Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chocolate love letter

This is a chocolate love letter, of sorts, for one of my dear friends. She lives in San Francisco while I am here in the Midwest. We used to work together years ago and then she re-located. Now we might get to see each other once a year. either I will try to get out there, or she will visit her relatives around here. On my first visit to see her we wandered into a cafe near Union Square for lunch. For dessert we both decided to have these chocolate cookies. I cannot describe to you how wonderful those cookies tasted. We talked about them for at least a year afterward. (I actually think that it was not just the memory of the incredibly chocolate taste of those cookies, but the conversation and friendship we shared over those cookies as well) They had a crunchy thin outer layer lightly coated in confectioner's sugar, but the inside was soft and somewhat gooey. The flavor was a very intense chocolate. *sigh* Upon my return to San Francisco over a year later, we vowed to go back and share another cookie over coffee. We were happy to discover that the cookies were just as we remembered. So, I began a quest to find the recipe for those cookies. There were many recipes that sounded fabulous, but just did not fill the bill. I forged ahead.
About a month ago I received an e-mail from"m" stating that she had some very sad news to tell me. It seemed that she had walked past our cafe and it was no longer there. The beginnings of a Starbucks was now in its place. The horror! Now I was truly on a mission.
The first candidate that I thought would come pretty close was this recipe I found in the January issue of Food and Wine from Francois Payard.

Although it did not look like our cookie, the description that accompanied it made it seem like it was a very good match. I filed that away for my "bake and taste test".
This past weekend I was lying around the house when "Everyday Baking" came on the tele. I was half listening when I heard the mention of some "Snow cap cookies". I looked toward the screen and saw something that looked very much like our long lost cookie. I feverishly wrote down the ingredients (when I really could have just gone to the website). The only ingredient that seemed like it did not belong was the espresso powder. I would leave that out of my test.
Yesterday, I decided that it was time to test out both recipes. First, it is still very cool around here so I thought I had better get the baking in while the weather was cooperating. Second, I am going to lunch at my godmother's house today so they would make a nice hostess gift. Nether recipe makes a large batch, so I was not going to be left with dozens of cookies staring at me to eat them.
So, here is what I discovered thus far.

This is how the Payard cookies turned out. Incredibly light. Crispy on the outside, but very chewy on the inside. They are flourless which lends to their chewiness. They have a slightly nutty flavor due to their chopped walnuts, but they are still very chocolaty. I discovered that these cookies need to be put in an air tight container as soon as they are cooled because they can tend to get a bit hard and lose their chewiness.

This is how the snow cap cookies turned out. They look very much like our cookie. They are rich and chocolaty. (Tell me more). They are very soft on the inside. (Mmm,hmm.) The only different characteristic? They are not crispy on the outside. Not that this is a bad thing, but this is the only thing missing. So, I think that I may try and figure out how I can make a hybrid of these two wonderful cookies. Both are really good on their own and will probably be added to my cookie exchange for 2008.
To M, I hope you enjoyed this. When next we meet, I will have our cookie in hand so that we can enjoy it over a long conversation and a bottomless cup of coffee.

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