Christmas is long gone, winter is in full swing and in a week, I am going back to work after a long but super fun maternity leave. I do still find myself pining over all the merrymaking and all the merry baking done over the holidays. As I am pretty impressed with myself for diving head first into the world of baking cookies, I want to share with you one of my successes.
This past Christmas, I went full throttle on the baking front, compensating for being kept on the sidelines in 2011. I was on the couch that Christmas, watching the hubbub whilst growing a baby. Oh, but this time I was unstoppable! I even recruited one of my sisters on Christmas Eve to watch over my munchkins so I can try to make more sweets for the night’s dinner party. The recipe I chose, Pierre Herme’s Korova Cookies, turned out to be a big hit at my mom’s Christmas Eve dinner, our Filipino Noche Buena.
Korova Cookies is among the collection of luscious deserts in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets. Her cookbook is a treasure trove of decadent desserts, pastries and treats, each recipe authored by a renowned French chef or originating from a popular patisserie. All of the sweet shops featured in the book are beloved institutions in Paris and each pastry chef, an icon.
For example, Stohrer, a beautiful patisserie in Les Halles, is 300 plus years old and a permanent fixture in the 1st district. The founder, Monsieur Stohrer was Louis the 15th’s chef! At Stohrer, I first tasted what real croissants should taste like. The kind that still smells of butter even after you’re done gobbling it up. Not the kind you get bulk at Costco or one that hides behind a plexiglass in the bread section of Safeway. It cannot be used for ham and cheese sandwiches no matter how much we may secretly enjoy it. Pastries from places like Stohrer are the kind so satisfying you only need one to make you happy. But I digress.
My point is, Greenspan’s Paris Sweets is awesome and if you love baking and cookbooks, you should add this book to your collection. I bought my copy from Amazon.com for a great price. Click here to purchase your own copy.
Every recipe in Paris Sweets is to die for. It is fair to say, however, that a good number of the recipes are so intricate that you can tire yourself out just from reading them. As I used up most of my sister’s baby sitting time making Genoise cupcakes, I needed a quick recipe to make before she had to go back and help with the evening’s festivities. I settled for the Korova Cookies because it seemed easy and delicious. The result, a cookie that had deep chocolate flavours and one that melted in your mouth. Its decadence does not at all betray the fact that it can be made in practically no time.
If you’re in a pinch but you want to impress, make this recipe! It is sure to make you popular.
Adapted from Pierre Hermé Paris from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablesppons (5 1/2) ounces; 150 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (120 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces (150 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits [I was in a rush so I used chocolate chip cookies and it worked perfectly fine.]
- Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda together and set aside. Using your paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light in colour and creamy in appearance. Add the sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for another minute or two. At this point, the recipe says to reduce the speed to low and add the sifted dry ingredients but, honestly, I have never been able to add flour in a moving mixer no matter how low the speed is without making a horrible mess. If you’re like me, best to stop the mixer altogether when adding dry ingredients. Just make sure they are incorporated at each stage of the addition. Add the chocolate pieces and mix. Just before it is fully incorporated, taking care not to overwork the dough, I stop the mixer and manually mix the dough with the paddle attachment. A few strokes will do. This gives me a chance to scrape up the bits of ingredients stuck at the bottom of the mixing bowl and incorporate it with the rest of the mixture. The mixture should look crumbly.
- Rather than turning the crumbly dough onto your clean kitchen counter, a quick, less messy trick I learned from my sister (the real cookie baker in the family) is turning butter-based dough onto a plastic wrap and use that wrap to gather and shape the dough. For this recipe, cut two sheets of plastic wrap, divide and turn the dough onto each wrap. Shape each dough into logs by lightly squeezing and lengthening the dough. Wrap the lengthened dough with plastic; wring both ends of the plastic and then roll the dough back and forth on the flat surface until it is shaped like a log and is 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter. I find that this method eliminates any air pockets. Chill for at least 2 hours. The dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for a month. But really, you won’t be able to resist baking these cookies as soon as the 2 hour chilling time is up.
- Preheat the oven to 325 °F (165 °C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Using a sharp thin-bladed knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick. The rounds will break just as the recipe forewarns. I found that the reason for this was the chunks of chocolate pieces hardened by the chilling process. Don’t panic! Simply squeeze the broken-off bit back onto the cookie and reshape. Place the cookies on the prepared sheets about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart.
- Bake one sheet of cookie on the center rack of the oven for 12 minutes, no more no less. The cookies will come out looking undercook but this is exactly what the recipe calls for. Cool the baking sheet on a rack and let it stand until the cookies reach room temperature. Do the same with the second sheet of cookies.
This is a perfect recipe to make ahead of the time as the dough can be chilled for 3 days or frozen. The recipe suggests that frozen dough need not be defrosted. It can be sliced and baked frozen. Simply add an extra minute to the baking time. The cookies may be stored in an airtight container for 3 days but who cam I kidding? These cookies, in an undisciplined household like mine, will not last 3 hours let alone 3 days!