140 g) Guittard 60% dark chocolate chips
1/8 cup (30 g) espresso powder
½ cup, plus 1 tablespoon (125 g) salted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (100 g) (packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
optional: fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

1. In a small bowl, sift both flours, cocoa powder and baking soda together.

2. In a clean, dry bowl, microwave melt of the chocolate (2½ oz, 70g) to melt, then let cool to room temperature, (in my microwave it was 1 minute).

3. Beat the butter with a standing electric mixer just until smooth. Beat in the sugar and vanilla extract. Stir to incorporate.

4. Stir in the melted chocolate, then the flour-cocoa mixture. Then finally the chocolate chunks and espresso.

5. Scoop the dough with a teaspoon and roll into little balls. Place evenly-spaced on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten into disks with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle with fleur de sel, if desired, then bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies take on a slightly dry sheen to the top. Tap each cookie lightly with the flat part of a spatula about 2 minutes before removing from the oven. Cool completely before removing from the parchment.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from: