'I walked for hours in those forests, my legs a canvas of scratches, trading on the old hopes - we were meant to be lost.' - Joanna Klink, from 3 Bewildered Landscapes: 'Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy.'
I have notebooks. Full of illegible scribbles and dog-eared pages. Notebooks with coffee stains, grease smears and spills. Some pages are stuck together, and I have to gently pry them apart so the ink doesn’t smudge. I write all my recipes in these books. The words might begin on one page and stop on the second. Resuming on the fourth. And carried deep into the sixth. I never write down the method. Only ever measurements. Sometimes just the ingredient. I don’t return to these notebooks often. But when I do, I only follow the stained pages. The dirtier the page, the better loved it is.
I had these Bitter Chocolate Olive Oil Cookies with Buckwheat and Salt floating somewhere between the sixth or seventh notebook from last year. I originally made them on rye, as inspired by the salted chocolate rye cookies from Tartine. But then I needed them gluten-free, and buckwheat happened. It was the greatest addition to the rich tones of chocolate and olive oil within. Nutty, hearty, and warm. Slightly bitter. A unifier.
These cookies, are the ultimate. Deep, dark, and rich. Fudge-like, with smoldering intensity. I’ve re-worked the recipe since its first conception. There’s both espresso and espresso liqueur within. I’ve switched out the liqueur for dark rum before, and it worked equally as well. There’s Mexican vanilla bean seeds too. And a flourish of salt, to round it all off.
For this recipe, I use couverture dark chocolate. The chocolate is the star, and there’s nowhere to hide. Use a block that you wouldn’t just bake with, but that you would eat. Callebaut is my favourite. Use a block that’s no less than 70% cacao solids for a cookie with more depth, richness and intensity.
I like to use the seeds from a Mexican vanilla bean pod in this recipe. It gives a slight hint of spice and a supple earthy tone to the overall flavor profile of the cookie. It’s a slight difference, but one I think well worth sourcing out. A regular vanilla bean pod or extract will work equally as well. Make sure to use extract and not synthetic essence.
I used flaked salt here, purely because I ran out of fleur de sel. You can use the two interchangeably. Smoked fleur de sel would be an even better option. I can imagine that the brininess of grey sea salt would work wonders, too.
The recipe calls for the dough to chill for thirty minutes before rolling. Don’t skip this step! The dough will always remain quite sticky, given the high concentration of chocolate - but, chilling the dough before-hand allows it to roll easier. If you leave the dough in the refrigerator for too long, it'll keep firming up. Just let it sit at room temperature until it’s at the right consistency for easy rolling.
You should get about 20-22 cookies from this recipe. I use a small cookie scoop that’s about 1 inch (2.5 cm’s) in diameter to form the balls. You could also use a scant tablespoon as a measure. Additionally, dip the cookie scoop or tablespoon into a little bowl of warm water, to make the dough easier to scoop out as you go.
BITTER CHOCOLATE OLIVE OIL COOKIES WITH BUCKWHEAT AND SALT
300 g 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped
50 ml olive oil
45 g buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon finely ground espresso powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
140 g dark muscovado sugar
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp. espresso liqueur
seeds scraped from a Mexican vanilla bean pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract
Flaked salt, for finishing
Place the roughly chopped dark chocolate into a medium sized heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water below. Heat, on medium-low, until melted and smooth. Stir often to ensure the chocolate melts at an even consistency. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the olive oil until well combined. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using handheld electric beaters, whisk together the sugar and eggs on medium speed, until thick, light caramel in color, and almost doubled in volume, about 4 minutes. In a slow and steady stream, pour in the melted and cooled chocolate, making sure to pour it down the sides of the beater bowl. Add in the espresso liqueur and vanilla bean seeds or extract. Continue to whisk until well incorporated and glossy.
Pause mixing to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Set the mixer speed to medium-low and add in the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated. The mixture should be thick and cling to the whisk when it’s raised. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and cover it with a layer of plastic wrap. Let the dough chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180 c (350 f). Line three baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop the mixture out and into evenly sized dough balls. Alternatively, you could use a tablespoon as a measure. Make sure to space them an even distance apart, to allow room for spreading. You should fit about 8 balls per sheet. Sprinkle over a little of the flaked salt.
Bake, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed, beginning to crackle, and the edges are just firm. Let the cookies cool on their sheets for 10 minutes, before carefully transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.