I used to devote my life to chocolate, literally, as editor-in-chief of Chocolatier magazine. Lately, my professional life has taken me down other more savory paths (though I still eat chocolate on a daily basis).
For satisfying a chocolate craving, I have found it pretty hard to beat a brownie or rich chocolate cookie. It must have been a particularly serious craving that one day inspired me to ask four of my favorite world-class chocolate professionals for their "chocolatiest" recipe for a cookie.
The results of my research follow: recipes offered along with each creator's chocolate credentials and their comments. If you were to ask which cookie recipe I liked the best, my answer would be that I liked them all. Why don't you make your choice?
Flo Braker of Palo Alto, Calif., submitted the recipe for Chocolate Dutch Minicakes that's included in her recent book, the completely revised and expanded "Sweet Miniatures: The Art of Making Bite-Size Desserts" (Chronicle, $22.95 paperback).
Chocolate Dutch Minicakes
1/3 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsifted cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces (1 scant cup) toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped to yield 1 cup
1/4 cup unsifted powdered sugar
Adjust rack to lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Line with miniature cupcake liners 2 1/2 dozen miniature muffin cups, each measuring 1 7/8 inches by 3/4 inch.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder on a sheet of waxed paper; set aside. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over very low heat. Remove from heat; stir in the sugar. Pour into a 3-quart mixing bowl; set aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, stirring just until blended. Stir in the flour mixture, then the nuts.
Fill each paper-lined muffin cup three quarters full. Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes only. Don't overbake. Remove pans to wire racks to cool 5 minutes to allow cakes to firm a bit. Carefully remove cakes to other racks to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. These are best eaten the same day they are baked; or freeze, in airtight sturdy plastic containers, up to 1 month.
Makes 2 1/2 dozen 1 1/2-inch minicakes.
Serving note: I think these are prettier without the muffin papers. If the minicakes are not already frozen, freeze them for 30 minutes. Then the papers can be lifted quickly and easily from the rich sticky surfaces without altering the shape of the cakes.
A case of the uglies
Joan Steuer of Beverly Hills, Calif., is president of Chocolate Marketing Inc., a consulting firm specializing in new products. She is an authority on chocolate trends and tastes, a cookbook writer and a former editor-in-chief of Chocolatier magazine. Her choice is Triple Chocolate Uglies.
"Yup. They're ugly," she says. "But they sure are good. You know the ubiquitous 'molten chocolate fudge cake' on practically every dessert menu across the country? Well, when eaten warm from the oven, these are the cookie form of that cake.
"A thin crispy edged cookie with a thick, gooey fudgy center studded with a pound of chocolate chips and chunks. Yum! I came up with this cookie recipe for two reasons. I love cookie dough, and when I really want a fast and easy serious chocolate fix, I can never decide between fudgy brownies and chewy cookies.
"So, if you don't mind a really ugly crinkled, flattish cookie, bake the batter, without refrigerating beforehand, for about 10 minutes, and enjoy a warm, molten, mostly baked, better-for-you-than-cookie-dough cookie.
"Refrigerate the dough for a couple hours (or if you're chocolate-desperate, pop the bowl of batter in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, and bake a couple minutes longer for a puffier, prettier but still kinda ugly cross between a moist, chewy brownie and a fudgy cookie)."
Triple Chocolate Uglies
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate pastilles, divided
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup and 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (about 6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
In the top part of a double boiler, over hot, not simmering, water, melt the butter with the unsweetened chocolate and 2 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate. Remove from heat, and let stand until tepid, about 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, using a hand-held mixer set at high speed, beat the eggs and sugar for about 2 minutes, until light and foamy. Beat in the vanilla and chocolate mixture, just until blended. Stir in 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a small bowl, toss the chocolate chips in the remaining flour. Stir in the remaining bittersweet chocolate and chocolate chips.
At this point, the cookie "dough" more closely resembles brownie batter. Don't worry. If in doubt, scoop up a fingerful and taste it for reassurance. Smile and know all is right in the world.
Drop by rounded tablespoon, 1 inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets for a super-fudgy, flat cookie, or refrigerate the dough for a couple hours for a puffier version with less spread.
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until they're slightly cracked and still shiny on the outside, soft and gooey inside, and really ugly.
Makes about 18 to 24 cookies. To be perfectly honest, it's impossible to give a precise answer, as I generally consume a lot of the batter-dough.
Note: With all the new dark chocolates of various cocoa percentages and forms available to the home cook -- including pastilles and molded chunks and disks -- it's fun to experiment. Some chocolate will have more cocoa butter and may remain longer in a liquefied state, forming a liquid pool of molten chocolatey bliss smack dab in the middle of the cookie. Others like traditional chocolate chips are made to retain their shape. Either way, this recipe is pretty foolproof.