We may be only a few weeks into the year, but if I were the betting sort, I’d wager that we’ve already laid eyes on the cookie of 2018, the sweet treat that has been, and will continue to be, all over Instagram, on blogs, and in various food and lifestyle publications. The cookie I speak of is, of course, the salted chocolate chunk shortbread — or, if we’re being official, the “Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread, or Why Would I Make Another Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever Again?” recipe from Alison Roman‘s first cookbook, Dining In.
Now, it’s hardly news that chocolate chip cookies are a crowd-pleaser, and yet I’ve never seen a chocolate chip (or in this case, chunk) cookie with such a following as Roman’s viral recipe. So while this wasn’t something that I had initially bookmarked* while flipping through Dining In (which I cannot recommend highly enough), I knew that I had to try these now-famous slice-and-bake cookies to see if the hype was real.
But before we go any farther, let’s briefly touch on Roman’s background. In case she’s a new name to you, know that she’s been a prominent figure in food media for a while. Previously, she was the senior food editor at Bon Appétit and Buzzfeed, and has since written for a handful of publications like The New York Times, Cherry Bombe, and Short Stack Editions. In other words, she knows her stuff. While she’s perhaps best known for her cool-girl-casual dinner recipes and
entertaining — excuse me, dining in — advice, she actually began her culinary career as a pastry chef (at Momofuku Milk Bar, no less), so her creation of 2018’s hit cookie is hardly a surprise.
Now back to the cookies. Although they’re a close relative of the common chocolate chip cookie — a cousin, perhaps — their texture is all tender, butter-rich shortbread with none of the chewiness of a classic chocolate chipper. Chunks of dark chocolate (my go-to brands are Valhrona and Ghirardelli) are used rather than chips, which makes for both a prettier cookie, and one with textural variation. Last, but not least, these thick, slice-and-bake rounds are brushed with egg wash before being rolled in demerara sugar (the same sort of coarse sugar that sometimes is sprinkled on top of pie crusts) and sprinkled with flaky sea salt for an extra pop of flavor and some crunch.
The dough comes together easily and quickly (unlike most cookie recipes, there’s no need to wait until the butter is soft), and is made with ingredients you likely already have on hand, save for the demerara sugar.** That said, note that you’ll need to wait for at least two hours for the dough to chill and firm up before rolling it in demerara sugar and baking. This is a step I like to take with most cookie doughs anyway, as the time in the fridge allows the flour to hydrate, which results in superior cookies. They’re not exactly an instant gratification recipe, but they’re not much fussier than your average cookie.
If I had one teeny-tiny quibble with this recipe, it would be this: Unlike traditional chocolate chip cookie dough, which makes for a ridiculously irresistible baker’s snack, one that I’d even argue is often better than the baked product, the dough for these cookies is just okay in its raw state. Don’t get me wrong, I still nibbled on some, but the baked cookie is the much better product here, like with most shortbread cookies. But — and this is a big but — coming from a raw cookie dough freak, that small downside is insignificant at best, because the finished product is far superior to your typical chocolate chip cookie. Because they’re shortbread-based, they are just as good (if not better) on day two or three, provided they’re stored in an airtight container. (Show me a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe that can claim that!)
TL;DR: There’s a reason these cookies have taken over the internet as of late. They’re at once showstopping and homey, sturdy and special. As a bonus, they’re an especially great option for travel (e.g. bringing along on a ski trip) or shipping in a care package, as they stay fresh and even get better over the course of a few days.
*Initially, I was drawn to the savory side of things, tabbing and testing recipes like Roman’s preserved lemon labne; chicken soup with toasted garlic, mushrooms, and celery; and chicories with anchovy bread crumbs and egg yolk. (All of which were excellent.)
**I’ve been able to find demerara sugar in the baking aisle of a number of supermarkets; if you can’t track it down, look for turbinado sugar or another coarse sugar, like sanding sugar.
SALTED BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHUNK SHORTBREAD COOKIES
Reprinted from Dining In. Copyright © 2017 by Alison Roman. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
(Makes 24 cookies)
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 ounces semi- or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped (but not too fine, you want chunks, not thin shards of chocolate)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- demerara sugar, for rolling
- flaky sea salt, such as Jacobsen, for sprinkling
Do ahead: The cookie dough can be made ahead and stored, tightly wrapped in plastic, up to one week in the refrigerator, or one month in the freezer. Cookies can be baked and stored in plastic wrap or an airtight container for five days.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet (two, if you’ve got ’em) with parchment paper.
- Using an electric mixer and a medium bowl or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, both sugars, and vanilla on medium-high until it’s super light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and beat just to blend.
- Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic over so that it covers the dough to protect your hands from getting all sticky. Using your hands (just like you’re playing with clay), form the dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help you smooth it out, but don’t worry about getting it totally perfect. You can also do this using parchment paper, if you prefer, but I find using plastic wrap easier when it comes to shaping the log. Each half should form two logs 2 to 2 1/4 inches in diameter. Chill until totally firm, about 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Brush the outside of the logs with the beaten egg and roll them in the demerara sugar (this is for those really delicious crispy edges).
- Slice each log into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, place them on the prepared baking sheet(s) about 1 inch apart (they won’t spread much), and sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, 12-15 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating them all.
Make them; you won’t regret it! And if you do fire up your oven and bake a batch, share your snap of these magical cookies with us on Instagram @BritandCo.
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(Photo via Nicole Perry / Brit + Co)