I’ve always heard you’re either a cook or a baker. I’m a baker. Don’t get me wrong; cooking my meals is my favorite part of every day. I feel blessed to have the ability to just instinctively whip things together based on what’s laying around, combine flavors, and to be able to confidently tweak and finagle recipes as I please. But I find true solace in the set ways and exact finickyness of baking. It’s like a loyal dog. If you have a well-trained and practiced recipe, you can always count on it to turn out exactly right. It will always be there to comfort if you need it. Does that make cooking like cats? They always say you’re either a dog person or a cat person…
Anyway, The only problem is, I don’t have much opportunity to bake too often. You see, as I’ve gotten older, I don’t actually crave sweets too much anymore. It all seems a bit to cloying now and I prefer something light and only slightly sweet like a piece of dark chocolate of a miniature scoop of ice cream each night after dinner. Yet how does one fulfill their baking needs without suddenly ending up with a house full of desserts that will go stale before a dent is even made in the lot? I do bake a lot of healthy breads for breakfast and often make ice cream knowing it will keep practically indefinitely in the freezer. Also, my current once-weekly pastry internship satisfies my baking needs and has also allowed me to make many deserts I’ve never even tried at home...like tuile string garnishes! And when I do bake at home, I give most of it away. There are few things in this world that please me more than making food for people. But even then I sometimes get the feeling that I’m forcing people, many of whom are trying to avoid all things sugary and indulgent nowadays, into taking something they feel obligated to eat.
With all of this said, I am happy to report the discovery of the perfect recipe for the not-so-sweet toothed yet baking obsessed and single living person. Tough standards, huh? These are cocoa nib shortbreads from Orangette via Alice Medrich and I swear I may never find a better cookie. They come together in about 5 minutes and are wrapped into a log shape in Clingfilm to sit in the fridge or freezer until you decide you want some cookies. You slice off however many you want from the dough log, bake them, enjoy them, and the rest of the dough waits nicely until a cookie craving sneaks up again. After baked they also keep extremely well, as in several weeks well. They even get better with age.
The best part is, they are just perfect in size and subtle in sweetness. They are wafer thin and disintegrate into salty little nibbly crumbs bursting with rich butteriness. The cocoa nibs add a sophisticated crunch and a deep roasted bitterness that I happen to quite like very much. And aren’t they pretty? They remind me almost of a speckled little bird’s egg, nutty brown and not quite round, with a few wobbly organically imperfect edges. They are nice with breakfast, dunked into coffee. I’ll have another alongside a cup of afternoon tea. These are actually great for sharing too if you don’t get too greedy and bake only enough for just you at a time. Just bring the cookie log over to a gathering of family and friends and bake them up right there, creating a warm toffee smell in the air. First off, no one will be able to resist after that aroma but they are so delicate, light and dainty, that it would be hard for even the most health conscious person to go on with life without having at least one. They may seem a little exotic (cocoa nibs?) but I know that even the most picky and cut and dry eaters will enjoy this classy take on the chocolate chip. Like my father, who promptly consumed six in a row the minute I set them on the counter. And he claims to hate chocolate and fancy food things, pshhh.
Cocoa Nib Shortbreads
from Orangette via Alice Medrich
makes 40-50 cookies
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you could also use a combo of 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole what flour)
14 Tbs. unsalted room temperature butter
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup roasted cocoa nibs
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla with the paddle attachment on medium speed for about 2 minutes. You want it to be smooth and lighter but not whipped. Add the cocoa nibs and beat just long enough until they are evenly distributed in the butter. Add the flour and again beat until everything is just mixed.
Dump the dough onto the counter and quickly knead it until it comes together and form it into a rough log shape about 12 inched long. Transfer this to a piece of cling film and tightly wrap it and shape it into a smoother log. Place in the refrigerator to set overnight or at least for a few hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a baking sheet with parchment or use a baking stone. Unwrap the dough and using a sharp knife, cut off ¼ inch slices and place them on the cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes or until the edges are just starting to brown. Let cool on the sheet briefly and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for a few weeks.