There is often debate among brownie fans on whether it is better to be fudge-y or cake-y. I have mostly stayed away from this because I’m not enough of a brownie enthusiast to really care one way more than the other.
Besides, the only thing that really matters when it comes to the brownie is the slightly crisped edges and the crackled top. For me, that is where the beauty of the brownie lies.
But, let’s face it, unless you have one of those special “all edge” pans with their labyrinthine shape, someone is getting stuck with the middle bits.
And that’s how I thought things would always be, until I tried these flourless chocolate-walnut cookies.
OK, they are not brownies. For someone like me, they are even better. They are cookies that taste like the crinkled surface layer of a brownie with its slight chew and crackle goodness, studded with chunks of walnuts.
To be honest, flourless chocolate cookies were not high on my list of things to bake when I stumbled across the recipe. But I came upon it after I had put some egg whites in the freezer, unsure what to do with them after using up the yolks.
I could have saved them for a pavlova, but figured it was worth trying out something new.
The list of ingredients was straightforward, if not a bit puzzling. I’ve never measured out three cups of icing sugar for a cookie recipe before.
Nor was I actually convinced that the airy ingredients would transform in the oven to some sort of cookie delight.
However, it did have a few things going for it: I already had egg whites ready to go and the recipe reminded me of a package of cookies I bought from a chain store grocery store once.
I served them to friends with a dollop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between: a gourmet version of the childhood treat. It seemed worthwhile to see if these could compare. Or, as the case ended up being, improve on the store bakery version. The chocolate chew and nuts in a tender cookie package were so right. And they were light and not overly sweet. (Though, that was dangerous too, as it was easy to eat more than one or two and feel I still had room for another.) Mine did not get as shiny as I have seen in other people’s photos of the same type of cookies.
Normally I’d get a bit worried. Or envious.
Why do mine look different?
But after sampling one — OK, several — of the cookies, I realized I didn’t care what they looked like. They were fantastic.
I have since found myself trying to find recipes that use up only yolks so that I can take advantage of this cookie recipe again.
Francois Payard’s Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
from New York magazine
- 2¾ cups (675 mL) walnut halves
- 3 cups (750 mL) confectioners/ icing sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp (170 mL) unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spread the walnut halves on a large-rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Let cool slightly, then move the walnut halves to a work surface and coarsely chop them.
Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower temperature to 320°F (160°C). Line two large-rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk (or use an electric mixer on low speed) the confectioners’ sugar with the cocoa powder and salt followed by the chopped walnuts. While whisking (or once you change the speed to medium), add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened. Do not overbeat or it will stiffen.
Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking.
Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.