Sunday, September 11, 2011

World Peace Cookies

I'm not sure when I heard about these cookies for the first time, but they've been on my to-bake list for a while. It was the name that first caught my attention.

"What could possibly be in those cookies?" I wondered. "Good listening skills? Understanding? Courage? Not just mere tolerance of people and cultures different from our own, but arms and hearts that embrace and celebrate our many differences?"

That would be one complicated cookie.

As it turns out, these cookies are not complicated at all. They are simple (albeit unorthodox) sables--shortbread cookies with a chocoately, salty twist.

While the story behind their name comes from Dorie Greenspan's neighbor who was convinced that a daily dose of these cookies would ensure peace the world round, I think the name is appropriate based on flavor alone.

With a little sweetness and a little saltiness, these cookies remind us that peace is all about balance. It's about taking something someone says (and in this case, the cookies we eat), with a grain of salt. It's about standing up for what we believe this case, chocolate. And it's a reminder that sometimes in order to achieve peace, we must have courage to take something we're comfortable with (shortbread cookies), and turn it on its head (Sea salt? In my cookies?!).

As I sit here in New York amid remembrances of 9/11, I'm not entirely convinced that a daily dose of these cookies would achieve world peace.

But they would be a start.

My thoughts and prayers are with all who lost loved ones on 9/11. May your hearts find peace. To all our readers--may each of us find ways--cookie baking or otherwise--to be daily instruments of peace for our families, our communities, and our world.


World Peace Cookies
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan via Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons total) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (I used 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Prepping the dough:
1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more. Turn off the mixer. 

3. Pour in the flour mixture, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours (I froze for 2 hours). (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Getting ready to bake
5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

6. Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them.

7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Serving: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature — I prefer them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest — and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.
Do ahead: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen for up to 2 months. They can also be frozen in log form for months, and can be sliced and baked directly from the freezer, adding a couple minutes to the baking time.

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