The power of salt to make delicious sweets even more delicious is well documented, case in point being salted caramel. I’ve been converted to salt with chocolate since watching a Heston Blumenthal TV programme on chocolate, where he recommended adding salt to dark chocolate to make it taste sweeter. It sounded a bit mad at first, but after giving it a go with some chocolate mousse I can confidently confirm that a pinch of salt does indeed make dark chocolate sweeter without losing its intensity and richness. It also makes it taste more expensive.
Now I’m very happy to call myself thrify, and baking ingredients do not come cheap. Cocoa powder is one of the things which can cost a bomb, particularly the nice dark stuff. I’m always on the lookout for ways to made chep, basic ingredients taste incredible. The secret to these dark, rich intense chocolate cookies is a bit pinch of salt and roasting the cocoa powder before adding to the dough. Sound insane? I promise you it works. Dan Leopard told me, and he’s a baking genius.
One warning – do not get distracted and leave the room while the cocoa is roasting. The second time I made these cookies I started making bread once I put the cocoa in to roast. By the time I remembered the cocoa it was smoldering away on its tray, and as I opened the oven door and pulled out the tray, the rush of air ignited the embers and it burst into flames.
I then had a burning tray in one hand and no where to put it down (I have since been better at clearing surfaces before starting baking). Holding the tray out of the window only fanned the flames, which were now getting fairly substantial and far too near my flammable oven gloved hand for comfort. Whilst keeping one arm stretched out the window, I managed to grab a glass of water and pour it over the flames. Damp, burnt cocoa is not a good smell. Disaster. And a waste of cocoa!
Despite this, roasting the cocoa is actually very easy, as long as you are paying attention. Make sure you keep the cocoa pressed together on the tray, not loose, and check it very regularly. You’ll be able to smell it if it starts to catch.
My final tip is very simple: please use these cookies to make an ice cream sandwich. You won’t be sorry.
Salted Roasted Cocoa Cookies (recipe very slightly adapted from Dan Lepard)
25g Cocoa powder (you need 25g for a batch of these, but I’d recommend roasting more than that and using it as normal in other recipes too)
60g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate (as good as you can afford. They taste good with 30p Aldi chocolate and even better with fancy 70% cocoa stuff)
225g dark brown sugar
125g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
1. Roast your cocoa. Heat your oven to 160C and line a baking tray. Pop your cocoa on the try and pack it into a form oblong. If you don’t do this the loose bits of cocoa at the edges burn. Roast for 5 mins at a time until a rich dark colour but not burnt or black. I’ve found different brands can take different times so you’ll need to play this bit by eye and smell. Leave to cool once you’re happy.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add in the dry ingredients and egg and stir to combine. Let the dough cool down in the fridge for about an hour. I push it into a big flat disk to make this happen faster.
3. When the dough is cool, roll small balls out and place them on a lined baking try. Flatten them down with your palm and sprinkle over some flaky salt.
4. Bake for about 15mins at 160C. They’ll spread out and go very dark.
If you can bear to, let them cool and then scoff with a glass of milk, or as an ice cream sandwich.