Next, I had to get the chocolate just right. Weighing the merits of the different types of chocolate, I settled on a combination of bittersweet (60% cocoa) chips and cocoa nibs.
Then there's the cocoa nibs. I've thought a lot about the cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs are "raw chocolate", roasted, husked cocoa beans broken into pieces. They give the oatmeal cookie a bitter, salty edge. Not too sweet.
Old-fashioned oats make the cookies hearty, with a stick-to-the-ribs quality that makes them the perfect snack in the backcountry, after school, and as the occasional emergency breakfast.
I was really liking my latest version of Oatmeal Bittersweet Chocolate and Cocoa Nib Cookies, so I tried them out on my foodie friends at a dinner party last week. When Laura, who has a reputation for her fine desserts, asked for the recipe after one bite, I knew my recipe was done; no more tinkering. Laura knows a good cookie when she tastes it.
1. Do not overbake them. The cookies should be slightly underdone when they come out of the oven. They will set up if left on the hot cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a rack.
2. Chill the dough before you bake. I know it's difficult to have a big bowl of dough in the refrigerator, and I can never resist the temptation to nosh on the dough all day long. But resting the dough for several hours relaxes the gluten and evens out the moisture, and chilling the dough will keep the cookies from spreading out in the oven.
Here are a few more tips about baking cookies in general:
1. Use unsalted butter, and let it soften to room temperature. It's just right when you can make a dent in it with your finger. It shouldn't be so soft that it can't sit up straight.
2. Use room temperature eggs, too. My house tends to be cold this time of year, so I put the eggs in a glass of warm tap water while I assemble the rest of the ingredients (Mis en Place, remember?). It only takes a few minutes for the eggs to warm up.
4. Use sea salt or kosher salt for better flavor, especially when baking with chocolate and vanilla.
5. Cream the butter and the sugars thoroughly; don't be afraid to give your standing mixer a work-out. But once you add the flour, mix gently. If you overmix the dough at this point, it will be tough. It helps to mix initially with the standing mixer on low for just a few turns, then finish the job by hand. Mix just until the flour is incorporated.
6. Most cookie doughs will benefit from a few hours of resting in the fridge. I like to make my cookie dough one day, and bake the cookies the next. I have to hide the dough from myself and others, but it's worth it.
Oatmeal bittersweet chocolate and cocoa nib cookies
The cocoa nibs can be omitted if you don't like the bitter taste. Also, feel free to use semisweet chocolate chips instead of bittersweet, or use a combination of the two.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cups at lower altitudes)
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- heaping 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
- 1 1/8 cups packed light brown sugar (1 1/4 cups at lower altitudes)
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- scant 1/2 cup sugar (1/2 cup at lower altitudes).
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 Tbsp. milk (2 Tbsp. at lower altitudes)
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
- 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips or semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/8 to 1/4 cup cocoa nibs, crushed into small pieces (if you are new to cocoa nibs, try the smaller amount...it's an acquired taste).
- Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
- Using a standing mixer or a hand mixer, beat the butter with the brown and white sugars until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, the milk and the vanilla extract.
- Scrape the bowl down with a plastic spatula, and beat a bit more.
- Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing gently with each addition. Do not overmix!
- Add the oats, chocolate chips, and cocoa nibs. Mix gently, just until incorporated. Finish mixing by hand if needed.
- Chill the dough in the refrigerator, if you have time.
- Drop by rounded heaping tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment of a silicon mat. An ice cream scoop works nicely for this.
- Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit, 10-14 minutes. Watch closely just before the 10 minute mark; your oven may bake more quickly than mine.
- Remove the cookies when they are just a bit underdone, brown on the edges, and a bit gooey in the middle. Let sit on the hot cookie sheet for another few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To make Laura's Chocolate Ginger Tart, go to http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Dark-Chocolate-Tart-with-Gingersnap-Crust-240695
Jackson Whole Grocer usually carries cocoa nibs.