Payard's flourless chocolate cookies - 2 ways

On one of our recent excursions into NYC, we stopped by Payard Bakery for some requisite macarons and a few other sweet treats.  Incidentally, we tried one of their savory sandwiches and it was quite tasty.  Anyway...the visit got me looking up some of Francois Payard's recipes and it brought me to these flourless chocolate cookies that have been fairly widely touted.  I thought it would be fun to give them a try for myself.  I think this is a good time to highlight flourless treats with Passover coming up but these are some pretty special flourless cookies to try for no reason at all.
Payard's recipe is flourless chocolate-walnut cookies.  Some people commend them for being low-fat since there's actually no chocolate (just cocoa powder) in them and only egg whites are used to bind them.  What fat you do find in them is the good stuff, coming from the walnuts.  But you won't find me insinuating they're some sort of "health food" because there's plenty of sugar in the mix.  But the amazing thing about these cookies is their texture.  Somehow, they manage to be moist, fudgy, and chewy (yes, chocolaty too) without the actual chocolate, butter, or egg yolks.  They really do taste and look like brownies in cookie form!  The other thing about these cookies is they are very easy to make.  I mixed the batter in a large bowl, by hand, in a matter of minutes. 
When I made these, I wondered if my little guy would like them.  The little one loves a chocolate cookie or brownie but he still insists he doesn't like walnuts (or other chunks of nuts in his desserts - long story, but that's not really true).  So I offhandedly fed him a bite to test the waters and when he almost took my fingers off trying to inhale as big a mouthful as he could, I knew he was into them.  He quickly scarfed one down and requested more, even acknowledging they were good with the walnuts. 

These were so interesting that I decided to make another batch a few days later and play with the mix-in.  I threw the "no actual chocolate in this recipe" mantra out the window and added some mini chocolate chips and a little bit of cocoa nibs in place of the walnuts.  The result?  They were good but in a side by side comparison, we clearly preferred the original toasted walnut version more (not surprisingly, the pros know what they're doing).  The chocolate chips are tasty but made the cookies sweeter than I liked.  The cocoa nibs added a certain level of smokiness to the cookies without the sweetness so perhaps it may be worthwhile to try what Molly at Orangette did and make a walnut-cocoa nibs version.  But I think I'll stick with the original. 

These cookies require just a few ingredients and can be mixed by hand or in a stand mixer.  Either way, it is very quick and you can bake them right away.  I'm going to show the walnut version below.

I made a few small adjustments to the recipe.  I used a bit less walnuts and confectioners' sugar, and made my cookies on the smaller side.  Payard's original recipe calls for oversized cookies, with a full recipe making an even dozen.  I divided the recipe in half and made ten cookies with it.  In this case, I think it makes sense for these cookies to be on the large side so the size is just a matter of preference.

Start by toasting the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or so until they are golden and fragrant.  Then let cool, coarsely chop, and set aside.  Toasting really brings out their flavor so don't skip this step.

In a large bowl (I mixed by hand), whisk together the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder (sift it in if your cocoa powder is lumpy like mine), and salt.  Since the cocoa powder drives the chocolate flavor (and will give it that dark color), use one you like.  Many would recommend Valhrona; personally, I usually use Pernigotti.
Whisk in the chopped, toasted walnuts. 
Then, it's time to add the vanilla extract and egg whites.  The trick is to add about half the egg whites first.  Gently whisk the mixture together - or I found it easier to switch over to a wooden spoon - just until the batter is moistened and the consistency is thick and scoopable like that of brownie batter.  You may not need to use all the egg whites but in my case, I found that 2 egg whites for half the recipe was exactly what I needed.
I used a small ice cream scoop and scooped overstuffed mounds onto parchment lined baking sheets.  You could just use a spoon and place medium or large mounds onto the sheets.  They don't look like much going into the oven...
But after about 15 minutes into a preheated 320 degree oven, they spread out and the cookies develop a glossy sheen and slightly crackly tops.  And you have your cookie-brownie-meringue treat.  Slide the cookies on the parchment onto wire racks to cool completely before removing them.  At that point, they'll come off the paper but will leave behind a cakey residue on the parchment (so you can't reuse the parchment paper when baking these).
You really will be surprised by how brownie-like they are.  These cookies are a bit like the lower-calorie/fat alternative to these cookies that I love.  I also like how these cookies keep well for a couple of days (up to 3 in a airtight container) and manage to remain moist and fudgy without needing to be reheated. 


Recipe:

Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
Adapted from Francois Payard via New York Magazine*

- Intended to make 12 large cookies or more on a smaller scale according to your preference (about 20 for me) -

2 1/4 cups walnut halves
2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature*
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

* I dialed down the amount of walnuts and sugar in the recipe.  The original calls for 2 3/4 cups of walnut halves and 3 cups confectioners' sugar.  Also note that you may not need to use all the egg whites, as per the instructions below.
Start by toasting the walnut halves.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place walnuts in a baking sheet to bake for about 10 minutes until they are golden brown and fragrant.  Let cool slightly and coarsely chop. 

Lower oven temperature to 320 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer on low speed), whisk confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder (sift in if very lumpy), and salt together, followed by the walnuts.  Gently whisk in (or on medium speed in the mixer) the vanilla extract and half the egg whites.  Start with about half the egg whites and add more as necessary until the batter is just moistened.  Switch over to a wooden spoon if necessary and stir until the batter is thick and scoopable like brownie batter.  Do not overbeat or the batter will stiffen.

Spoon or scoop the batter into 12 large mounds (or 20 smaller ones) onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 14-16 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time.  The cookies are done when they are shiny and the tops are lightly cracked.  Remove the pans from the oven.  Slide the parchment paper, with the cookies, on to wire racks to cool completely before removing.  Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 


...And for those who want to play around, here's the other version:

Flourless Chocolate Cookies with Chocolate Chips & Cocoa Nibs
Adapted from Francois Payard via New York Magazine*
  

- Intended to make 12 very large cookies or more on a smaller scale according to your preference (about 20 for me) -

2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups mini chocolate chips
4 tablespoons cocoa nibs
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 320 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer on low speed), whisk confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder (sift in if very lumpy), and salt together, followed by the chocolate chips and cocoa nibs.  Gently whisk in (or on medium speed in the mixer) the vanilla extract and half the egg whites.  Start with about half the egg whites and add more as necessary until the batter is just moistened.  Switch over to a wooden spoon if necessary and stir until the batter is thick and scoopable like brownie batter.  Do not overbeat or the batter will stiffen.

Spoon or scoop the batter into 12 large mounds (or 20 smaller ones) onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 14-16 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time.  The cookies are done when they are shiny and the tops are lightly cracked.  Remove the pans from the oven.  Slide the parchment paper, with the cookies, on to wire racks to cool completely before removing.  Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 


2 comments:

  1. I love chocolate cookies, and these look yummi :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Cakeaholic - I sure love chocolate cookies too! : )

    ReplyDelete

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