Friday, January 7, 2011

cookie brittle. seriously addictive stuff.

When you read a lot of baking blogs, you see trends emerge: cupcakes, cake pops, baked doughnuts, and so on. For a while, everywhere I turned, this recipe for cookie brittle popped up. Hmm. A thin, crunchy cookie, filled with your own custom choice of mix-ins. What could be bad?

I have to admit, I have shied away from recipes for crisp cookies. I tend to prefer chewy cookies, and often, anything that crunches is simply over-baked. A lot of commercial cookies have an appealing snap, like Oreos and Chips Ahoy, but that quality is hard to accomplish at home - particularly using pronounceable ingredients. (Mind you, I love me some Oreos and Chips Ahoy... I'm not slamming my friends at Nabisco.) These are not crisp in the same way store-bought cookies are, nor are they as thin as, say, ginger snaps. They're approximately the thickness of a chocolate chip - or whatever other ingredients you stir in - and they definitely crumble a bit when you bite into them. Because they're baked in a big mass and broken into pieces, you get a good mix: the center pieces are firm but with a little chewiness, and the edges are browner and crumblier. The butter taste really comes through, you get a perfect hit of salt with sweet, and because there's less sugar than most cookie recipes, most of the sweetness actually comes from the mix-ins themselves. Plus, with totally customizable ingredients, you get exactly the flavor combo you want. They are highly addictive (ask my cousin and my mother-in-law, who couldn't stop nibbling).

See how thin they are?

The edge pieces are a little darker and crispier. You can also see the chocolate is a little swirled. That's what happens when you stir in just-toasted nuts to a batter with chocolate chips. I actually really liked the effect; some of the chips melted and others remained whole.

See the one underneath? It's a center piece. Lighter in color and a little chewier.

The recipe hails from a cookbook that offers a collection of recipes from B&B's around the country. It surprised me at first that the recipe contains no brown sugar, but it actually makes perfect sense: brown sugar contributes to chewiness, while white sugar tenderizes but also makes things crisp. No baking powder or soda are needed; you don't want these to rise. The lack of eggs is also strategic: eggs tenderize and contribute moisture. The net-net is a really short ingredient list and a really easy-to-stir-up cookie!

Cookie Brittle
Makes at least 3 dozen odd-shaped pieces

Try any variety of chips and nuts. So far, I prefer chocolate chips and toasted pecans, but I also tried cashews, dark chocolate, dried cranberries, and M&M's. Butterscotch chips or shredded coconut could be tasty if you like that sort of thing.

1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) flour
1 cup chopped, toasted nuts (pecans, cashews, or whatever you like)*
1 cup chocolate chips 

Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl, and let it cool for about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. With a wooden spoon, stir in the sugar, salt, and flour, and mix to combine. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. Due to the butter content, they may not incorporate completely; just do your best. Press the mixture in a thin, even layer onto an ungreased, rimmed cookie sheet (use the chocolate chips as your guide--try to get them in as close to a single layer as possible throughout the dough, and you'll have the right thickness). You may not fill the entire sheet with the dough - that's okay - but they will spread a little, so leave yourself a good border around the edges. (Please note: I use silpats or parchment nearly always, but this recipe really is fine on an ungreased cookie sheet! Also, the rimmed cookie sheet is a must - sometimes this dough can really spread, and it might drip into your oven if not caught by the edges of the cookie sheet.)

Bake for 23-25 minutes, until light golden brown (the edges will be a bit darker than the center). Let cool completely before breaking into whatever sized pieces you desire. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days or freeze.

*Longtime readers will know that I don't believe nuts should interrupt chocolate. I often omit nuts in cookies. That said, they really belong in this cookie, and basically in a 1:1 proportion to chocolate. I mean it!

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1 comment:

Judith said...

They were unbelievably delicious!