Feature

Rye cookies: An ancient grain points baking in a new direction

“A fascinating world of flavor” exists beyond white flour and sugar.

“A fascinating world of flavor” exists beyond white flour and sugar, said Chad Robertson in Tartine Book No. 3 (Chronicle Books). These cookies, for example, aren’t just rich with dark chocolate and sea salt. While they can be made using all-purpose flour and brown sugar, dark rye and muscovado give them far more depth and tang.

Just as we’ve seen the variety of available produce explode in recent decades, a similar revival is happening with heirloom grains. Whole-grain dark rye flour is the main ingredient in many central European and Scandinavian breads. Its “curiously strong” vegetable gum produces sticky doughs, but it imparts a cake-like texture and richer taste.

Muscovado, meanwhile, is a partially refined sugar that hasn’t had all the molasses separated from the sucrose. It “has a more varied and complex flavor than commercial brown sugar.”

Recipe of the week
Salted chocolate rye cookies

  • 2²/³ cups chopped bittersweet chocolate (70 percent), preferably Valrhona
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup whole-grain dark rye flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Good-quality sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel, for topping

Fill saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring to simmer over medium heat. Set heat-proof bowl on saucepan so that it’s above and not touching the simmering water. Put chocolate and butter in bowl and let melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

In a second bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt

In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip eggs on medium-high speed, adding sugar a bit at a time, until incorporated. Increase speed to high; whip until eggs have nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Add melted chocolate mixture and vanilla. Mix to combine, scraping bowl’s sides as needed. Add flour mixture and mix just until combined. (The dough will be soft and loose; it firms up as it chills.)

Refrigerate dough in mixing bowl until just firm to the touch, about 30 minutes (the longer it chills, the harder it is to scoop).

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop up balls of dough with a rounded tablespoon, spacing them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Top each with a few flakes of sea salt, pressing gently to adhere. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until cookies puff up. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and transfer to a wire rack. Makes four dozen cookies, which will keep up to 3 days in an airtight container.

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