I'm slowly making my way back into the kitchen. My husband and I took our first trip in two years without our French Bulldog, Bisous. We went to a part of the U.S. we love, Sonoma and Napa Valleys, where we were welcomed by temperatures in the low 70's. If you spent any time in Minnesota during this past winter, you will understand just how much we enjoyed northern California's weather...
The moment we returned home we headed straight for our veterinary clinic to pick up Bisous, where he had surgery for patella luxation the previous week. Recovery involves 8 weeks of physical therapy, meds, no stairs, no jumping on furniture, etc. My biggest fear is, when the 8 weeks are up we will find he still has a damaged knee; keeping Bisous still is not an easy feat. I never knew a Frenchie could be as physically active as Bisous. I have known many French Bulldogs through the years and not one has come close to Bisous' energy level. Right before I started noticing the limp/skip in Bisous' step, I saw him racing circles through our backyard moments before he flew over an entire raised bed in our garden. His size, weight, and activity level have not been his body's friend. In the information that was sent home with us from our vet, I read that 30 to 40 percent of dogs that have patella luxation in one knee will eventually have it in the other. The best thing I can do for Bisous is cut back on the amount of food he eats. Bisous was given to us by the breeder, at eight weeks of age, with Giardia. He was on heavy duty, hard on his system, meds for over four months. During that time we did everything possible to get him to eat, since the drugs killed his appetite. He now loves his food and sits in front of his empty bowl staring into it and crying. It's hard not to give him everything he wants.
I have not left our house since we brought Bisous home. Up until yesterday I have always been here with him. But we went next door last night for dinner (easy enough to run home occasionally and check on B). I made an appetizer (one that I need to bake again and photograph) plus, the cookies in this post. The Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread is a recipe by Alison Roman; photos of which are all over Instagram. NYT Cooking shared the recipe, and... voila! ... dessert last night along with Rudesheim Coffee. The falling snow outdoors was the perfect backdrop.
•Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies•
•recipe by Alison Roman, via NYT Cookiing
•yield: 24 cookies
• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons salted butter, cold (room temp if you're using a handheld mixer), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup light brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 6 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet dark chocolate chopped (not too fine, you want chunks, not little shards)
• 1 large egg, beaten
• Demerara sugar, for rolling
• Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
1. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars, and vanilla on medium-high till it's super light and fluffy (3-5 minutes for a stand mixer; 6-8 for a hand mixer). Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and mix just to blend. If necessary, knead the dough with your hands to make sure the flour is totally incorporated. At this point, the dough should be smooth with no pockets of flour.
2. Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap and your hands to form the dough into a log shape. Rolling on the counter will help to smooth it out. Each half should form a 6-inch log, 2 to 2 1/4-inches in diameter (my logs ended up around 7-inches). Chill until totally firm, about two hours.
3. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Brush the outside of the logs with the beaten egg and roll them in the demerara sugar.
4. This is where I found I needed to let the logs warm up a bit. When I tried to slice the first cookie, it crumbled into pieces. I kept my dough in the refrigerator overnight and it was hard. I probably gave them about 10 minutes before I gently began slicing the dough with the serrated knife. Position your fingers on the dough where you are slicing. It's a bit awkward, but I had two fingers on the end of the log with the serrated knife between them and the rest of my hand. If any of the dough breaks off, gently press it into the cookie once on the baking sheet. These cookies are very forgiving. Place them on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Sprinkle with the flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before sitting down with a glass of cold milk and trying not to eat them all!
TAKE a LOOK:
Whenever I eat a flourless chocolate cake with crème anglaise I'm reminded of a dessert my mother and aunt made often when I was growing up in the Amana Colonies. A dense, bitter chocolate pudding was poured into a mold, and when set, it was released into a large bowl of sweet vanilla sauce. I was always so happy when I saw it being prepared. I loved it. And many years later, when I was in Paris with my sister and daughter during October, the first time I had ever visited in the fall, I saw Gâteau au Chocolat avec Crème Anglaise on bistro chalkboards, everywhere. One restaurant had a little table set up by the front window with pitchers full of the vanilla sauce alongside platters of chocolate cake. You probably know what I had for dessert that night.
I have baked many flourless chocolate cakes and this one has edged itself to the front of the line. Double the recipe, below, for the Crème Anglaise if you want a generous dish of the vanilla sauce to accompany all of the chocolate cake slices ;-P