My new double agent trick to crinkle cookies
Two sugars, two coatings and you've got a snowy, crinkle top for these brownies-turned-cookie treats
Since my mother was neither a cook nor a baker and decidedly not crafty, I didn’t grow up with a tradition of dyeing eggs for Easter, or making hamantaschen for Purim, King’s Cake for Epiphany or anything special for either Hanukah or Christmas. There were no cookie boxes, no cookie swaps, no recipes for cookies that only turned up for holidays, although there were plenty of cookies — cookies from boxes (Mallomars were our favorites), cookies from the local bakeries (I’d pick the Linzer cookies out of the box as soon as my Mom brought them home) and cookies that my grandmother baked (poppy and sugar made from scraps of dough). All of the cookies were good, but none of them held a place in a tradition and none of them knew any seasons, except maybe the Mallomars, which went out of production over the summer, when the heat wreaked havoc on the chocolate coating.
Even as a grown-up, a daily baker and a cookie lover, cookies were anytime and always treats. I made jam cookies as often in the spring as I did in the fall. Brownies were a no-matter-when bake. Butter cookies were forever. And anything chocolate was all-the-time. I knew that I was missing something by not having a tradition — missing the anticipation, the delight that comes from waiting and the joy when it’s finally time to bake and eat the cookies. I also knew that I didn’t have the patience for tradition. I knew I’d cheat.
And I guess I did cheat, because when I mentioned that I’d recently turned my recipe for chocolate crinkles upside down, a friend asked why I was making them before Christmas.
If you’ve got a holiday tradition that includes crinkles, aka quake or crackle cookies (I called them Snowy-Topped Brownie Drops in DORIE’S COOKIES), tuck this edition of the newsletter away until Christmas. If you’re not bound by the calendar — or if you’re willing to cheat for chocolate — read on.
First They Were Brownies, Then I Made Them into Cookies
I was late coming to this type of cookie — a chocolate cookie that gets rolled in confectioners’ sugar so that when it bakes, the top cracks and creates an unpredictable, crevassed landscape. And while I can’t remember why I wanted to have the cookie in my repertoire, I do remember wanting to find a way to turn a brownie into a cookie. In fact, in my original version, I started with my classic brownie recipe, adding more flour to it and baking it as a scooped cookie rather than using a pan to shape the dough.
Back then, I made the dough just as I’d make a brownie, mixing everything in the bowl I used to melt the chocolate. I loved the cookie. A lot of you did too. It really didn’t need to be changed. But then I read something about a new way of sugaring the cookies, one that helped keep the confectioners’ sugar in place during baking, and I was intrigued.
Changing Up the Mixing
I pulled out my recipe, measured my ingredients and then had a thought — why not mix them the way I’d mix a cake? Also, why not add some cocoa to the mix? Why not bake them at a lower temperature? And why not try to make them a little softer? A little fudgier? I knew that even using the same ingredients, if I changed the way they were blended together, I’d change the way the dough baked. I just didn’t know for sure how it would change. This is a long, long way from the scientific method I learned in middle school — I knew I was only supposed to change one variable at a time, but I was in an in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound mood. Besides, what I was really interested in was the sugar-coating — this was just playing around for fun.
The Secret to a Good Sugar Top
The tip that sent me into the kitchen was to give the chilled dough a double coating of sugar. First roll the cookies in granulated sugar and then roll them in powdered (confectioners’) sugar. If the idea of getting a powder coat with holding power excites you as much as it did me, then you can see why I was ready to stop everything and try it.
A Different Secret to a Good Sugar Top
Because I’m a playing-arounder by nature, just as I was about to fill a bowl with granulated sugar for the undercoat, I changed my mind — I went for raw sugar. And then I went for turbinado, and after that demerara and finally granulated. And you know what? While they were each a little different, they were all great! The one-two coating gave the cookies a one-two crunch. The first round of sugar acted like a raincoat — it kept the cookie dough from absorbing the powdered sugar. It also gave it a little crackle — a good thing in a crinkle. I loved the cookies — which are rich and fudgy and doubly chocolatey.
