It all started with a recipe from Edd Kimber, aka The Boy Who Bakes: a brownie crinkle cookie that took Instagram by storm. I, along with everyone else, loved it and wanted to find a way to make it my own. I tried swapping in muscovado sugar, adding toffee pieces, even using white chocolate in place of dark, but all proved unyielding. Then, I remembered baking Gail Simmons’ licorice chocolate brownies.
Most people don’t like black licorice; in fact, most people hate the polarizing flavor. That probably has something to do with the reason I can’t get enough of it: I’ve always been attracted to flavors that elicit a strong reaction. This time, however, I wasn’t prepared for the negative comments that these brownies received when I posted them on Instagram, and I deleted the post soon after.
Looking back, the thing I remember most is not the comments, but how delicious the brownies were. Kimber’s cookie reminded me that the part I love about baking for Instagram is the shock factor, whatever form that takes. I decided to borrow ideas from both recipes, and the result was magical. Both the taste and the texture were everything I was working toward.
As it turns out, something unique happens when licorice and chocolate join forces. The experience becomes something entirely new—not your typical chocolate cookie nor the intense pep of licorice candies, especially salty Swedish salmiakki. The notes of one blend with the other, and it's almost impossible to determine where one flavor ends and the other begins. The chocolate softens the bite of the licorice, and the licorice wakes it up. This cookie is salty, sweet, and surprisingly complex.
As for the Instagram of it all: A simple tapping of the sheet tray on the counter after baking provided the visual I was looking for. It helped deflate the cookies, resulting in the beautiful cracked tops that were perfectly tailored for a photograph.
Sure, this cookie may not be for everyone—but those who like it, love it.
- 7 ounces 60% dark chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons black cocoa powder (or Dutch-processed cocoa powder)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons licorice root powder (available in specialty spice stores)
- 2 teaspoons ground anise
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (plus flaky salt for sprinkling on top)
Black licorice: love it or hate it? Let us know in the comments below.