Happy 2019, Dear Readers! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! It’s been a rainy, grey start to the new year here, but I’m holding out hope that someday we’ll enjoy sunshine again. In the meantime, cookies will do nicely.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I used to, when I was young and naïve. Despite years of evidence to the contrary, when each new January rolled around I thought that would be the time I’d actually make resolutions and stick to them. Until one year I’d finally had enough of that. I decided that instead of trying to impose puritanical self-improvements, I would begin each January with an easy intention: to make something delicious on New Year’s Day, and then to continue having fun in the kitchen often in the next 364 days. No hard and fast rules. No unrealistic expectations. Finally. I’d found a plan I could stick to! *
I made these cookies this January 1st for the 2019 intention. They were inspired by Alison Roman’s "Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread," a recipe that my dear friend Claire M. shared with me and urged me to make. I’m so glad she did. As usual, I was incapable of following the recipe to the letter, starting with the salted butter part, but doing it my way still turned out some very wonderful cookies. I made them again a couple of weeks later, and then decided to reimagine the recipe for New Year’s Day fun. And they were delicious.
First, however, a confession of bone-headedness: These cookies never spread much. You’ll see in the pictures that this batch did, though, due to the fact that I forgot the essential step of sprinkling them with flakes of sea salt just before popping them in the 350° oven. I remembered three minutes later and yanked the cookie sheets out of the oven in a panic. And there the cookies sat, heating and spreading on the hot pans while I fiddled with sea salt for an interminable time. Plus the oven cooled a bit every time I had to open the door. But hey, it was New Year’s. Not only a day of good intentions, but also a day of facing facts—even the warty ones.
MACADAMIA-WHITE CHOCOLATE SHORTBREADS Makes about 24-28 cookies
For the dough:
2 sticks plus 2 Tbs. unsalted butter (9oz.), softened
½ c. sugar
¼ c. (packed) dark brown sugar (see Notes below)
1 tsp. good vanilla
2 ¼ c. all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
4 oz. white chocolate, chopped into chunks
3 oz. macadamias, rough-chopped (I use the Costco dry-roasted, sea-salted Kirkland brand)
For rolling and slicing (just before baking):
1 egg, lightly beaten, OR a couple of Tbs. of heavy cream
2 Tbs. sugar mixed with 1 generous packed Tbs. dark brown sugar
Sea salt flakes to sprinkle on top (Maldon is awesome)
To mix the dough:
1. In a large bowl, cream the butter, the brown and white sugars and the vanilla until fluffy. (I like the stand mixer for this.) Scrape down the bowl sides as needed. You know the drill.
2. Add the flour and mix. It will look crumbly. But as the butter warms in the bowl, the dough will start to come together.
3. At that point, add the macadamias and the white chocolate and mix a bit more. Don’t overbeat, but it should be smooth enough to form into logs.
To form logs:
1. Divide the dough into two equal parts and roll each into a log about 7-7 ½” long. The logs should be about 2” in diameter, or a bit larger. Good luck getting them exactly even. I never can.
2. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate (a couple of hours, at least) until thoroughly chilled. This is important to help keep the cookies from spreading in the oven, since the warmth from your hands as you roll the logs in sugar and then slice them, etc., will definitely hasten the spreading if they aren’t totally firm. (You can also keep the logs several days in the refrigerator, OR, if well-wrapped [first in plastic wrap, then in foil, followed by enclosure in a plastic zipper bag with the air squeezed out of it], the logs can be frozen almost indefinitely. If you can resist baking them off and eating them “indefinitely,” that is.)
1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line one or two half-sheet pans with parchment paper (see Notes below).
2. Unwrap the chilled logs and place them on a sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Brush them all over with the lightly beaten egg or heavy cream, then spoon the white and brown sugar mixture evenly over the logs and roll them in it to coat.
3. Cut the logs into ½” slices carefully, with a serrated knife. These cookies are cold and loaded with chunks, so don’t force the cutting. Let the sharpness of the blade do the work. If they’re tending to break apart on you, squeeze them gently so they hold their shape.
4. Arrange them on the cookie sheet(s) about an inch apart.
5. Sprinkle each cookie with a few flakes of coarse sea salt.
6. Bake a total of 12 to 15 minutes (my oven takes 15) until the edges are browning, and see Notes about turning cookie sheet(s) during baking.
7. Leave them to cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Or pop them in your mouth.
• I like dark brown sugar because of the deeper flavor it has than light brown. But light brown works fine.
• No need to toast the macadamias before adding them in. If they’re roasted and salted, they’ll be great.
• You’ll notice the dough has no added salt other than what’s on the macadamias. This is the point. Then the sprinkling of Maldon flakes on top adds just the right touch of salt, hitting the palate all at once, making a heavenly contrast to the white chocolate and nuts, and the creamy, bland sweetness of the dough.
• Do try to cut ½” slices. At that thickness they’re more likely to hold their round shape without spreading. I’ve never been very good at cutting exact slices.
• I buy only extra-large eggs, and hate to waste a whole one to brush on the cookie logs. So I switched to brushing on heavy cream. It works well and it’s also a lot less . . . slippery . . .
• As an impatient person, I use two half-sheet pans so that I can bake the whole batch of cookies at once. But then during the baking, I have to reverse the pans back-to-front and change the places of the top pan with the bottom one. It may be faster, but it’s not the way to make identical-looking cookies. To do that, bake them in two batches, one sheet pan at a time, reversing the pan back-to-front when they’ve been in about 9 or 10 minutes, then finishing the rest of the baking period.
Have a blessed 2019, filled with sweet rewards!
*Actually, there was one hard and fast resolution I made that I managed to keep: I vowed never to drink orange juice again unless it was in a mimosa. Easiest resolution ever. Cheers!