High Country Baking: Double dark chocolate drop cookies

High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.

Chocolate lovers, these cookies are for you. Slightly melted shards of dark chocolate, complemented by crunchy nuts, float in a rich chocolate dough that’s baked only until it’s soft and gooey. Reviewers raved about them, and I bet you will too.

The recipe is an easy one, but several things are critical to its success: use good chocolate, one you love to eat, and whip the egg until it’s thick and pale. Too much flour will ruin the wonderful texture, so use bleached flour (it’s softer), stir it until it’s fluffy and aerated, then gently spoon it, a little at a time, into the measuring cup; it should stay loose and light. Then, level the top. Lastly, watch the cookies closely as they’re baking so you can remove them from the oven the minute they’re set but still soft. Overbaking ruins them.

Use whatever nut you like, pecans, walnuts, almonds and even peanuts work well. The cookies are good on the day they’re made — and even better 24 hours later, so make them ahead if you can.

Double Dark Chocolate Drop Cookies

Adjusted for elevations of 7,000 feet and above

Yields two dozen 2-inch cookies

Make on two parchment-lined cookie sheets

4 ½ ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped fine plus 3 (three) ounces chopped into ¼ inch pieces

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 (three)  pieces

1½ teaspoons brewed espresso or strong coffee

¼ cup bleached flour, spoon and level

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 large egg, room temperature

3½ tablespoons granulated sugar, preferably superfine

1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract

1 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Prep: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position.  Place the 4½ ounces of finely chopped chocolate, the butter, and the espresso in a micro-wave safe bowl and warm at a low temperature in a microwave oven until the chocolate and butter are almost fully melted. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir until the mixture is smooth and shiny. This can also be done in a double boiler on the stovetop. Set it aside. Combine the flour and baking powder in a one-cup measure or small bowl, whisk to combine them well and set it aside.

Make the cookie dough: Add the egg and sugar to a medium mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until it increases significantly in volume, is very light in color (a pale yellow…almost white), and briefly holds beater tracks, this can take from 4-7 minutes, depending on your mixer. Add the vanilla and beat to blend. At the mixer’s lowest speed, stir in the melted chocolate. Use a large rubber or silicone spatula to fold in the flour/baking powder; try not to deflate the whipped egg. Finally, fold in the chocolate pieces and nuts. Set the batter aside for 5-10 minutes, so it firms up.

Chill the cookie dough: Drop level tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about 1½-inches apart. Gently shape them into a mounded circle with wet fingers. Chill or freeze them, on the cookie sheets, until firm, about 10-12 minutes. This helps prevent them from spreading as they bake.

Bake the cookies: Bake one sheet at a time, until the cookies puff up a little, are set, but still very soft, start checking at about 8 minutes in the oven. Err on the side of under-done, they’ll firm up quite a bit as they cool, and you can always bake them longer if it’s needed.

Cool and store the cookies: When finished baking, place the cookie sheets on a rack. As soon as the cookies cool enough that they no longer stick to the parchment paper, use a metal spatula to move them off the cookie sheest onto the cooling rack to cool completely. Store them, well covered, at room temperature for a day or in the fridge for up to 3 days.

This recipe is a variation of one published by the New York Times.

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