About this time each year, I encounter the Cookie Yield Paradox: no matter how many cookies a recipe claims to produce, I will always end up with less. If the recipe is supposed to yield 36 cookies, it will actually yield 27, with the cookie dough I ate raw accounting for only two of the missing cookies. My first theory to explain the discrepancy was portion distortion–in the current era of triple-patty burgers, 64-ounce sodas, and muffins the size of a small child’s head, it was possible that my cookies were far larger than they were supposed to be. So I scrupulously began measuring teaspoonfuls of dough and using a ruler to gauge dough thickness. This helped somewhat, but not in cases where cookie yield seemed to be based on magical thinking rather than mathematical reality. For example, last weekend I made the very delicious “Libby Cockrey’s Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies” from Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters. It’s a wonderful cookbook, with thorough and thoughtful instructions, but I would really, really like to know how they calculated the yield of 60 cookies for the Pinwheel Cookie recipe. The instructions have you roll the chocolate and vanilla doughs into 8 inch by 12 inch sheets, roll the dough sheets together jelly-roll style, and then slice the resulting log into 1/4 inch thick slices. Depending on whether you roll the dough widthwise or lengthwise (it isn’t specified), you will end up with either a 12 inch or 8 inch long log. Thanks the multiplication tables that I learned back in Mrs. Kieran’s third grade class at Hermantown Elementary, this means that once you slice the dough into 1/4 inch slices you will end up with either 48 (12 times 4) or 32 (8 times 4) cookies. It completely eludes me as to how one would end up with 60 cookies, unless they’re supposed to miraculously multiply in the oven (mine didn’t).
The Cookie Yield Paradox isn’t a problem in most circumstances. If you’re tossing the cookies into the cookie jar or bringing them to a potluck, it doesn’t really matter if you have 36 or 27. But in this particular instance, I needed at least 36 cookies for the annual Christmas cookie exchange that I do with my three best friends, and the Pinwheel Cookie recipe shorted me by a dozen. This meant that I had to bake more cookies (and eat more cookie dough), but I soldiered on in the face of adversity. I found a tantalizing recipe for Salted Chocolate Cookies that neatly sidesteps the Cookie Yield Paradox by listing the yield as “a lot”. In this case, half of “a lot” turned out to be “enough.”
The chocolate-and-salt combination of these cookies reminds me of chocolate covered pretzels, a Stacy cookie exchange staple. But as much as I love pretzels and almond bark (particularly the part where I get to lick the leftover almond bark from the bowl), the deep flavor of bittersweet chocolate with a hint of sea salt is even better. This recipe comes together fairly easily (especially considering how wonderful the cookies end up tasting), although a bit of planning is required since you have to chill the dough overnight.
Yield: enough (52 cookies in my case)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
additional granulated sugar, for rolling dough logs
coarse sea salt
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter until creamy.* Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg, table salt, and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the melted chocolate and mix until combined. Add the milk and mix until combined. Finally, add the flour mixture and mix until combined. The resulting dough will be the consistency of a stiff batter.
Divide the dough into two portions and place each portion on a large piece of plastic wrap. Roll the plastic wrap around the dough and shape each portion into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap to tightly seal and chill dough in refrigerator overnight.
The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Unwrap the dough logs and sprinkle a ridge of granulated sugar the same length as the dough logs onto a clean work surface. Roll the logs in sugar to coat and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place cookies on a non-stick baking sheet and sprinkle each with a few grains of coarse sea salt.
Bake the cookies for 8 minutes, or until the cookies are set but the centers are slightly soft to the touch. Place the baking sheets on wire racks and allow cookies to cool on pan.
*Note: the original recipe calls for mixing the ingredients with a stand mixer. Since I don’t have one, I used the wooden spoon approach.