Korova Cookies

I have never been much of a cookie person. Oh, I eat cookies and biscuits and all, more than I should, but I very rarely get cookies right - I either over bake them, or they turn  out too soft. I can never really fathom a recipe that says, chewy on the inside and crispy on the out. Chewy for me means gummy bears, so how do I define chewy for a cookie?

A close relative recently gifted me a box of  La Mère Poulard chocolate cookies (my family knows me well, the story of these cookies goes all the way back to 1888). Even after they were long consumed, the taste of the cookie remained, and I wanted more. No other chocolate cookie I had baked or bought had ever come close to the taste of those cookies. So what do you (or in most cases, me) do when you want the said cookies, as soon as possible, and Mont Saint Michel is just a little far away to go for cookies?

You bake them at home.

These cookies, also known as World Peace cookies (big pressure there, just in the name no?), were originally published as Korova Cookies or Sables Korova. Created in Paris by the legendary Pierre Herme at a restaurant called Korova, the recipe was published in the book Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan and makes cookies unlike anything you have ever made before. And there's a lot more to the back story of the cookies that you should read.  The cookies are like chocolate sables; which basically means that they are the French version of classic shortbreads. Shortbreads are the simplest and yet the most difficult cookies around. They have only 4 basic ingredients but every little detail is important. You mix it too much, the cookies turn out too hard. You under mix the dough, you'll never be able to shape them, and will have to settle for 'crumble' and not cookies.
So why are the cookies are referred to as 'shortbread'? A 'short' dough usually has a high proportion of fat to flour - which just means that there's more butter (more butterrrr!!) in the dough than other baking recipes.  'Short' probably refers to the intense crumbliness of the cookie that's rendered by the fat. That just means a shortbread cookie will melt in your mouth, an beware, you will not stop at one.

Korova cookies
Adapted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan via Epicurius

The cookies from La Mère Poulard and the chocolate cookies seen here are very different. The former has eggs and the latter is eggless.

Makes 38-40 cookies

You need:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
150 grams soft unsalted butter
2/3 cup  packed light brown sugar/demerrara sugar
1/4 cup  powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
100 grams chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits

1. Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda together and set aside.

2. Put the butter in the bowl beat on medium speed (with a hand mixer) until the butter is soft and creamy. Or you can do this with a whisk and spatula. Add both sugars, the salt, and vanilla extract and beat for another minute or two. Add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated—the dough will look crumbly, and that's just right. For the best texture, you want to work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added. Mix the chocolate pieces till incorporated.

3. Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface and squeeze it so that it sticks together and gather the dough into a ball. Divide it in half, and working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter. (Important: Cookie-dough logs have a way of ending up with hollow centers, so as you're shaping each log, flatten it once or twice and roll it up from one long side to the other, just to make certain you haven't got a hollow centre) Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill them for at least 2 hours.

4.Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Line two baking trays with parchment paper/butter paper and keep them close at hand.

5. Working with a sharp thin-bladed knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick. (If the rounds break, just squeeze the broken-off bit back onto the cookie.) Place the cookies on the parchment-lined trays, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) spread space between them.

5. Bake only one sheet of cookies at a time for about 12 minutes. The cookies will not look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be. Let the cookies stand until they are only just warm or until they reach room temperature. Repeat with the second tray of cookies.


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