July 21, 2012

Chocolate & Salted Almond Shortbread Cookies

The Scharffen-Berger chocolate factory used to be just down the street from the school where I work. It was in a beautiful old industrial building on Heinz Avenue, and was originally a Heinz ketchup factory. They gave a pretty cool tour (with plenty of chocolate samples) and had a little shop which offered plentiful chocolate and even more samples. The best part of all this was that when I rode my bike past the factory every day on my way to work and again on my way home, I would inhale the aroma of chocolate. It was a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, Scharffen-Berger was purchased by Artisan Confection Company, which is a subsidiary of Hershey, and their production operations were moved elsewhere. My use of the word unfortunately here is not meant in a local, organic, sustainable, anti-corporation, anti-Hershey, Berkeley way; they are still making the same tasty chocolate as before, but I am saddened that I no longer get to breathe in chocolate on my way to work and stop by on my lunch break for samples. Oh well - we have moved since then anyway, and I now walk past Acme bread's bakery on 9th Street. And Artisan Confection has not changed Scharffen-Berger's chocolate at all - it's still just as delicious, and my absolute favorite chocolate bar of all time is their sea salted almonds and milk chocolate bar.

Please don't tell me that you don't like milk chocolate unless you've had this bar. It's 41 % cacao (by way of comparison, Hershey's has 11), and the milk gets a little caramelized in the chocolate making process (so I learned at the Scharffen-Berger factory tour); the salted almonds are in small slivers and are just perfect. The point of this long story was that I love this chocolate bar, and I wanted to make a cookie that would have the same flavor profile. I started with Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies, which are a basic chocolate shortbread. I added chopped almonds (with the skin on, for more flavor), some espresso powder, a bit of extra chocolate in chunk form, and a sprinkling of sea salt on top. The result - far, far better than breathing in chocolate smells on the way to work.

Chocolate & Salted Almond Shortbread Cookies (makes about 36)
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

- 1 and 1/4 cups flour
- 1/4 tsp fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling (substitute another chunky salt)
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp espresso powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 11 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, or chopped bar chocolate

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and baking soda. 

In an electric mixer, cream the butter, then add the two sugars, the vanilla, and the 1/4 teaspoon of fleur de sel and beat until fluffy (about 2 minutes). 

Add the flour mixture and beat until blended - turn the machine on gently to a low speed so you don't cause a flour/cocoa dust storm. The mixture will look very crumbly.

Add the almonds and chocolate chips, and turn the machine on low for just a few seconds until they are fairly evenly distributed.

Put the dough on a work surface and divide it in two; use your hands to shape each half into an eight inch long cylinder. Pat and press them gently to make sure they doesn't taper off at the ends too much, then wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours (or overnight).

When you're ready to bake, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Use a thin, sharp knife to cut the cookies into half inch thick disks (you may find that the chips and almonds make some of the cookies crumble a bit when you cut them - just smush them back together). Place the cookies about an inch apart on baking sheets, and sprinkle each cookie with an extra few grains of fleur de sel. Bake for 12 minutes (the cookies will be firm and dry, but will not really change color). Let them cool for at least ten minutes or so before eating them.

1 comment:

  1. Just made a double batch. These are FANTASTIC! Great recipe. I think I over-baked them a bit, and should have put a few more salt grains on each. But the rave reviews have me convinced that I need to make them again -- soon! Thanks for sharing this recipe!