Baking Cookies with Chef Dorie Greenspan

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Dorie Greenspan's "Little Rascals"

Just in time for the holidays, award-winning chef and cookbook author Dorie Greenspan joins us to talk about her new book Dorie’s Cookies. Dorie has created more than 300 cookie recipes over the course of her 30-year career, and for the first time she’s compiled them into a curated selection of 170 recipes including her “World Peace Cookies” (chocolate shortbread), Snowy-topped Brownie Drops and Blueberry Buttermilk Pie Bars.

Recipes

Chunkers

Makes about 18 cookies

Unlike most of the cookies on the Beurre & Sel list, these are scoop-and- bake free-forms. They are chubby and chockablock with chopped-up good things that poke out of the cookies at every which angle. Famously disorderly, they are phenomenally delicious. Among the Beurre & Sel customers, they had a serious following.

There are chopped salted cashews in the mix; winey, sweet-tart dried cherries; chopped milk chocolate; and both chopped and melted bitter- sweet chocolate. You need a lot of chocolate — more than a pound! — and every penny that you put into buying great chocolate for these will come back to you in oohs, aahs and culinary contentment. There’s no question that Chunkers are one of the world’s great cookies.

A word on technique: To get the very best texture — and with these, that means that the cookie gets softer as you approach the center — give the eggs and sugar the full measure of time in the mixer, add the melted ingredients while they’re still warm and fold in the rest of the ingredients as efficiently as you can. Scoop the cookies while the dough is still warm, and don’t second-guess yourself — they’ll look seriously underbaked when you take them out of the oven, but they’ll firm to perfection on a rack.

1 cup (5 ounces; 141 grams) plump, moist dried cherries, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup (45 grams) all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons (26 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder

½  teaspoon fine sea salt

¼  teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons (1½ ounces; 43 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

13 ounces (368 grams) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

8 ounces (226 grams) salted cashews, coarsely chopped

6 ounces (170 grams) best-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 large eggs, at room temperature

¾  cup (150 grams) sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 325 degrees F. (If your oven has hot spots, center the rack and bake one sheet at a time because it’s best not to have to open the oven and take the time to rotate the sheets during the short bake.) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Cover the bottom of a flat-bottomed jar or glass with plastic wrap.

Put the chopped cherries in a bowl, cover with very hot tap water and let soak while you put together the rest of the ingredients. When you’re ready for them, drain and pat dry between paper towels.

Whisk the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder together.

Put the butter in a medium heatproof bowl. Scatter over 7 ounces (198 grams) of the bittersweet chocolate and place the bowl over a saucepan of water; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and slowly melt the butter and chocolate. Stir occasionally and be careful not to overheat the mixture — you don’t want the chocolate and butter to get so hot that they separate.

Toss the remaining 6 ounces (170 grams) bittersweet chocolate, the cashews, milk chocolate and cherries together in another bowl.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes (don’t skimp on the time), until the eggs are pale and the whisk leaves tracks. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on medium-low, scrape in the warm melted butter and chocolate and mix just until incorporated. Switch to a sturdy flexible spatula and, as gently as you can with this heavy batter, fold in the flour mixture, making certain that you get to anything that’s at the bottom of the bowl. When almost all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, add the chopped chocolate, nuts and cherries, folding and stirring until they’re mixed in. (Everything will be chocolate-covered except the cashews; their oil makes them somewhat resistant to coating.)

Using a large cookie scoop, scoop out level portions of the warm dough or use a tablespoon to get heaping spoonfuls, placing the mounds of dough about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Use the bottom of the jar to lightly press down on each mound — you’re aiming to get a puck with a diameter of 2½ inches.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 11 minutes, or until the tops, which will crack, are mostly dry — the centers might look wet and unbaked. The cookies will still be very soft (don’t try to budge them). Go by time, and have faith. Transfer the baking sheets to a rack and let the cookies cool and set for about 30 minutes, until you can lift them from the parchment paper. If you haven’t done so, bake the second sheet.

