Monday, 2 April 2012

Chocolate "World Peace" Biscuits

So it's all very well dangling salted caramel ice cream in your face, but what are you meant to eat it with? (Answer: a spoon! Ba-dum-tish. I know, I crack myself up). No, seriously. When you've got the world's richest, sweetest, most intense ice cream, how do you serve it up to your friends without knocking them out for the rest of the day?

It's a dilemma. I originally planned to serve it alongside some amazing chocolate fondants which, by the way, I am astounded to discover I haven't cooked in all the time I've had this blog (nearly a year!).

But the first taste of ice cream showed me that salted caramel ice cream + gooey, rich chocolate fondant = oh god, I feel a bit ill and the buttons have pinged off my jeans. That's not really the vibe I was going for. Back to the drawing board!

I then considered another ice cream (or, ahem, sorbet), some kind of wafer, an apple tart, a pear crumble, but kept worrying that everything would be just Too Much. So in the end, I went for the time honoured combination of ice cream and biscuit. Specifically, a chocolate cookie made with deep, dark, bitter chocolate, gleaned from my favourite American cooking blog and praised to the skies by hundreds of commenters. Plus, you know, it uses sea salt as well and I can't resist a theme. Salted puddings all round!

I'm  not exaggerating - honestly - when I say that I think these are the best chocolate biscuits I've ever made. They're incredibly light and crumbly, delicate, but studded with little gooey nuggets of chocolate which melt in the mouth. The flavour is dark and intense, incredibly moreish and...oh, just gorgeous. I had to make them a day ahead of our guests arriving and I was truly unsure whether we would manage to keep them until they arrived (update - we did, but it was a struggle). They're just..amazing. Do it. Make them, then you'll see.

And why the silly name? According to the original recipe, these are good enough that the original creator thought one batch would be enough to create world peace. I see where they were coming from but honestly, I'm not so sure. What about when there's only one left? I'll fight you for it.

Chocolate "World Peace" Cookies
From Smitten Kitchen (metric measurements from one of the comments below the recipe)

- 125g plain flour
- 35g cocoa powder
- 150g unsalted butter
- 130g light brown sugar (although we didn't have any, so I used golden caster)
- 50g caster sugar
- a teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste
- half a teaspoon of posh Maldon salt (or a quarter of a teaspoon of table salt)
- half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
- 150g of dark, good chocolate, chopped finely (we only had 120g so I used that)

Sieve the flour, cocoa and bicarb together into a bowl and set aside.

In a mixer (like my beloved Kitchen Aid) with the paddle attachment, or with an electric whisk / strong arm in a bowl, beat the butter on a medium speed until it's very soft and creamy, for a few minutes. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla, and beat for another 2 minutes.

Now, the name of the game is to work the mixture as little as possible once the flour has been added, to keep the biscuits crumbly rather than tough. The best way to do this is to add the flour/cocoa/bicarb combo, drape a tea towel over the top of the bowl (otherwise you'll get covered in flour) and start to pulse the mixer at a low speed for a couple of seconds. After five pulses, take a look - if there's still loads of flour on the surface, do another couple of pulses, if not then remove the tea towel.

Still on low, mix everything for about 30 seconds more, or just until the flour disappears into the dough. Don't worry if it looks crumbly, it's meant to. Pour in the chocolate chunks and mix for a few seconds to combine.

With your hands, shape the dough into a ball then divide it into two. Form each half into a log about 4cm in diameter - yes, it looks gross - and wrap each log in cling film. Put in the fridge for at least 3 hours, and up to 3 days (or you can freeze them at this stage, if you like - if so, don't bother to defrost before baking, just slice the log into rounds and bake for a minute or so longer).

Once you're ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 160C and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment. With a sharp knife, cut the logs into circles about a centimetre thick (they'll crack as you cut them, but try to squeeze them back into rounds). Space them out with a few cm between them.

Bake for 12 minutes then cool on a rack until your self-control breaks and you scoff your face. I had to make these the day before we had people round and I can confirm that they were just as good after 24 hours in an airtight tin. You can also freeze them cooked, as well as raw.

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