I try to avoid the use of superlatives as much as possible here - if I tell you everything I make is the greatest or the most delicious or my favorite, you're hardly going to believe me. Occasionally though, I can't help myself and today is one of those days. If you only bake one cookie this holiday season, I urge you to make it Thomas Keller's take on Oreos. These chocolate cookies, with their lovely fluted edges, are perfection. If ever there was a time to break out your stash of "good" cocoa, it's this recipe. The cookies pack an intense, dark chocolate flavor - it's what makes them shine, in my opinion. Their texture is crisp and sandy and the chocolate flavor is complemented by the salt in the recipe. As for the filling, it's a simple, smooth white chocolate ganache, a sweet counter to the deep chocolate flavor of the cookies. The best part about the filling is that it sets up to just the right texture to allow you to sandwich it easily between the cookies without any worries about it oozing out the side, an important factor for a perfectionist like me.
For such a delicious cookie, the recipe is really simple. Dry ingredients are combined in a mixer, then the room temperature butter is added, a little bit at a time until the dough starts to come together. The dough is rolled immediately (no need to chill it first, in fact the book advises against that) to 1/8-inch thick and the cookies are cut. I did chill the cut cookies briefly (maybe 15 minutes) on my back deck (yes, it was cold enough to act as a fridge yesterday) before baking, out of an overabundance of caution. They spread ever so slightly in the oven, but not so much that they lost the look of the fluted edges. You really do need to let the cookies sit on the baking sheets for several minutes when you remove them from the oven - they'll be soft and fragile at first, but will firm up as they cool, allowing you to transfer them to racks to finish cooling. Finally, I tried to ignore the recipe's advice to pipe the filling onto the cookies - I can be a lazy baker so I attempted to spread the ganache instead. The problem is, crumbs from the cookies were picked up by the filling and they didn't look nearly as nice without the pure white center. In the end, piping wound up moving quickly so I recommend that route.
Thomas Keller's Oreos
from The Essence of Chocolate, by Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 3 tablespoons
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
15 tablespoons (7 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
To make the filling: In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the white chocolate, making sure it is all immersed in the cream. Let stand for 1 minute then whisk to completely melt the chocolate and incorporate it.
Transfer the filling to a small bowl and let it stand for 6 hours, or until it thickens enough to spread. If the filling hardens too much, it can be rewarmed in the microwave.
To make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 F with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt on low speed until combined. With the mixer still on low speed, add the butter a few pieces at a time until it is all in the bowl. The dough will be sandy at first, but it will eventually begin to come together. When it does, stop the mixer.
Transfer the dough to a work surface and form it into a block about 5 by 7 inches. Cut the block into 2 pieces. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface (I rolled mine on parchment to make clean-up easier) until it is 1/8-inch thick. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut rounds from the dough and place them 1/2 to 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. You can reroll the scraps of dough once to cut more cookies.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through. (I baked all of my cookies for 12 minutes.) Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies cool on them for 4-5 minutes. (The cookies will be very soft and fragile when they come out of the oven so you won't be able to remove them successfully unless you wait a few minutes.) Transfer to a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely.
To assemble the cookies: Turn half of the cookies over so the side that was down on the baking sheet faces up. Whisk the filling briefly to fluff it up. Transfer the filling to a disposable pastry bag and cut a small hole in the tip of the bag. Pipe about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the filling in the center of each cookie you flipped over. Top with another cookie, and gently press the cookies together until the filling spreads evenly to the edge. The cookies keep in an airtight container for 3 days.
Makes about 24 sandwich cookies