Karen and Lisa. I love these two girls like they were my sisters, and even though I've only known them a few years it feels like we've known each other forever. It's incredibly special and somehow satisfying to be surrounded by people who just get you and all your quirks and weirdness. A couple of weeks ago Lisa and I were having one of our usual daily gmail chats and we were brainstorming crazy baking ideas when she came up with a pretty spectacular one. Karen's birthday was looming, and we were planning to take her out to an awesome lunch at Universal restaurant. Lisa suggested we make her an epic birthday cake as an extra present. A sexy chocolate cake. With Pedro Ximenez sherry. Slathered in an even sexier ganache. Oh and how about some salted butter & cocoa nib cookies? If you know Karen or you've ever read her blog then you would understand. She is a lover of all things chocolatey, sexy and salted buttery and is obsessed with dessert booze. We couldn't make this cake anymore like Karen unless we somehow managed to build it legs so it could go frolicking in the fields.
Chocolate & PX Brownie cake, which she carefully carried all the way over to my house (and nearly dropped on the pavement outside the door), and then slathered the whole thing in a thick layer of super luscious and very sexy dark chocolate & PX ganache. The smell in my kitchen of all that chocolate and PX was incredible. My small contribution was the cute little heart-shaped Cocoa Nib & Chocolate Chip Cookies, which we stuck on to the side of the cake and decorated with a ribbon. It was so much fun working with Lisa to come up with the final cake, and since we had some free time we couldn't resist pulling out some props and snapping a few shots, so I'll just use it as an excuse to share the cookie recipe with you and link to her amazing cake. The biscuits are pretty freaking awesome on their own though, they're a little different to my Salted & Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies as they are thin and crisp and have a great nutty flavour and crunch from the bits of cocoa nibs. They're just a little bit sexier and sophisticated. You can cut the dough thicker and bake them for less time if you still prefer your cookies a little chewy in the middle. I actually overbaked the cookies a bit so they were extra crunchy because I was worried they might go soggy once they were sitting in the chocolate ganache on the cake. The addition of the salted butter makes them so addictive, I had to force myself to give away all the leftover biscuits that we didn't use on Karen's cake or I would have eaten them all myself! Good luck trying to eat only one. And make sure you check out Lisa's incredible recipe for her Chocolate & PX Brownie cake. She's a genius.
Cocoa Nib & Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes about 6 dozen cookies depending on how large and thick you cut them, adapted from this Food & Wine recipe)
120g dark chocolate or chocolate chips, finely chopped (I blitzed mine in the food processor to break it up)
4 tbsp (approx 35g) cocoa nibs
2 1/2 cups (approx 300g) plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
280g (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (approx 200g) sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Sift flour, bicarb, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. Beat salted butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 mins. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure it mixes evenly. Beat in dry ingredients at a medium-low speed and then fold in chocolate and cocoa nibs. The dough should be easy to handle and quite firm.
Take dough out of fridge and unwrap. If making rounds, use a sharp knife to cut rounds, about 3mm (about 1/8th of an inch) thick. If making hearts, roll dough between two sheets of baking paper to the same thickness and cut with a cookie cutter. Place cut dough on prepared baking sheets (leave about 1.5 cm space for the cookies to expand) and bake for about 20 mins, until they are golden. If you want them to be a little chewier, cut them a tiny bit thicker and then keep an eye on them after 10 mins and take them out as soon as the edges turn golden. For the heart-shaped ones in the picture I overbaked them slightly so they were very crunchy, to make sure they didn't go soggy when stuck to the cake. Leave cookies to cool on trays for 5 mins and then cool completely on a wire rack. Best eaten fresh while the chocolate is warm and gooey but can be stored in an airtight container for several days. Works great as decoration for this Chocolate and PX Brownie Cake. (I also brushed the cookies with some PX right after they came out of the oven for the cake)