IMBB #22: Gulya Pinkhasov's Shurpa Lagman
And Now For Something Completely Different

Grand Casino's San Andreas Cookies


I've got a bit of a sweet tooth. It's not out of control; sometimes I'm happy to reach for a ripe piece of fruit instead. But I'd be lying if I said that an afternoon chocolate fix isn't something I look forward to on most days. It has to be dark and not too sweet. It has to be the right size: not so big that I'll feel gluttonous after eating the whole thing, and not so small that I keep reaching for more. But lately, I've become too reliant on running out for an indulgence from the deli, and I'd like to put the 75 cents I spend each time into a piggy bank instead (they're not for nothing, my New Year's resolutions! Though I have to admit that, so far, I am doing abominably badly with the whole gym thing. While I ponder the conundrum that I find myself in, worrying about my gym attendance while posting about chocolate cookies, I invite you to continue reading).

I thought I'd make a batch of cookies that I could nibble on all week, whilst also sharing with colleagues and feeding to Ben after a particularly demoralizing day of work. The recipe I chose comes from a bakery in Los Angeles and was featured in the Culinary SOS column of the LA TImes back in November. They're named after the San Andreas fault line, which is repeated in the craggy top of these sugar-coated confections. I've seen recipes for cookies with a dark interior and a snowy, crackled top before: in magazines and on the back of cocoa boxes. But they've never been described quite so lyrically as by Barbara Hansen and the cookie namers at Grand Casino.

The cookies have a pleasing texture: they're nubby from the pulverized almonds, crunchy from the granulated sugar coating, and tender and melting within. I was amazed by the amount of baking powder called for (two whole tablespoons!), and the fact that there was no salt in the recipe. I had to practically hold my fingers back with the other hand as they itched to throw in a pinch. With 12 ounces of melted chocolate in the mix, the cookies have a deep chocolate flavor, but beating the eggs for a long time and adding all that baking powder makes for surprisingly light results.

I'd suggest baking the cookies in two batches. Rolling the dough (that, I swear to God, rose overnight in the fridge. Is that even possible? Probably not) into balls and then in two kinds of sugar is a messy proposition, and when the dough softens from the temperature of the room, it gets even messier. Make up one sheet of cookies, and put the rest of the dough back in the fridge until you're ready to take out the first batch. That way, the dough stays cool and manageable.

San Andreas Cookies
About 2 dozen cookies

2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter
12 ounces dark chocolate
3 eggs
7 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for coating, divided
3/4 cup flour, sifted
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup almond meal
6 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar

1. Melt the butter and dark chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs and 7 tablespoons sugar until the mixture reaches ribbon stage and is pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Mix in the melted chocolate and butter.

3. Combine the flour, baking powder and almond meal. Alternating with the milk, add these dry ingredients to the batter. Spoon the mixture into a container, cover tightly and chill overnight.

4. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the one-fourth cup granulated sugar and the powdered sugar in two separate shallow bowls. Scoop out 2 tablespoons of dough per cookie and form into a ball. Roll each ball of dough in granulated sugar, then in the powdered sugar.

5. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake in the oven. Cookies will flatten and crack during baking, and are done when the dough is no longer gooey in the center when tested with toothpick, about 20 to 24 minutes. Place on rack to cool.