Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Actual Cooking: Actual Cookies!

In my last post, I mentioned the Quiet Corner Democrats' holiday party, where I had the most delicious chocolate martinis, and I promised to post about the Chinese 5-Spice Brownie Cookies I made as my contribution to the potluck dessert reception.

I've talked here often enough about how much I love making ice cream, and I first thought I might take homemade ice cream... but the party was an hour's drive from home, and the logistics of keeping ice cream cold for the trip, and then for the several hours of the party, and making it easy to self-serve on an unattended buffet line all seemed a bit daunting. Just as I was scratching my chin about this dilemma, the local paper's Thanksgiving week food supplement came out, and on its last page was an Associated Press article headlined "Grown-up holiday cookies with fennel and anise," and my eye fell on this recipe

Chinese 5-Spice Brownie Cookies
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 10-oz. packages bittersweet chocolate bits
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp 5-spice powder
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Combine the butter and oil in a pan and heat over medium-high heat until the butter is all melted. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until all the chocolate is melted and smooth (return the pan to low heat if necessary). Set aside.
  2. Whisk together (I actually used my stand mixer) all the other ingredients until smooth, then add in the chocolate, continuing to beat until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350.
  4. Line 2 large baking sheets (or 4 half-sheet pans) with parchment paper and scoop out the dough by the table spoon, leaving about 2 in. space between scoops.
  5. Bake until puffed and crackly on top (10 to 12 minutes per the published recipe; more like 14 minutes in my oven). Cool on racks.
I was delighted with the result: rich, fudgy, brownie-like texture, just as the recipe promised; very chocolaty and with a delicious hint of spice.

Truthfully, I was surprised it was only a hint of spice; I had expected the flavor to be a bit more exotic. I suspect the explanation may be the 5-spice powder: The traditional version (as referenced in the article) includes Sichuan peppercorns, but what I got from my local Penzeys spice store included ginger instead. In any case, the final flavor was delicious, tasting mostly like a chocolate brownie, but reminding one of my friends vaguely of gingerbread, as well.

The recipe promises a yield of 4 dozen, but I actually got 5 dozen cookies out of it, plus a couple samples for in-process quality control testing! As it happens, 5 dozen is exactly what the Rockville Public Library needs for its annual Holiday Cookie Sale, so I'll be making another batch soon.

You should try them, too!
¹ Note that my local paper is actually the Journal Inquirer, but since its content is behind a paywall, I found the same recipe somewhere else, and linked to that. That'll show 'em, eh?

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