It seems the internet is going cookie mad right now. My dear friend and food writer Edd Kimber is partly to blame - his cookies always make me drool. I’ve been dabbling with the dough myself recently, and these cookies, to quote my hyper-critical boyfriend, are “the best I’ve ever had”. I don’t disagree with him; they are certainly chewy, which is thanks to both the dried dates and the brown sugar.
Mahlab is the ground pit of a black cherry, and its flavour is at the crossroads of almond and stone fruit. If you really can’t find it (though in this day and age the internet sells everything) then leave it out, but trust me when I say: it is worth the investment.
These cookies also require you to make a brown butter, which is one of my favourite things to do. You simply melt the butter, let the water evaporate, then gently caramelise the milk solids. Of course, more detailed instruction will follow.
Ingredients - makes 18/19
140g unsalted butter, cubed
150g light brown muscovado sugar
75g caster sugar
1 large egg (extra large in the US and Canada)
175g plain flour
1 Tbsp ground mahlab
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt flakes
150g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I use Guittard 55%, but anything around 60% will work fine)
150g dried dates, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C conventional. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper.
Put the butter into a medium saucepan and set over a medium/high heat. Allow the butter to melt as you swirl the pan every once in a while. When the butter starts to bubble, which is the water content evaporating, swirl the pan more frequently - every 30 seconds or so. The bubbling will be fierce and noisy, like heavy rainfall, accompanied by large, irregular bubbles. After a short time, everything will fall silent and a fine, cappuccino-like foam will fill the surface of the liquid gold. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the brown butter into the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the sugars and beat for 5 minutes.
Add the egg and beat to combine, which should make the mixture transform from a grainy mush to a velvety slick. Add the flour, mahlab, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt and beat to a thick dough. Throw in the chopped chocolate and dates and beat until evenly combined.
Divide the dough into 18/19 portions (I got 19, annoyingly) each weighing 45g and roll into balls. Put the balls of dough, well-spaced, onto the baking sheets. I’d err on the side of caution and put fewer balls of dough than you feel comfortable with - there’s nothing worse than a batch of beautiful cookies spreading into one clump. If you have to bake the cookies in batches, do so. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes. They will still be slightly swollen up, so press them down a little (I just use the back of a spoon), then allow to cool on the baking sheets.