World Peace Chocolate Cookies

In honor of National Chocolate Day, I’m posting a recipe that is so fabulous it started a worldwide giveaway on my previous blog.

Dark bittersweet chocolate, sea salt, what’s not to love?

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The intense flavors of dark chocolate and fleur de sel come together for a party in your mouth. If you have not yet tried this combo, don’t walk, run to the store and pick up the ingredients to make these now. I’m pretty sure that if every human being could eat just one of these every day, there would indeed be peace in the world!

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The key to the wonderful flavors in these cookies, and any good pastry, is this: use only the best ingredients. I used Guittard chocolate, with 72 percent cacao, which is one of my favorites. I used my mini-chopper to break it into small pieces. A good fleur de sel is also an important ingredient, I’m using sel de Guérande from France, which you can order through Amazon, but many grocery stores are now carrying good sea salts. Guittard chocolate chips are available in many grocery stores. There’s an extensive list on the Guittard site.

chocolate and sea salt

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Chocolat Paix Mondiale et Cookies au sel de mer
World Peace Chocolate and Sea Salt Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen 

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips

Directions

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and pale yellow. Add the sugars, salt and vanilla and mix another 2 minutes.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the sifted dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the mixer to protect anything around it from flying flour. Mix at low speed about 5 times for a second or two each time. Then mix about 30 seconds more. Mix just until the flour disappears into the dough. Work the dough as little as possible. It may look a little crumbly… no worries. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix just until incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it together and divide it in half. Shape into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Using a sharp knife, slice the logs into rounds that are about 1/2 inch thick. (They may crack a bit as you’re cutting them. No worries. Just squeeze the chocolatey bits back onto the cookie). Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake each batch, one sheet at a time, for 12 minutes. They won’t look done, they won’t be firm at this point. They’ll firm up and become sandy/crumbly as they cool. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack.

Gather ye apples

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Two weeks ago torrential rains drowned what remained of our veggie garden, and our lone apple tumbled from the tree before ripening. Yay for local farms! A short drive out of the city and we are surrounded by an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies. And look! A large box of Golden Delicious apples from my sister-in-law.

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We’ve been busy with home improvements and fall cleaning projects …  painting, grout cleaning, gutter and roof cleaning and repairs, tree trimming. The next big project begins later this week when we demolish our kitchen for a few upgrades, new countertops, faucet, and replacement of a crumbling cast iron sink. After we recover from that, a mudroom redo will begin. I’ll definitely miss my kitchen during the next few weeks, but I’m so looking forward to giving it a fabulous housewarming, with homemade fall and winter foods, when it’s done.

In the meantime, I need to do something with all these apples.

Visions of apple tarts were dancing in my head. I began searching through my recipes, but only came up with one even though there’s photographic evidence of others. Two criteria were in order: easy and tasty. Google found a recipe at Smitten Kitchen that sounded like a winner.

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The dough: I used my go-to tart dough recipe from Ina Garten, and the combination freeform/tart pan technique from Chez Panisse’s Executive Chef and owner, Alice Waters (through Smitten Kitchen). I like the way the sides are fluted, but the top of the dough wraps the apple wedges protectively into its folds.

Gather up 6-8 apples. I used Golden Delicious for this because that’s what I currently have the most of, but Gravenstein or Granny Smith’s would also be great choices. Slice the apples in half and remove the core and peeling.

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Place the halves face down and slice into strips. Hold the sliced halves together and place them into the pastry. Save the cores and peeling you’ve removed for a glaze to be applied after baking.

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Fold up the edges of the dough and brush the entire top surface with 2 Tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of the sugar on the dough and the other 3 Tablespoons on the apples. Toss a teaspoon of cinnamon onto the apples as well. Because there’s nothing better than the smell of apples and cinnamon baking together. And finally, dot another Tablespoon of butter on top.

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Bake in a preheated 400°F. oven (on a pizza stone if you have it) for 45 minutes. Turn the tart every 15 minutes so it browns evenly.

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I love the way this crust turned out! Freeform, but structured enough to hold up in a hot oven.

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Serve with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.

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French Apple Tart

Pastry (Ina Garten’s recipe)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds. Add the butter and pulse 10-12 times, until the butter is in small pits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water into the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to hold together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. At this point you can either: grab a sheet pan and line it with parchment paper or a Silpat mat; or a round 11″ tart pan with a removable bottom.

Roll the dough out to 15 inches. If you’re using a sheet pan, you’ll want to use a ruler and knife and trim the edges. Place the dough on/in the pan of your choice and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Apple filling (a slightly modified version of Alice Water’s recipe through Smitten Kitchen)
6-8 apples (you can use Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, or any other semi-tart apples)
5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter (2 Tablespoons melted, 1 Tablespoon cold)

Peel the apples the cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller. (Save the cores and peelings for the glaze). Slice by placing the halves cut side down. Place the entire sliced halves on the dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Keeping the halves together helps when you lay them out. Then you can just lightly tilt them and they’ll fan out. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges at 1-inch intervals. Brush melted butter over apples and onto the edge of the dough. Sprinkle the apples with 3 Tablespoons of sugar, sprinkle the dough edges with 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon cinnamon onto the apple filling and dot with 1 Tablespoon of butter.

Bake in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes), making sure to rotate tart every 15 minutes.

Make the glaze: Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with 1/2 cup of sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth.

Remove tart from oven, and place onto a cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.

Brush glaze over tart, slice, and serve.