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Recipe: Salted Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

From Alison Roman's new cookbook, 'Dining In'

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Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott

“I just really don’t like chocolate chip cookies.” NYC-based cookbook author and recipe developer Alison Roman is about to launch into a passionate — and controversial — tirade against America’s favorite cookie: “Look, they’re just too much: too big or too puffy or too sweet or too chewy or flaccid or doughy or eggy,” she says.

After working as a pastry chef at restaurants and a food editor for print and digital publications, the author of Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes is over the exhausting, never-ending search for the best chocolate chip cookie. Every magazine and baker has tackled the question at least once.

“There are so many variables, and I’m not going to play this game,” Roman says. “But I fucking love shortbread.”

So, for the sole cookie recipe in her new book, she took a salty shortbread dough and studded it with chocolate chunks. “It’s more buttery than a chocolate chip cookie, and it’s less sweet,” she says. “It’s the perfect size, it feels a little less indulgent.” Roman also believes that, compared to the oversized, ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies available at a lot of bakeries, these shortbread “feel like much less of an emotional investment.” With emotions already running high this month, and far more important topics to debate, maybe try making a cookie that’s easy to love.

Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread, or Why Would I Make Another Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever Again?

Makes 24 cookies

I’ve always found chocolate chip cookies to be deeply flawed (to know this about me explains a lot). Too sweet, too soft, or with too much chocolate, there’s a lot of room for improvement, if you ask me. But no one asked me, and rather than do a complete overhaul on the most iconic cookie known to man, I took all my favorite parts and invented something else entirely.

Made with lots of salted butter (it has a slightly different flavor and a deeper saltiness than using just salt — I prefer unsalted butter everywhere else but here), the dough has just enough flour to hold it together and the right amount of light brown sugar to suggest a chocolate chip cookie. The chocolate is cut into chunks to prevent chip congregation, and once the dough is formed into a cylindrical log, the whole thing gets rolled in Demerara sugar for the crispiest-ever edges. Less chocolate chip cookie, more brown sugar shortbread with chocolate chunks — they just might be the cookie you’ve been looking for.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) salted butter (see Note), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 ounces semi- or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped (but not too fine, you want chunks, not thin shards of chocolate)
1 large egg, beaten
Demerara sugar, for rolling
Flaky sea salt, such as Jacobsen, for sprinkling

NOTE: If you find it tragically annoying to buy salted butter just for this recipe, you can use unsalted butter and add 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the flour.

DO AHEAD: The cookie dough can be made ahead and stored, tightly wrapped in plastic, up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or 1 month in the freezer. Cookies can be baked and stored in plastic wrap or an airtight container for 5 days.

1. Line a rimmed baking sheet (two, if you’ve got ’em) with parchment paper.

2. Using an electric mixer and a medium bowl or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, both sugars, and vanilla on medium-high till it’s super light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and beat just to blend.

3. Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic over so that it covers the dough to protect your hands from getting all sticky. Using your hands (just like you’re playing with clay), form the dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help you smooth it out, but don’t worry about getting it totally perfect. You can also do this using parchment paper, if you prefer, but I find using plastic wrap easier when it comes to shaping the log. Each half should form two logs 2 to 2 1/4 inches in diameter. Chill until totally firm, about 2 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

5. Brush the outside of the logs with the beaten egg and roll them in the Demerara sugar (this is for those really delicious crispy edges).

6. Slice each log into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, place them on the prepared baking sheet(s) about 1 inch apart (they won’t spread much), and sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating them all.

Reprinted from Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes. Copyright © 2017 by Alison Roman. Photographs copyright ©2017 by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.