Crackly Chocolate Crinkles — a treat. I hope you love them.
Unless otherwise noted, most photos are by Mary Dodd. Thank you, Mary!
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CRACKLY CHOCOLATE CRINKLES
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START
Plan ahead: The dough comes together quickly, but when it does, it’s too soft to work with, so you’ve got to refrigerate it for at least 3 hours or for up to 3 days. There’s no rushing goodness.
The butter-chocolate melt: Keep an eye on the butter and chocolate as they melt — you don’t want the mixture to get so hot that the ingredients separate. Go slow and stir from time to time so that when both the butter and chocolate are melted, you’ve got a smooth, creamy blend.
One at a time: Of course you can bake two sheets of cookies at once, but I hope you won’t. These only bake for a very short time, and you’ll get the most even bake if you center the oven rack and bake one sheet at a time.
Makes about 38 cookies
6 tablespoons (3 ounces; 85 grams) unsalted butter
6 ounces (170 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup (102 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (strained, if lumpy)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 2/3 cup (133 grams) raw, granulated, turbinado or demerara sugar, for coating
About 2/3 cup (80 grams) confectioners’ sugar, for coating
Cut the butter into pieces and place them in a heatproof bowl that fits snuggly over a saucepan. Finely chop one-third of the chocolate (2 ounces; 57 grams) and keep it to the side. Coarsely chop the remaining chocolate (4 ounces; 113 grams) and scatter the pieces over the butter. Fill a saucepan halfway with water, settle the bowl in the pan – make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water — and place over medium heat. Warm, stirring occasionally, until both the butter and chocolate are melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny (see above). Remove the bowl from the saucepan; set aside.
Meanwhile, whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together; set aside.
Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand mixer (or a whisk and human-power), beat the eggs and sugar together on medium speed until pale and slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape the bowl and beaters, reduce the speed to low and blend in the chocolate-butter mixture. Switch to a flexible spatula and stir in the dry ingredients — do this in two or three additions, using a movement that’s between stirring and folding. When the flour mixture is almost fully incorporated, add the set-aside chopped chocolate and stir until the dough is thick, shiny and well blended.
Press a piece of plastic wrap against the top of the dough to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or for up to 3 days.
WHEN YOU’RE READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Because the cookies only bake for a short time, I like to bake one sheet at a time. If you prefer, you can position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and bake two sheets at once — unless your oven has serious hotspots, bake the cookies straight through without opening the oven door or rotating the sheets.
Put some raw (or one of the other choices of) sugar in one bowl and some confectioners’ sugar in another. Have a small cookie scoop (one with a capacity of about 1 tablespoon) or a tablespoon at hand. (If you’re using a spoon, you might want to have two: one to measure the dough and the other to push the dough off the spoon.)
Scoop out the dough — you want a level tablespoon of dough for each cookie — and roll each scoop into a ball between your palms. One by one, drop the balls into the raw sugar, rolling them around to coat them evenly, and then into the confectioners’ sugar — get a generous, snowy coating on each ball. (This is messy business, so you might want to roll all the balls in the raw sugar, wash and dry your hands and then roll them in the powdered sugar.) I toss the balls from hand to hand a few times to get rid of the excess sugar. Arrange the balls on the baking sheet, leaving about two inches between each one.
Bake for 10 minutes — the cookies will crack; they’ll feel set around the edges and soft in the center. If you bake them a little longer, their insides will be a little firmer — a different kind of delicious: You really can’t go wrong here. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let sit for 2 minutes before carefully lifting the cookies off the sheet and onto the rack with a spatula. Repeat with the remaining dough, always using a cool baking sheet.
The cookies are ready to eat when they’re only slightly warm or when they reach room temperature. They’re great with ice cream in case you were wondering.
STORING: The cookies will keep for a couple of days at room temperature — they get a little crisper, but that’s nice. The sugar coating may seep into the cookie, in which case you can dust them with confectioners’ sugar. You can keep the dough, unsugared and unbaked, in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If frozen, defrost and then coat with the sugars.
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