Recipe: chocolate crackles (cookies)
Hey! Did you catch the lunar eclipse Saturday morning? I spent all day Friday watching the weather reports online as well as out my door. I had every intention of waking up early to watch the eclipse, but it goes without saying that if I could shoot the moon, I would. Toward evening there were blobbish clouds overhead and mildly gusty winds. Where I live, 55 mph is what we start to call “windy”, but 25 mph gusts are generally mild conditions… except when you want to photograph a lunar eclipse. I got my gear ready and tried to get to bed before midnight.
My alarm went off at 4am and I quietly bundled up in layers, tip-toeing around in the dark. I popped my contacts in, told Kaweah to go back to her bed (she didn’t, she waited at the door until Jeremy woke up), and stepped outside the bedroom. On the deck it was in the teens. To my delight, the clouds had moved out and the wind had periods of calm between gusts. I could live with that. Due to my location on the planet, the moon would set before I could witness it reach totality. Due to my local geography, the moon dropped below the Continental Divide before that! But, you make the most of what you get. It’s a beautiful phenomenon to witness regardless.
composite of the lunar eclipse
pink rays of sunrise on james peak not long after moonset
Back in August 2007, I attempted my first capture of a lunar eclipse. I totally didn’t know what I was doing, but we all have to start someplace or else we can’t ever expect to get anywhere. And it’s sooooo cool!
august 2007 total lunar eclipse composite
I can’t say I know all that much now, just that I have screwed up sufficiently in the past to have learned what not to do today. Every time I shoot, it’s a learning experience. I must thank my friends at Pro Photo Rental for the use of their lovely 200-400mm f4 Nikkor lens. Sometimes size DOES matter…
can you have a crush on a lens? because i think i do
It’s crunch time over here which means all manner of cookies and confections are marching their way through my kitchen. Each year I try to add one new recipe because I like variety and it keeps me on my toes. Jeremy reminded me that people who are gifted cookies once a year generally don’t get upset if you have some repeats. In fact, he said, his administrative staff request the lemon-ginger cookies each year. I waved him off and said I had a new recipe in mind to try and that it should be easy.
let’s get crackin’
In case you are looking for ideas, here are links to some of the goodies I like to gift this time of year (I tend not to make French macarons over the holidays because they don’t ship easily and have a rather finite shelf life):
almond crunch cookies
chinese almond cookies
cranberry oatmeal cookies
espresso chocolate chip shortbreads
lemon ginger cookies
mexican wedding cookies
raspberry cream cheese cookies
And here’s the newest addition to the repertoire… chocolate crackles.
sugars, cocoa, eggs, butter, chocolate chips, milk, vanilla, flour, salt, baking powder
mix the dry ingredients
This is an easy recipe. At least, it’s supposed to be. Any cookie with a leavening agent in the recipe gives me pause, because there is substantially less atmospheric pressure here than at sea-level. I’ve had more than my fair share of cookie disasters thanks to my elevation of 8500 feet. So I was wary going into to this cookie.
start with light brown sugar and butter
melt the chocolate
The cookies are supposed to be somewhat domed and thick. My first batch nearly ran together into one large, thin, and extra-crispy cookie. Even when you’re used to expecting this kind of fiasco, you still cringe. My general rule of thumb is to try all recipes at their sea-level version first because sometimes they work just fine. Once they fail, then I can start making adjustments.
beat eggs and vanilla into the creamed sugar and butter
then add the chocolate
Recipe testing is not my strong suit. Hell, patience is not my strong suit. I still had half of the dough left, so I added flour to increase structure since I couldn’t remove baking powder. It helped a little. Then I added more… and more… and finally, I got a cookie that resembled a cookie rather than a wafer.
mix in the flour alternating with the milk
a sticky cookie dough
So I’m assuming that this recipe works as is for those below 3000 feet in elevation. I looked online and this specific recipe has met with success elsewhere. I checked the measurements on several blog posts and they are the same as what I originally started with. If you’re at elevation, I suggest reducing the baking powder (maybe by a quarter teaspoon or up to a half teaspoon at my elevation), increasing the flour (as much as 1 1/2 cups for me), and increasing the salt (to 1/2 teaspoon for me). You can also try reducing the light brown sugar, but I wouldn’t do too much as you’ll lose some flavor. Anyway, all of my modifications for 8500 feet are in parentheses in the recipe below.
roll dough into 1-inch diameter balls
first roll in granulated sugar
then roll in powdered sugar
I also had to reduce the baking time although I didn’t futz with the baking temperature (too many variables will just make me angry). On my fifth iteration, I managed to get a 3-inch diameter cookie with a crunchy outside and fudgy inside. I think they’re lovely despite the powdered sugar mess they make when you eat them.
place on parchment-lined baking sheet
Another reason I like these cookies is because they make me think of plate tectonics. But even if you don’t have a geophysics bent, they’re festive and snowy which is perfect right about now. I wasn’t in much of mood to wrestle with this recipe, but I’m glad I did because these are wonderful, happy cookies to share. I hope the recipients like them!
from Martha Stewart’s Cookies
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (2 1/2 cups @8500 ft.)
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 tsps baking powder (1 1/2 tsps @8500 ft.)
1/4 tsp coarse salt (1/2 tsp @8500 ft.)
1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed (1 1/4 cups @8500 ft.)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (2 tsps @8500 ft.)
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a hot water bath or on medium-low power in a microwave, stirring occasionally. Set aside to let cool. Sift (or whisk) the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Beat the butter and light brown sugar together for a couple of minutes until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, then beat in the melted chocolate. Slowly mix half of the flour into the butter mixture. Mix in half of the milk until incorporated. Mix the remaining flour and then the milk until combined. Place the dough in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours or until the dough is firm. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pinch off pieces from the dough and roll into 1-inch balls. Coat each dough ball in granulated sugar then in powdered sugar and place 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until the surfaces crack – about 14 minutes (10 minutes @8500 ft.). You can rotate the baking sheets halfway through the baking time, but I didn’t need to. Remove from baking sheets to cooling racks until completely cooled. Store cookies between layers of parchment or wax paper in airtight containers at room temperature. Good for up to 3 days. Makes 60 cookies.