As you would have seen on many blogs, it’s December, Christmas is on its way. A period of holiday cheer, seasonal madness, and a kitchen covered in sticky flour-y patches.
I have started planning for The Christmas Lunch, trying to balance the preferences of two families. There’s the anti-Turkey matriarch, the other matriarch who likes Turkey With All The Trimmings, someone who likes an early lunch followed by a stroll on the sunburnt beach, and another who enjoys nothing more than a late night post-pudding egg nog.
I can’t do anything about the time of Christmas lunch, but I think I’ve written a menu that will keep both sides happy, ish, esp when prefaced by a couple of happy, festive cocktails. Whew!! For a moment, Christmas on a deserted island (with a Christmas tree, and reindeers) seemed just a tad appealing.
This is when I turned to something child-like in its simplicity, and universally happy-making.
These cookies, stuffed to the brim with buttered popcorn, dark chocolate chip, and brown butter.
Think: buttered popcorn with salty, crunchy bits, dark, dark chocolate chunks, extra flecks of chunky sea salt, brought to you by a soft, chewy, sweet cookie dough.
These cookies are adapted from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. The popcorns. They make the cookie, by ramping up the fun, texture, chunkiness. And making it alright to add an extra pinch of salt to a cookie dough.
The original recipe says to cream the butter and sugar together. I tried using browned butter, because I wanted to see what brown butter would do to the flavour, and because I read that melted butter makes a chewier cookie. The cookies have a slight hazelnutty fragrance, and are definitely on the chewy side – just how I like my cookies.
Joy the Baker added chocolate chips to the cookie dough. Even if you are not a dark chocolate fan, try a dark chocolate here (I used 85% Lindt). Somehow, the just-sweet, almost bitter chocolate matches the salty popcorn and sweet cookie dough perfectly. Even a colleague who’s a milk chocolate kinda guy came up to me and said “the chocolate was really good”.
(Another became a self-styled cookie critic, and left notes on my keyboard saying, “like the saltiness”, “like the popcorn” and “perfect blend of texture and thickness”. I wonder if he ate one cookie per note?)
And proof that seasonal madness can affect cookies too - my painstakingly stacked tower of cookies decided to do a somersault for the camera. Luckily they fell safely onto the napkins lying around the table, so they still went the way of all cookies.
PS, these cookies can be a leisurely adventure, with a copper pan, popping corn and melting butter. Or, you could go with microwaved popcorn (apparently Deb herself says so). And if you are in a real hurry or the Grinch has stolen your microwave, decent shop-bought packet of popcorn will do, at a pinch. Just use good dark chocolate and adjust the salt.
PSS, can anyone imagine a ribbon of thick, gooey caramel running through these cookies? Is that just me??
Buttered popcorn and chocolate chip cookies, with brown butter
2 tbsp coconut oil or butter
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 tsp kosher salt (I used a generous pinch of chunky sea salt)
115 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
95 grams (1/2 cup packed) dark brown sugar
65 grams (1/3 cup) white sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup chunks of dark chocolate, coarsely chopped leaving a few larger chunks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
155 grams (1 1/2 cup) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1. Popping the popcorn on the stove or in a microwave. If doing this on the stove, set a large pan over medium-high heat. Melt the 2 tbsp butter or coconut oil.
2. When the oil or butter is sizzling, add the popcorn kernels. Shake the pan around until you have an even layer of kernels. Add the salt. Put on the lid. When you hear the kernels begin to pop, give the pan a vigorous shake. Continue shaking the pan as the popping continues, so you don’t burn any kernels. When the popping has slowed down to silence, turn off the burner.
3. Take off the lid and pour the popcorn into a large bowl. (This makes extra popcorn for snacking.)
4. Making brown butter. Melt butter and continue heating until it foams and turns a lighter, then darker brown. Pour brown butter into a bowl to cool, try to leave any burnt buttermilk sediments behind.
5. Making the dough. When butter is cooled somewhat, add the brown and white sugars and mix well. Add the egg to the dough – making sure the butter is just warm to the touch, otherwise you might end up with scrambled eggs. Add the vanilla extract and mix.
6. Combine flour and baking soda, add to the butter mixture. When well combined, add 4 cups of popped popcorn and chocolate chips. Fold the popcorn and chocolate chips into the cookie dough, even if it looks like there is way too much popcorn/chocolate for the dough. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour or overnight before baking.
7. Baking the cookies. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F / 175°C. Using cookie dough straight from the fridge, scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a lined baking tray or baking sheet. Keep the balls of cookie dough about 2 inches/5 cm from each other (I made smaller lumps of cookie dough and kept them about 3 cms from each other).
8. Bake until the cookies’ edges are started to turn crisp and turn a light brown. After the cookies have cooled on the baking tray / sheet for at least 5 minutes, carefully move them to a cooling rack. They are fragile just out of the oven, and becomes sturdier after a while – though still soft and chewy.