Alice Medrich

The Chocolatey-est Shortbread, Thanks to a Technique You Didn't Know You Needed

March  1, 2018

You might imagine that making a chocolate version of a favorite non-chocolate cookie (or cake, or whatever) is not only a splendid idea, but also simply a matter of adding cocoa powder or melted chocolate to dough or batter. If it were only that simple! That's why I keep my food processor on the counter. What?

My, how did you get so chocolate-y? Photo by Jenny Huang

Both cocoa and melted chocolate change the texture of whatever you add them. When cocoa is added to a batter or dough, we normally have to subtract some flour and add some sugar. That’s not too hard to figure out, though it may take a couple of trials. But, the texture that results from adding cocoa is not always as good as the original non-chocolate version.

Adding melted chocolate can be more disappointing still. Chocolate that’s melted and mixed into a dough or batter can make the crumb of a cookie or cake dense and hard. This is because the fat in the chocolate (cocoa butter) melts at a higher temperature than butter and sets up harder at room temperature than butter, so that a cookie that used to be tender (or a cake that used to be moist) can suddenly feel dry and almost stale in your mouth. Who wants that?

One great (and pretty easy) trick for adding chocolate without destroying the crumb of a tender cookie or the texture of a moist cake is to chop or pulverize chocolate into tiny bits—smaller than mini chocolate chips—and mix or fold those bits into the dough or batter. Mingling bits of chocolate in the dough, rather than melting and mixing it in, prevents the ingredients (especially the flour particles) from becoming completely coated with the cocoa butter in the chocolate. As a result, you get the better of two worlds—the great texture of the original cookie (or what have you) and lots of chocolate flavor from all of those tiny bits of chocolate.

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The shortbread recipe that follows is a good example. For another example, try my chocolate tea cakes. Meanwhile, don’t think you’ve heard the end of the discussion, as I’m working on a chocolate chiffon cake makeover this very minute (coming soon!).

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).

1 Comment

Sharol March 7, 2018
I'd love to see this recipe using regular flour