Regular readers of this section; I know what you’re thinking:
Didn’t she write a story about cookies just weeks ago?
In my defense, the story went to press before the moon and the stars collided and I did something I finally got around to: I made World Peace Cookies. I could describe the WPC as a chocolate French-style shortbread (also known as a sablé), but that would be underreporting. With the addition of chopped chocolate and sea salt, this smooth yet sandy dough gets disrupted in the best kind of way, taking on layers of texture and flavor that I did not anticipate.
The genius responsible for all this mayhem is the incomparable baking doyenne Dorie Greenspan, award-winning author of 13 cookbooks (with a forthcoming title in October), who last month posted an Instagram ditty on the beloved cult classic, reminding those of us who are just catching up that there is no time like the present to bake up some World Peace.
I pushed aside my original holiday baking plans to make room for WPC, particularly with my chocolate-loving mother-in-law in mind. One batch turned into three, and I kept thinking about the name behind this scrumptious morsel and how I needed to catch up with Greenspan, whom I haven’t seen in years.
In a phone call last week from her Connecticut home, Greenspan explained that the original WPC is the work of renowned pastry chef and chocolatier Pierre Hermé, who dubbed it the Korova, the same name of a then-trendy (and now departed) restaurant in Paris. In her 2002 book “Paris Sweets,” Greenspan includes the Korova recipe, but within a few years, the cookie gets a new identity.
It was a neighbor in New York City who inspired the name change, Greenspan said. He loved the cookie so much he began referring to it as the World Peace Cookie.
“I remember him saying that if everyone had one [WPC],” Greenspan said, “there would be peace.”
The change took immediate effect, with the renamed cookie in her next book, and the rest is, well, crumb-filled history.
“It is such a good cookie,” Greenspan said. “I can’t really put my finger on why it’s so good. There’s something about this cookie that brings me and everyone I know back to it.
“Will it bring world peace? We can think it will. Even if it doesn’t, it will bring happiness.”
WORLD PEACE COOKIES
Excerpted from “Dorie’s Cookies” by Dorie Greenspan.
Makes about 36 cookies.
A word on mixing, log rolling and patience: This dough can be different from batch to batch. It always seems to turn out well no matter what, but the inconsistency can be frustrating. I’ve found that it’s best to mix the dough for as long as it takes to get big, moist curds that hold together when pressed and then knead if necessary so it comes together.
To get a sturdy, solid log, start with a tight hunk of dough — it can be any shape — and roll it into a log under your palms. Keep checking it and, as soon as you feel a hollow in the log, start over.
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 5 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into irregular sized bits
1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
2. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed until soft, creamy and homogenous, about 3 minutes. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Turn off the mixer, add all the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to start the blending. When the risk of flying flour has passed, turn the mixer to low and beat until the dough forms big, moist curds. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix to incorporate. This is an unpredictable dough. Sometimes it’s crumbly and sometimes it comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Happily, no matter what, the cookies are always great.
3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it together, kneading it if necessary to bring it together. Divide the dough in half. Shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about the length — get the diameter right, and the length will follow. (If you get a hollow in the logs, just start over.)
4. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and freeze them for at least 2 hours or refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.
5. When you’re ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
6. Working with one log at a time and using a long, sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. (The rounds might crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. (If you’ve cut both logs, keep one baking sheet in the fridge while you bake the other.)
7. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes — don’t open the oven, just let them bake. When the timer rings, they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, and that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can munch them, or let them reach room temperature (I think the texture’s more interesting at room temperature).
8. Bake the remaining dough.
Storage: The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just bake the cookies 1 minute longer. Packed in a container, the cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 2 months.