I know, I know. Just the week before last it was all about cake and custard, and this week we’ve got cookies. I wonder if more dessert is really necessary at this point, but, honestly, is a cookie ever so much as superfluous? I think not.
But it’s good. All good. I promise this seeming overload of sweets is fairly unusual. There will be no need for anyone to invoke a baked-goods intervention anytime soon. I swear to you I am otherwise practicing healthy moderation.
For example, lunch today was a hot bowl of smooth tomato and roasted red pepper soup. So the cookies will round things out quite nicely. Let’s get on with ‘em, then, shall we?
I’ve dubbed these Nostalgia Cookies, even though I am firmly not one for clever recipe names that have almost nothing to do with the content of the food itself. To be honest, these cookies are more appropriately called Chocolate Chunk Sort-of-Shortbread Cookies, but that doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head, either. And as they hold a special place in my heart that takes me back to a time when…. Well, there we have it, folks: nostalgia.
We first had cookies like these in our favorite little lunch spot during our Montreal days, the original Java U. (That petit café on Sherbrooke can also take credit for hooking us on panini, before panini were the thing.) We’d gulp our lunch of panini and salade mixte and Belgian fries, anticipating the whole time the sweet finale that we’d always return to the counter for at the end.
And then, on road-tripping weekends (on our southbound missions to purchase Chex in Vermont – not available in Canada! – and Mylicon for our gastro-distressed newborn), we’d stop by Java U on the way to the interstate for driving provisions, the cookies included.
The way the cookies were put together was an enigma at first: They were like chocolate chip, but extra buttery; soft, but sandy; round, not like shaped shortbread. And the chocolate was not chipped, but chunked, and somehow managed to congregate in the middle, so that it was almost sandwiched, though not deliberately, between layers of dough.
Recently we went back to Java U, and while the panini are still around, the cookies, sadly, are not. Naturally, I decided I’d have to try and make them, because they’re just the thing to munch when I’m missing the snow and the city. And I miss them bad.
This is my third try, and I finally got it right. The first time I used the regularly shaped chocolate chips I had on hand, and while they were good, they didn’t provide that choco-layer we favor. Next try: I chopped a dark chocolate bar and dumped it in. That chocolate proved too melty, causing the cookies to spread and crumble apart, even when cooled.
This time I used baking chunks (made expressly for baking, but I’ll admit also good for nibbling) and pressed the dough into a cookie scoop before placing it on the Silpat. The resulting taste was so similar to the original cookie, we were nearly transported to our adopted hometown – snow banks, lack of parking and all.
1 ½ cups flour (I snuck in ¾ c. white whole wheat plus ¾ c. all-purpose)
½ cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi or bittersweet chocolate chunks
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and cornstarch with the salt and espresso powder. Set aside.
Cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Gently fold in the chocolate chunks. Flatten the dough into a disk shape and sandwich between two layers of parchment paper. Chill for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
Using your hands, flatten the dough between the parchment paper until it’s about ½ inch thick. Cut the dough into equally sized squares, about 2-by-2 inches, and form into semi-flattened hunks (or push into a cookie scoop). Place cookies on baking sheets and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (don’t over bake!). Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring cookies to a cooling rack. Allow cookies to cool.