This month, SHF is being hosted by celebrated pastry chef and cookbook author (not to mention celebrated food blogger), David Lebovitz. The theme of the month, an appropriately crowd-pleasing one for the beginning of the year, is Chocolate, by brand. So, you make a dessert with chocolate, but discuss the brand of chocolate that you bought, and the reason you chose it.
And as luck would have, I was already dying to try out a chocolate cookie that calls for both bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder, and would be just perfect for this event. I first saw World Peace Cookies on the blog I love Milk and Cookies. Even to my sweet-tooth-less self, these cookies looked decadent and delicious. They are from the book Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan, probably the most popular baking book that was published in 2006. I myself bought a copy of the book for the most enthusiastic and competent baker in my life, my friend Laureen.
The premise of world peace cookies is that they are so delicious that a daily dose would go a long way in ensuring a happy disposition and maintaining world peace. Not a bad thing these days!
I heaved a sigh of relief when I read the theme of this SHF. Buying chocolate is all an entirely confusing business to me and I can finally expect some help. For instance, this is what happened when I went to the local gourmet food store. I found the baking aisle, and came face-to-face with a towering wall of chocolate bars and cocoa tins. I could see 4-5 different brands of bittersweet chocolate, and the most expensive one was almost three times as expensive as the cheapest. I am completely willing to pay the price for good quality chocolate, but is price really a good indication of quality in case of chocolate? I don't like the taste of Hershey's chocolate (to my palate, it has an unpleasant fatty after-taste), so that was out. After much hemming and hawing, I tossed a coin between two regular supermarket brands, Ghiradelli and Nestle, and opted for the Nestle bittersweet chocolate bar. So I have no reason for choosing this brand except that I could not stand there all day staring at chocolate bars.
Where cocoa powder was concerned, the major decision was whether to use natural cocoa powder, which is distinctly acidic and bitter-tasting, or Dutch-processed (alkali-processed) cocoa powder, which is darker and milder. In my own highly unscientific scans of blogs and web-pages, bakers seem to prefer Dutch-processed cocoa. However, all the various tins in the store contained natural cocoa. I suspect that this has to do with people wanting to buy anything that proclaims "natural" on its label. In the end, I bought the brand Valrhona which is certainly a very high-end cocoa powder if nothing else. It said nothing about the processing at all on the box, so I doubt if it is dutch-processed.
The recipe for World Peace Cookies can be found on several websites, including those of public radio stations and national newspapers and on various food blogs. I used this very detailed recipe provided by Anita of the beautiful pastry blog Dessert First.
The cookie calls for a very short list of ingredients, and is relatively simple to make. It does not call for eggs at all, resulting in a buttery shortbread-like cookie.
- I started by setting out the butter to come to room temperature (took a few hours in this season).
- Then I used the food processor to chop the chocolate bar into little pieces. This is way easier than chopping the chocolate by hand, although the food processor made a frightful noise as it chopped the chocolate, and quite a bit of the chocolate ended up as chocolate dust rather than the small bits I was aspiring towards. It's all good (I think :)).
- Then I sifted the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together and set it aside.
- The subsequent steps called for an electric mixer but I don't own one, so I just did it all by hand, first creaming the butter, then mixing in white sugar, brown sugar, some sea salt and vanilla extract.
- Then the flour mixture was gently mixed in. Boy, was the dough sandy and crumbly.
- I formed two logs and put them in the refrigerator overnight.
- Once the logs are ready, baking the cookies only takes minutes. The hard part was slicing the dough...it really started to fall apart, but I just patched together the pieces and moved right along.
- The cookies are baked for only 12 minutes, and they emerge from the oven looking completely wet and under-done. But as they cooled, they did firm up and were just perfect in the end.
World peace cookies are more chocolatey than almost anything I have ever tasted. I sent them off with V to share with his colleagues (it is unwise to keep these cookies around the house unless you are trying to put on a few pounds fast) and everyone seemed to enjoy them.
See the wonderful round-up here.