Storing

The flattened pucks of dough can be frozen for up to 2 months. Do not defrost before baking; leave at room temperature while you preheat the oven. The cookies are at their most splendid the day they’re made. In fact, nothing beats a Chunker that’s just a couple of hours out of the oven. However, they’ll keep, covered, at room temperature for about 2 days. And they can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 2 months. 

Little Rascals

When I discovered that the German name for these cookies, which I grew up with, translated as “Little Rascals,” it made me love them even more. Not that their proper name, Spitzbuben, didn’t also sound comical to my American ears, but Little Rascals was irresistible. Happily, the cookie is as irresistible as its name. Essentially jam-filled sandwich cookies, these are made with walnuts and very little flavoring: a pinch of cinnamon, if you’d like; a scrape of lemon zest, if that’s your fancy. Mostly the flavor is butter, sugar and nuts. The texture is best described as crumbly and a little gritty (in the best way). Half the cookies, which are always made small and often made for Christmas, are baked whole and the other half are given peek-a-boo cutouts. When the cookies are cool, they’re sandwiched with a tiny bit of jam that pushes up alluringly through the cutout. They seem a lot like linzer cookies’ simpler cousins, don’t they? And wouldn’t they be great for Valentine’s Day if you used heart-shaped cutters?

A word on the jam filling: If you’d like, you can bring the jam to a boil (I do this in the microwave), let it cool and then spoon it onto the cookies—boiling will thicken the jam and make it less sticky. But using jam straight from the jar is fine too.

Makes about 28 sandwiches

2/3 cup (134 grams) sugar

2/3 cup (80 grams) walnuts (whole or pieces)

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)

A little freshly grated lemon zest (optional)

1 1/4 cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour

1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces; 113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Thick jam, such as raspberry, strawberry, cherry or apricot

Put the sugar, walnuts, salt, and cinnamon and zest, if you’re using them, in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are ground. It’s better to have a few discernible pieces of nuts than nut butter, so keep an eye on the mix as you go. Add the flour and process to incorporate. Scatter over the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture forms crumbs and resembles streusel. Add the egg a little at a time, pulsing after each bit goes in. Pulse a few more times, until you have a soft dough.

Scrape the dough out onto a work surface, divide it in half and shape each into a disk.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough 1/4 inch thick between sheets of parchment. Slide the dough, still sandwiched between the paper, onto a baking sheet—you can stack the slabs—and freeze for at least 1 hour; longer is better. This dough remains soft even when frozen, so it’s best to get it as cold as you can before cutting it.

When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Have two cookie cutters at the ready: one 1 1/2 inches in diameter and the other a little less than 1 inch (the cutters can be plain or scallop-edged).

Pull out one piece of dough; keep the other in the freezer. Peel away both sheets of parchment and return the dough to one sheet. Working quickly, cut out as many 1 1/2- inch rounds as you can, placing them on the baking sheet a scant 2 inches apart. Use the smaller cutter to remove the centers of half of the cookies. If the dough breaks while you’re cutting out the centers, patch it; if the dough is really soft and you’re not having fun cutting it, slide the baking sheet into the freezer and give it a 10-minute chill. Reserve the scraps, then combine the scraps from the second piece of dough, shape into a disk, roll, freeze, cut and bake.

Bake the cookies for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the sheet after 10 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and allow the cookies to cool completely.

Repeat with the remaining dough, always using a cool baking sheet.

To finish the cookies, dust the cut-out cookies with confectioners’ sugar. Turn the whole cookies over, bottoms up, and place about 1/2 teaspoon of jam in the center of each one. Top with the cut-out cookies, pressing down lightly to push the jam toward the edges.

Storing

Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months; cut and bake directly from the freezer, adding another minute or two to the baking time if needed. Covered, the cookies will be fine at room temperature for up to 2 days. They’ll get a little softer because of the jam, but they’ll still be nice.

All recipes excerpted from DORIE’S COOKIES © 2016 by Dorie Greenspan Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Rux Martin Books. All rights reserved.