Recipe from Baking with the Cake Boss: Chocolate Brownie Clusters
In a bakery like Carlo's, everybody contributes some recipes at some time or another. These cookies—-which replicate the flavors and textures of a brownie in a meringue--like cookie that's miraculously crisp on the outside and gooey in the middle—-were the invention of the late, great baker Sal Picinich (who passed away while I was writing this book) and they-re pretty ingenious.
What impresses me about these cookies is the complex, deeply satisfying result achieved with just a handful of ingredients: egg whites, sugar, cocoa, and nuts. The batter looks like an unholy, goopy-gooey mess. When you make these, you might even think you did something wrong—-how could it transform into something appetizing? Your doubt might even be increased by the fact that these can only be spooned onto your baking sheet; the dough is too sticky for a pastry bag and too messy to work with by hand.
But trust me: Once these get into the oven, something magical happens and these ugly ducklings turn into perfect little swans—-and everybody will love the way they mimic the flavor and texture of brownies. It's a cookie to die for.
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups powdered (10X) sugar
- 1 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted raw walnut halves
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.
2. Put the egg whites and lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. (Be sure the bowl is immaculately clean; see "Egg Whites," page 56.) Whip on low speed for 2 minutes, then on maximum speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
3. Sift the sugar and cocoa powder into the bowl together, then fold into the batter with a rubber spatula until the batter is smooth and shiny. Fold in the walnuts, until they are well coated with the batter.
4. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, using nonstick spray or a dab of butter in each corner to glue the paper in place. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 1/2 inch apart, being sure to include about the same number of walnuts (3 or 4) in each one.
5. Bake until the outside has crisped and the bottom starts to pull away from the parchment paper, 15 to 20 minutes.
6. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. As soon as the clusters can be moved, use a spatula to transfer them to a rack and let them cool.
Enjoy the cookies right away, or store when completely cool in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
I sift ingredients for two reasons: (1) To be sure dry ingredients aren't too compacted; sifting helps ensure a lighter result in the baked good being made. (2) To better combine two or more dry ingredients that will be added to a recipe at the same time. This is especially important when you are using leavening agents such as baking powder and baking soda—-you want those strong-acting ingredients to be as evenly distributed as possible to ensure an even result across the entire baked good. (All of that said, in some cookie recipes I don't call for sifting because the dough gets mixed enough that the ingredients can't help being evenly distributed.)