Taking time out to spend special moments with friends and family may be the best thing about the holidays.
But a close second surely is all the cookies to indulge in at this time of year.
“Holiday Cookies” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, is all about this festive sweet time of year. The book is by food stylist and recipe developer Elizabet der Nederlanden of Berkeley, with photography by the talented Erin Scott of Berkeley.
You’ll find everything from “Gingerbread Cookies” to “Chocolate-Stenciled Shortbread Rounds” to “Saffron Pistachio Biscotti.” Beyond cookies, there are also confections such as “Apple Cider Caramels” and “Matcha Chocolate Bark with Berries and Coconut.”
“Dark Chocolate Cookies with Caramel” is especially fun because these brownie-like cookies hide a center of caramel inside. It’s achieved easily enough by rolling the cookie dough around an unwrapped, purchased caramel candy.
I actually used Salty Caramels by Oregon’s artisanal salt maker, Jacobsen Salt Co. They are super buttery with just a hint of sea salt.
The Jacobsen caramels measure about 1-inch, so they are slightly larger than the 3/4-inch candies called for in the recipe. As a result, when I made the recipe, I got about 20 cookies out of it, rather than the 24 originally stated.
That’s because it took a little more dough per cookie to encase each caramel. Do wrap the sticky, ganache-like dough around the candy very well — or else the caramel may leak out of the cookie during baking. And you don’t want to lose any of that precious filling.
Once you remove the baked cookies from the oven, you can sprinkle on a little sea salt over them. Even using salted caramels, I didn’t find the final garnish of sea salt too much. In fact, the deep, dark chocolate flavor is enhanced by the salt.
Unlike the photo in the book, my caramel did not ooze out separately like lava when I tore one of the cookies in half. Instead, it was more like chocolate and caramel had combined into a harmonious marriage of chewy, ooey-gooey-ness in the center.
You may notice that the center of the baked cookies sink a little bit after cooling. But there’s nothing wrong with that, either.
Bake a batch to share with friends and family this holiday for the best of all worlds.
Dark Chocolate Cookies with Caramel
(Makes 20 to 24 cookies)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons chocolate cocktail bitters or dark rum
24 caramel candies (3/4-inch cubes), unwrapped
Place the chocolate and 1/4 cup (2 ounces) butter in a heatproof bowl set over (not touching) gently simmering water in a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until the butter and chocolate are melted. Remove from the heat.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda into a bowl, then whisk in the salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter and the sugar and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and creamy. Add the egg and bitters and beat until combined. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated and the dough starts to come together. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate just until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Do not refrigerate the dough for longer than 30 minutes or it will become too hard to shape. If that happens, let it sit at room temperature until it is soft enough again to shape.)
Position two racks, evenly spaced, in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop a generous 1-tablespoon-size ball of dough into your hand. Insert a caramel into the middle of the dough ball and smooth the dough over the caramel, encasing it completely. You should have 20 to 24 cookies. Place half of the cookies, evenly spaced on each baking sheet. Lightly flatten each ball with your hand.
Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, until just firm to the touch and look puffed, switching the baking sheets between the racks about halfway through the baking time. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cool for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer the cookies to the racks and let cool completely before serving.
Adapted from “Holiday Cookies” by Elisabet der Nederlanden
More Chocolate Cookies to Try: Chai Chocolate Chip Cookies
And: Guinness Brownies