I loathe rye bread. Really, truly do not understand it.
It’s either so dense it’s a brick, miserable and damp, or it’s sliced so delicately, it crumbles on contact, disappearing into a mass of crumbs, so quickly and comprehensively that it’s hard to believe it ever formed a loaf. I spent one miserable afternoon cutting countless slices of the thinnest rye bread into tiny triangles to top with smoked salmon for a garden party, more rye crumbling from the sandwiches than staying on them.
I know it’s a grown up bread, a healthy bread, that it’s terribly trendy. There are many excellent reasons why I should like it, but it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I shell out extortionate sums of money on an artisan rye loaf, I still hate it. Seems that money really can’t buy you taste, either mine or the bread’s.
So, to be honest, I’m not really sure why these cookies work, but work they do. I’m not even sure why I made them in the first place – shoving a whole heap of rye flour as a rye hater into what were perfectly good cookies beforehand seems, at best, perverse – but I’m so glad I did. And they really are packed full of rye: you’ll find rye cookies with a plain flour/rye flour mix, to temper the intensity of the rye flavour I’ve moaned about. Not these cookies, these are 100% rye flour, and so much the better for it. When you combine the rye with light brown sugar it is transformed into something golden and good. I did, incidentally, recipe test with different proportions of rye and plain flour, and none of them came close.
These are cookies in the proper American sense: crisp and golden on the outside, but plump and soft within. Very slightly chewy from the light brown sugar and rye flour, with big fat chunks of toasty hazelnut and the darkest chocolate and, as ever, just the right amount of salt to bring out the best flavours. If you need further persuasion, I’ve made two batches in the last week, and they both disappeared so quickly, I’m considering a third.
It goes like this:
Salted chocolate, hazelnut, and rye cookies
Makes: 15-18 cookies
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: 15 minutes
100g salted butter, room temperature
100g light brown sugar
75g caster sugar
1 large egg
175g rye flour
150g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare two large oven trays with greaseproof paper.
2. First, toast your hazelnuts. Place them in a small frying pan over a medium heat shuffling regularly, and cook until they start to take on a little colour and you can smell them. Nuts burn quickly and badly so do keep an eye on them.
3. Now cream together your butter and sugars. I do this with an electric whisk, and a stand mixer will do the job well, but it’s fine to do by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon: you want the mixture to be well-beaten, fluffy and noticeably pale.
4. Add the egg and beat it into the mix well. Fold in the flour and salt.
5. Chop the chocolate and hazelnuts into small pieces: you can do this to your own preference, but I tend to half small hazelnuts, and chop chocolate into pieces smaller than that. Fold these evenly through the mix.
6. Roll the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball and place on baking trays, spaced well apart.
7. Bake for 13-16 minutes, until the top of the cookies are set and golden, but still soft. They will not feel cooked, but will harden as they cool; do not leave in the oven until they are firm. Transfer to a cooling rack on the paper, and leave for fifteen minutes before gently peeling from the paper: I find sliding a palette knife or spatula underneath helps me here.
8. Ta Dah!
Icing on the Cake
I’d like to, as I normally do, say ‘we ate these…’ but I didn’t see Sam eat a single one. He must have done, because they disappeared; but then I don’t think he saw me eat one either. What I can tell you is that I ate these near constantly. They are compulsively delicious, just small enough to justify two, or even three in a row, and I couldn’t pass the tin they sat in without reaching in.