A slightly crunchy sweet crust breaks open and the intense flavor of chocolate bursts in your mouth as you eat one after another of these amazing cookies. The dough is rolled into balls and then heavily coated with powdered sugar. As they bake, the surface cracks open, exposing the dark brown interior, contrasting beautifully with the white sugar coating. It wouldn’t be Chocolate Monday without something to tempt you to throw all cautions away and dive right in. Be careful, these cookies are addicting!
Chocolate was originally considered so precious that only royalty was allowed to have it. Discovered by the native peoples of Mesoamerica, the area now called Mexico, it was originally served as an extremely bitter beverage usually spiked with chili powder. The Spanish Conquistadors brought it back from with them and the Europeans, unaccustomed to the bitterness, added sugar and replaced the chili powder with another indigenous Mexican spice, vanilla. The Spanish were able to keep it a secret for over 100 years and it wasn’t until Princess Anne of Spain, then known as Queen Anne of Austria, married Louis XIII of France that the secret got out and all of Europe embraced the heavenly concoction.
The Dutch figured out how to take some of the bitterness out of chocolate and the Swiss blended it with milk for a creamy confection. The first mass-produced chocolates came from the United States and Switzerland. Did you know that M&M’s were developed so that American soldiers could carry chocolate with them into war? The candy coating helped keep them from melting. Once you’ve had it, you must have more!
These cookies have a surprise ingredient … pecans mixed into the flour so that they are barely perceptible. They add a richness that will have people guessing. For those who don’t like nuts in their cookies, they won’t have a clue. I wouldn’t substitute any other nut, the buttery quality of pecans is perfect here. You can certainly chop everything by hand but a food processor will give you a much finer mince. I chop the nuts first then add the flour and process it until the nuts virtually disappear.
These are first and foremost chocolate cookies and using high quality chocolate will give you results you never dreamed were possible. High quality chocolate can be life changing and it’s worth every penny. Once you’ve had the good stuff you’ll never go back. If you can, avoid any product called “baking chocolate” because it doesn’t have a high enough percentage of cocoa mass (chocolate liquor) for the intense chocolate flavor you want. And when a recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, never substitute any other kind. The recipe has been calculated to add sugar to compensate for the unsweetened chocolate, and if you use anything else, the end result will be cloying sweet.
When people talk about chocolate percentages, it can be a bit confusing. The higher the percentage, the darker the color, more intense the flavor, and less sugar it contains. Try something fun, gather a few friends together and do a blind chocolate tasting. Buy several different kinds of dark chocolate and chop them into small pieces. Put into individual bowls labeled with numbers instead of the names. Vary them by cost and chocolate percentage. After everyone has finished tasting, pass around a bowl of chopped milk chocolate and see what people say. You may be surprised by your friend’s reactions. Those who swore they hated dark chocolate may now find it far too sweet.
If you have had trouble with powdered sugar melting and disappearing when used on hot cookies, there is an amazing product sold by King Arthur that will solve all your problems. It is called Snow White Topping Sugar and it is perfect for these cookies, lemon bars, gingerbread, or any other moist items that usually absorb the sugar. I used to get so frustrated when I wanted a beautiful powdered sugar coating, and would coat, dust, and pour it on my poor unsuspecting cookies, but it never held up. The sugar from King Arthur is amazing. It lasts for days, looking just as fresh as right after it was first applied. A little goes a long way, because you don’t need to use as much. Give it a try and I know you will love the results.
These should be eaten on the day you bake them for the best texture. While good the next day, the texture changes and the cookies get denser. But they’re still just as delicious! You can bake off only what you want for a single day and save the rest of the dough for later. It keeps in the refrigerator for two to three days or in the freezer for up to one month. Make sure to stir the batter well after it has been sitting in the refrigerator to reincorporate any accumulated moisture.
I have made these cookies for years and they have never failed to be the hit of every party. When I enter them in the local county fair, they always win a blue ribbon and if someone is having a down day, these are guaranteed to lift their spirits. You will probably find that they become one of your most requested baked items.
“There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate truffles.” – Author Unknown
Jane’s Tips and Hints
Using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop makes forming the balls of dough a snap. Once you try it you will never make cookies without one again! Sifting the powdered sugar before using breaks up any clumps, making a smoother coating.
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cubed
- 8 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup pecans
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Powdered sugar, for coating
- Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl set over a saucepan over barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool.
- In a mixer bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Slowly blend in the butter and chocolate and mix well.
- In a food processor, chop nuts fairly finely. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Process until nuts are very finely chopped and thoroughly incorporated into the flour. Add this to the eggs and chocolate. Mix until just combined. The dough should be very soft at this point. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or until very firm.
- To bake the cookies, Set racks in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Place the powdered sugar in a shallow plate.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into thirds. Work with only 1/3 of dough at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered in the refrigerator. Form 2 tbsp balls of dough using an ice cream scoop. Roll each ball in the sugar, making sure they are heavily coated. Place them on the prepared cookie sheets at least 2-inches apart.
- Bake for about 12 minutes, spinning them and alternating sheets top with bottom halfway through. When done, the cookies will have a slight crust on the top but feel soft to the touch. Be careful not to burn them. Let sit on the sheets for 1 to 2 minutes and then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Yield: About 4 dozen cookies