Baking Advent: celebrating the festive season with a different daily baked good.
Crisp-edged, with a dense, intensely chocolatey centre and, the icing sugar they’re rolled in before baking adding a dose of sweetness as well as a crackling top in a contrasting colour, there is much to recommend about these biscuits.
I first found this recipe on a blog many, many years ago. Although I couldn’t find the recipe there, it may have been from Jennifer Hamilton’s Domestic Goddess blog, and she stopped posting in 2012 (it appears to have originated in a Williams Sonoma baking book, but Williams Sonoma is not a Thing in the UK so I’ve never seen the books). I thought the recipe was lost forever, but found a version I’d printed off in a ring binder, to my great relief.
I was going through a phase then of printing off a lot of the recipes I used and saving them. It was a somewhat sad time for me: I had just returned to university after a year off between my first and second years and was feeling very rootless during that period of readjustment. Leaving home for university is often dislocating anyway, and I had travelled very far to go to my dream subject at my dream university in London. Of course things were exciting, and I’m still so close to the friends I made there, but once the initial excitement wore off and life caught up (as it does for so many students between the first year – all structured halls of residence and navigating essay deadlines in the knowledge that the first year rarely counts towards your final degree, and second year, where the marks start to count and you become responsible for your own housing and bills and sometimes even food, if you were living in catered halls before), I felt a little unfettered, and not necessarily in a good way. The recipes in a ring binder were, for me, an attempt to create a kind of anchoring domesticity, trying to capture and codify the things that will mean home – different ways of roasting chicken, a frequently-used recipe of jhal faraizi which used leftover beef, and crispy truffle cookies, captured and bound. Now, I cook quite differently to those days and reading through the binder is a reminder of what we ate, and when and where we ate it. The jhal faraizi, cumin seeds sizzling in our kitchen in Lewisham, trying to avoid breathing in the green chilli fumes, pressing the potatoes flat; salmon fishcakes in our flat in Bloomsbury, peas escaping through the gaps in the electric coils on the stove; the truffle cookies which my boyfriend couldn’t stop eating as they came off the baking sheet.
But even if you don’t share this nostalgia, the cookies speak for themselves. There are a lot of recipes out there for ‘crackle cookies’, and many of them seem to use vegetable oil. I have no real beef with vegetable oil – I use it in my cooking and baking from time to time – but I think the rich butteriness is part of these cookies’ charm and simple perfection. They are quite intensely sweet and rich – perfect for sharing, although I will admit I hardly shared this batch at all. I’m sure you could easily dial back the sugar if wished.
Crispy Truffle Cookies
Note: I used a small cookie scoop – the kind with a lever and spring, like an old-fashioned ice-cream scoop, kind with a lever and spring, like an old-fashioned ice-cream scoop, to portion these out, resulting in 48 quite small, perfectly uniform cookies. If you don’t have a scoop, a generous teaspoonful, teaspoon-and-a-half or a scant half-tablespoon size would work to roll into balls just under 2cm.
The original recipe suggested a baking time of up to 12 minutes. My oven was heated exactly (I measured it) to 190C and, at that temperature and given the size of my cookies (see note), they were perfectly baked with yielding, fudgy centres after ten minutes and harder, chalkier and slightly burnt at 12 minutes, so go cautiously.
- 85g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 55g dark chocolate, chopped (slightly smaller pieces than the butter)
- 200g caster sugar (granulated is fine too)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 115g plain flour
- 30g plain cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 55g icing sugar, to dredge
- In a small saucepan, over a low heat, gently melt the butter and sugar together, stirring occasionally, until just melted and smooth.
- Transfer to a large bowl and let cool a little. Stir in the sugar and mix completely so that all the sugar is moistened evenly by the butter-chocolate mixture.
- Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt together. Add in batches to the chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Once evenly mixed, wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm – it takes about an hour.
- Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 190C. Line a couple of flat baking trays with baking paper.
- Remove the dough from the fridge. Shape into round balls, about 2cm (see note – mine were certainly a scant 2cm). Roll the balls of dough in the icing sugar, coating them completely. Place about 4cm apart on the baking trays – DO NOT FLATTEN – and bake in batches, about 10-12 minutes. They will look slightly puffed and cracked on top. The cookies may seem soft or underdone but they do firm up quite a bit out of the oven, so try to avoid overbaking (hard to tell because of their dark colour).
- Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes on the baking trays, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.