Friday, October 14, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies- Ooops!

Tonight in search of a gluten-free cookie recipe to make for my sweetheart, I came across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen (yes, that same blog, again... but it's just wonderful, so I can't argue with that).  I think I should really start by telling you that these didn't turn out as I hoped... so if you're hoping for a smashing success story, you'll probably want to stop reading this now and direct your attention elsewhere-- say, to Martha Stewart, Queen of Domestic Perfection.  If, on the other hand, you enjoy tales of human fallibility, read on.

I'm sure in theory, I'm sure they are great cookies when made by someone else under different circumstances, but I found them to be quite vexing, from start to finish.  So why even post this?  Why not opt out of giving this regrettable incident internet immortality and just let this traumatic kitchen episode fade into a distant memory instead?  Because I'm human.  Because we're all human-- and I'm pretty sure this kind of nonsense happens to everyone, even the most talented and experienced bakers out there, at least every once in a while.  If we only highlight our successes, first of all, we're not being honest with ourselves or with the world, and secondly, we perpetuate an unrelenting (and impossible) standard of perfection for others.  I don't think the world needs more of that, do you? <stepping off soapbox>

Onward to the gory details...

Perhaps I should have taken it as a sign when the first step in this recipe went horribly wrong.  In an attempt to lightly toast the walnuts, precisely following the instructions to toast them at 350 degrees for 9 minutes (actually, they only made it to about 7 minutes before I was alerted by the smoke spilling out of the back of the oven), I nearly set them ablaze. The smoke was so bad our dogs, who are normally constantly underfoot while I bake, packed up their chew toys and departed for greener, less smokey pastures (read: our bedroom). True story.  After that, the measuring and mixing part was uneventful-- thank goodness!  However, when I dropped spoonfuls of the batter onto the parchment paper, the batter was so runny the cookies kind of merged into each other and the runny batter dripped everywhere from the spoon while en route from the bowl to the parchment paper.  But, being the perpetually optimistic girl that I am, I held out hope as I watched them bake in the oven.  Just as the recipe said, after 14 minutes in the oven, they did have a nice glossy finish and a crackly top, so I removed them to let them cool.  Tragically, even after letting them cool completely, they refused to let go of the parchment paper-- they. were. STUCK.   And not just kinda stuck, really really stuck.  I attempted all manner of prying them from the parchment without completely destroying them (spatula, various other flat utensils, my hands, etc), all to no avail.  I was able to save about half of them from completely crumbling (but still left their bottoms stubbornly stuck to the parchment paper), while the other half simply went into the trash.

I tried one of the survivors and it wasn't bad, in fact, the chocolate cookie part was quite delectable-- but the burned walnuts definitely tasted, well, burned.  I enjoyed the gooey fudgy texture somewhat, but realize it was that texture that probably lead to them being impossible to remove from the parchment paper in once piece.  

So what did I learn from the exercise in frustration? That's a tough one, since I can honestly say that I followed the recipe precisely.  I know for the walnuts, that I need to watch them like a hawk in the oven-- and not try to multitask while relying on the kitchen timer to tell me when they're done.  And what of the sticking issue?  I'm honestly not sure what went wrong-- I've never, ever had anything stick to parchment paper like this-- that's the great thing about parchment paper-- things are far less likely to stick to it than to a cookie sheet.  I'm not ready to give up on this recipe yet, but before I attempt it again, I'm going to do a bit more research into what may have caused the issue.  I'll get back on this horse one day, but for now, I think I'll move on to a different recipe... I need a little space from this one.

Misbehaven Cookies
See the cookie merging?  And the sticking?  Boooo



  • 2 3/4 cup walnut halves
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 cup plust 3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Spread walnut halves over large rimmed baking sheet
  3. Toast in the oven until golden and fragrant-- original recipe says 9 minutes, but clearly that was far too long in my oven, hence the smoke-filled kitchen and nearly flaming walnuts-- check on these guys frequently and avoid the urge to multi-task, lest you repeat my unfortunate experience
  4. Let walnuts cool slightly, then transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop
  5. Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower the oven temperature to 320
  6. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper
  7. In a large bowl, whisk (or combine with an electric mixer on low speed) the confectioner's sugar with the cocoa and the salt, followed by the chopped walnuts
  8. While whisking (or once you change the speed to medium), add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened.  Do not overbeat or the batter will stiffen.
  9. Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the tops are glossy and slightly cracked.  Shift pans from the top to the bottom and from the front to the back halfway through to ensure even baking. 
  10. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 

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