Sunday, May 31, 2009

STI: Put a crinkle in your day

May 31, 2009

Hunger Management

Put a crinkle in your day the form of a soft, moist cookie called the Chocolate Crinkle that looks like a lump of coal but tastes out of this world

By Tan Hsueh Yun 


So I was trying to decide what sort of chocolate cookie to write about this week and I was sure, so sure that my informal testers were going to go with the thin and crisp one.


I had made what I thought was a pretty fantastic chocolate butter cookie.


It was stylish, had pizazz and a deep chocolate flavour. The texture was perfect - crisp but not in a way that might crack a tooth. Buttery like anything.


That cookie was a star.


And yet, it was a soft, moist cookie - the Chocolate Crinkle - that won the day. This rather plain, unassuming American cookie from the 1950s looks like a lump of coal with a cracked top.


But those ugly lumps proved irresistible.


And while I hate to admit it, Crinkles do have a certain allure. They are gorgeously fudgy, packing a good chocolate flavour that continues to intensify after baking.


To think I made them out of frustration. I was reviewing cookie cookbooks and a recipe for Green Tea Cookies from one of the books would not work, no matter what I did.


I ditched it, decided to try out another recipe from the book and hit paydirt.


Crinkles are usually rolled in powdered sugar before baking, so the finished product looks like a snowball with hints of dark chocolate peeking out from under the cracks.


Powdered sugar stands no chance in Singapore's humid weather.


By the time I rolled the last ball of dough in the stuff, the sugar on the first one was already starting to melt.


So I dispensed with the sugar coating for subsequent batches. I added a little brandy to the chocolate because the two are great together.


And because I think salt helps deepen the flavour of chocolate, I doubled the amount. I have used Maldon and a fine sea salt and both work fine.


I also made the cookies bigger than indicated in the original recipe because, frankly, I got impatient rolling endless lumps of dough. One way to make sure all the balls turn out the same size is to use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop. The small one I use holds a little more than a tablespoon of dough. The resulting cookies feel right in the hand.


It is important not to overbake the cookies. Just stick to the size indicated in the recipe and the suggested time and the cookies should turn out fudgy and cakey.


The recipe is pretty simple but to make this humble cookie taste sensational, use good ingredients, starting with the butter. I use President, available in most supermarkets.


For maximum chocolate impact, you cannot beat Valrhona cocoa powder and the French brand's chocolate buttons or feves. Both are available at Shermay's Cooking School in Chip Bee Gardens.


While there, look for Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract, which has a beautifully complex flavour you will not find in bottles of vanilla essence.


Otherwise, look in supermarkets for pure vanilla extract, Dutch-processed cocoa powder (not hot chocolate mixes with sugar and milk added) and Lindt or Green & Black's dark chocolate bars.


One last thing and this is a tall order: Try to wait a while before eating them. I let mine cool completely, then stored them in an airtight container overnight.


The smell of deep, dark chocolate wafting out of the box when you open it is just intoxicating.



Adapted from Field Guide To Cookies


170g dark chocolate

85g butter

1 Tbs brandy (optional)

185g plain flour

2 Tbs cocoa powder (below)

¾ tsp baking powder

115g sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla (below)

½ tsp sea salt




1. Place the chocolate, butter and brandy (if using) in a metal or heat-resistant glass bowl, set it over a pot of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. When the mixture is glossy and melted, give it a good stir and set aside to cool.


2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Set aside.


3. Beat the sugar and eggs until thick and smooth in either a stand mixer, a handheld mixer or by hand. Add the vanilla and the melted chocolate. Mix until combined. Add the flour and cocoa mixture and the salt, mix till just combined.


4. Scoop the dough out into a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.


5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 170 deg C. Take the dough out of the fridge and let soften for 20 minutes while the oven preheats.


6. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment or a silicone baking mat. Scoop out generous tablespoonsful of dough, roll into balls and place on cookie sheet about 3cm apart. The balls should be about the size of an unshelled walnut. Place unused dough back in the fridge.


7. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until the tops are cracked. Remove from oven, let cookies cool on cookie sheet for five minutes then transfer them to metal rack to cool completely before serving.


8. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Store cookies in an airtight container. Makes 20 to 22 cookies


Field Guide To Cookies by Anita Chu (2008, Quirk Productions) costs $30.90 and is available at Books Kinokuniya.

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