I was talking to a friend once who asked, “What’s the secret ingredient in your desserts that make them taste so good? Is it love?” I shook my head and replied, “No, it’s butter.” We both laughed, but I was dead serious. Butter plays a key role in a lot of good bakes, and so I’m pretty particular with it. For me, it’s unsalted butter without question. You just have more control with the overall flavor that you don’t get with salted butter. That’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s place in the kitchen. One reason why this recipe from Alison Roman stood out to me when I first made it was that it specifically calls for salted butter- and for good reason. They’re even dubbed “The Cookies” all over the internet, so I needed to know what all the fuss is about. So grab your favorite kind of salted butter- or in my case, the box I didn’t read before leaving the grocery store- and let’s make some cookies.
Think of this cookie as the love child between a shortbread and a chocolate chip cookie. It all starts in the bowl of your mixer where we add the cold salted butter and let it cream together with some granulated and brown sugar. The temperature is key because for shortbread, you always want to keep things as chilled as possible. The mixer will break it down just enough to a creamy consistency without creating warm buttercream. Make sure to actually time it based on the recipe or else the dough won’t come together. It then gets some flour and a good amount of semisweet chocolate that’s chopped into large chunks- Alison is very vocal about not getting these too small. We want fat chocolate puddles– not itty-bitty chocolate teases. The dough then gets wrapped up and is set to chill in the fridge for a couple hours. Then it gets weird. The dough logs are brushed with egg wash and rolled in demerara sugar before slicing- pretty similar to the Caramel Pecan Shortbread from Molly Baz. It’s a departure from your standard recipe, but these ain’t your ordinary cookies. The key takeaway I found is to use a very sharp knife and to saw it back and forth as you cut, rather than just applying the pressure down. This will help you get through those large chocolate chunks without it falling apart- though Alison and I assure that it can simply be pieced back together. A last sprinkling of salt later, and these are ready for the oven.
The end product is a crisp, shortbread-y cookie that has more than enough gooey chocolate to satisfy even the harshest critic. The sugar coating along the edges gives a great crunch and added sweetness to the slightly salty dough. If you can’t find “demerara sugar” in the store, opt for some raw sugar or even regular granulated sugar. It’s that sweet-salty combo that makes these so addicting. Alison says that the salted butter creates a cookie that has salt lingering in the background which I agree with. Also do not skip the sprinkling of salt before the oven- I tried it both ways and the ones without the salt weren’t as good. There’s more than enough sweet elements in here that the salt is like a godsend to provide that perfect balance. It’s sweet and salty, shortbread and chocolate chip- really the best of both worlds.
Full Recipe | Method by Alison Roman: