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February 18, 2011
Before I get to these sweet little cookies, a little catching up. First, a BIG thank you to everyone who came to see Josh “The Kid” Greenspan and me at CookieBar. It was so great to put smiling faces to the names I see here, on blogs, on Twitter and on Facebook. There are many people to thank for CookieBar’s success and I’ll tell you all about them soon. And, since so many of you have asked, I’ll also tell you about the rings we use to bake our cookies. If you want to get a peek at them before I write about them, just click over to CookieBar’s new, still-a-work-in-progress website.
Now for these cookies, which I made for Valentine’s Day. Several years ago, I remember reading that Pierre Gagniare, the Paris chef, and Herve This, the man responsible for coining the phrase ‘molecular gastronomy,’ had experimented with roasting flour before using it. Then, the food writer and blogger, Clotilde Dusouliers, she of Chocolate & Zucchini, following the duo’s lead, wrote about oven-roasting the flour then making what she called “Squeeze Cookies”. I was fascinated, but somehow never got around to playing with the idea. (Looking back, I see that writing my last book must have been the thing that got in my way.)
Five days of CookieBar and 6,000 or so CookieBar-cookies later, I had an urge to bake (go figure!) and the roasted flour experiment popped into my head.
Like Clotilde, I decided to start with sables, or shortbread cookies, thinking that the cookies are so plain they’d really be able to show off the nuance of roasted flour. In reading Gagniare, This and Dusoulier, I learned that when the flour is roasted, its chemical properties change. I skipped out of chemistry classes (did I ever mention that I took Math for Poets and Science for Poets in college?), so this stuff flew over my head, but what I did reason was that if I roasted the flour in the oven, I’d dry it out and so I might have to make some adjustments in my recipe.
In my first test, not sure how the flour would react after being roasted, I decided to put only three-quarters of the flour in the oven. I spread the flour out on a baking sheet lined with parchment and put it in a 350-degree-F oven for 20 minutes, turning the flour every 5 minutes (a job I did quite efficiently with a table knife). After that time, the flour was warm, but uncolored and the house smelled toasty. I made the dough – I couldn’t resist tinkering, so I actually created a new recipe for this – chilled it, rolled it out and baked it.
The result? A really nice shortbread cookie. The jury’s opinion? Not worth the extra effort of roasting the flour.
Undaunted, I went back to the oven and, in a very unscientific move, changed two things (a no-no in experimentation, where one change at a time is the rule): I decided to roast all of the recipe’s flour and I decided to roast it longer.
Round two, I roasted the flour for 25 minutes and was surprised how much of a difference those few extra minutes made. The flour turned slightly beige and it was almost smoky when the buzzer went off.
The result this time? A cookie with a lot of flavor. Would you know that the flour had been toasted? Probably not. And who’d leap to that conclusion unprompted? Might you think that the cookie was made with a full-flavored wheat flour? I think so. Would you love the cookie? I did. And so did my jury, at least those among them who like their cookies well-baked – oh, and firm enough to break with a snap.
Whether you roast the flour or not, I hope you’ll like this recipe for a crisp shortbread.
ROASTED-FLOUR SHORTBREAD HEARTS
Makes about 40 cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
Sanding or granulated sugar, for dusting (optional)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Spread the flour out on the baking sheet, keeping a bare border of a few inches around the perimeter of the sheet. Roast the flour for 5 minutes, pull the baking sheet out of the oven and stir the flour using a table knife or a heatproof spatula. Return the baking sheet to the oven and continue to roast the flour, stirring every 5 minutes, for another 20 minutes – the total roasting time is 25 minutes. After 25 minutes and 4 stirrings, the flour should be beige or beige-ish, and it might even smoke around the edges. Turn the flour into a mixing bowl and let it cool down. Turn off the oven – you won’t need it for a while.
I like to make shortbread cookies like these in a food processor, but you can work with a mixer (hand or stand) or even a wooden spoon, the method remains the same (understanding that when I say pulse and/or process, you’ll be beating or stirring). Cut the butter into a few chunks and put it into the work bowl of the processor. Process until it’s smooth, then add the sugar and the salt. Work the mixture until it’s once again smooth and creamy. (You want the ingredients to be homogenous, but you don’t want the mixture to be light and airy.) Add the egg and process until smooth.
Measure out 2 cups of the roasted flour (I had you roast a little more than you needed so you wouldn’t have to worry about scraping every last speck of it off the baking sheet). Add the flour all at once to the work bowl pulse and process until the dough forms large curds that hold together when pinched. You don’t want to process so long that the dough forms a ball on the blade.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it gently, just so that it comes together. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disk.
Working with one packet of dough at a time, put the dough between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and roll it into a 1/4-inch-thick circle. Slide the dough, still between the paper or wrap, onto a cutting board and put it into the freezer to firm for about an hour. Alternately, you can keep the circles in the refrigerator for several hours.
When you’re ready to cut and bake the cookies, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Again working with one round of dough at a time, use cutters to cut out cookies (mine was a 1 3/4-inch diameter heart-shaped cookie cutter). Cut out as many cookies as you can from the first circle, keep the cookies in the fridge or in a cool spot while you cut cookies from the second packet of dough (of course, you can bake just one sheet at a time). Combine the scraps, put them between paper or wrap, roll them 1/4-inch thick and chill before cutting and baking. Dust the tops of the cookies with sugar, if you’d like.
Bake the cookies 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets front to back and top to bottom at the midway point, until the cookies are golden brown and slightly firm to the touch (they’ll still be a bit fragile). Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest on the sheet a few minutes before transferring them to racks to cool to room temperature.
Stored in a covered container at room temperature, the cookies will keep for about 4 days.
Tags: Clotilde Dusouliers
, Herve This
, In the Kitchen
, Pierre Gagnaire
, Roasted Flour
In the Kitchen
| February 18, 2011 2:50 PM
Beautiful cookie. It's helpful to know about the roasting times for color and flavor too.
| February 18, 2011 3:02 PM
Your timing is so funny. I have been playing around with this too and have a post just about ready to share.
I think it is a brilliant idea. I love the toasty flavor.
| February 18, 2011 3:57 PM
Great info, thanks Dorie. This makes perfect sense if we recall that toasting/roasting brings out flavor in many baking ingredients--nuts, coconut, cocoa beans, bananas, spices, etc., etc.
I vaguely recall once trying toasted flour in baked goods, too, but found the result very crumbly. I think the toasting does something to inhibit gluten development but I missed that course, too! Anyway in a shortbread held together with all that butter this wouldn't be a problem. Yum!
| February 18, 2011 4:40 PM
I definitely want to try this! I was wondering... Could you toast the flour in a large skillet and achieve the same effect? I should play around with this. Thanks for the recipe!
| February 18, 2011 4:53 PM
I bet these would be good with browned butter as well. Great idea for tweeking a favorite cookie.
| February 18, 2011 4:56 PM
I have been looking EVERYWHERE for those rings! Where can I buy them?
| February 18, 2011 4:59 PM
What an interesting idea, I'd never have thought to roast the flour! Off to try it out on this cold rainy day - will report back!
| February 18, 2011 5:26 PM
This looks like your sable recipe rather than shortbread. There are no instructions for adding the egg that's listed as an ingredient.
| February 18, 2011 7:30 PM
These look like interesting cookies to make. I may have to try them. I adore shortbread cookies. The only time I ever made them was a copycat recipe for Pecan Sandies (which came out great). When I try them I will post my review.
| February 18, 2011 7:55 PM
These cookies look mouthwatering, and it's amazing how just a few small changes in timing can make such a big difference in taste. Can't wait to try out the recipe!
| February 19, 2011 7:20 AM
These sound wonderful but did I miss something?
I see on your ingredient list salt listed twice, then an egg. I've read through the instructions several times and I don't see the egg used?
| February 19, 2011 11:20 AM
I never heard of roasting flour. Definitely want to try this recipe. Visiting the pop up store was fun. I am still dreaming of those chewy chunky blondie cookies..mmmm...
| February 19, 2011 1:07 PM
I just posted my version. Not nearly as pretty as your sweet hearts.
| February 19, 2011 3:43 PM
Thank you -- as always -- for your comments. And many, many thanks for pointing out the salt/egg problem. I proof-read the recipe a couple of times, but still ...
I've fixed the error and here are the corrections:
There should be 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the recipe and the salt should be added to the butter along with the sugar.
As for the egg, it goes into the processor once the butter, sugar and salt are blended and before the flour is added.
I'm really sorry and hope this hasn't been a problem for anyone.
Again, my thanks -- Dorie
| February 19, 2011 8:56 PM
I have always used "toasted" flour to make a roux for gumbo or to make gravy, but I just brown it in a cast iron skillet. Have you tried this method? Maybe it would work just as well? Otherwise, this sounds really delicious.
Kathy replied to comment from Katy
| February 20, 2011 12:45 PM
Addition of egg is in end of third paragraph of instructions..
| February 21, 2011 3:28 PM
I just received you book "Around My French Table" and LOVE it. Thank you so much. I have read 50 pages of it and I am making the cheez-it-ish crackers right now. I am using scotch ale cheese!
I dream of going to Paris and will one day, however you book has taken me there! Thank you SO MUCH! I love it!
| February 21, 2011 10:09 PM
I always cook (toast?) my flour in the Dutch oven before making gravy. Never thought about doing it for cookies!
| February 23, 2011 2:47 PM
I had never heard of roasting flour. I am no newbie to roasting. I just roasted cacao beans yesterday for some cupcakes I made for my chocolate blog and also roasted organic vegetables for a pasta primavera I served my family for lunch. I love the flavor of roasted food, sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables, etcetera. I am going to try this. You piqued my curiosity.
| February 23, 2011 6:19 PM
I just made a batch of these and they are fabulous - fragrant, rich, unique.
Thanks for sharing your creativity with us.
| February 23, 2011 7:00 PM
Hello, I haven't written to you in awhile! This roasted flour story is interesting. Have you tried roasting semolina? Here, we're used to roasting it before turning them into delicious cakes and cookies. Our Christmas Cake is a roasted semolina affair with lots of fruits, nuts and brandy. Nice! Happy roasting!
| February 24, 2011 6:45 PM
I made these a couple of days ago, and they are seriously delicious - and if they are more like a sable or shortbread than a sugar cookie, which my partner commented, that's fine by me!
Because I was much too lazy to re-roll the scraps of dough, I rolled them into little balls and made thumbprint cookies with some homemade vanilla-pear jam, and the toasty flavour of the cookie was a perfect match.
| February 27, 2011 1:46 PM
Hello Dorie, in Dubai we have a traditional dessert where we roast flour, then cook it with butter and cardamom and cinnamon then spread it over walnut stuffed fresh dates.. Can't wait for summer to have them!
Molly @ molly's menu
| February 28, 2011 3:05 PM
Interesting experiment, Dorie. I enjoyed reading about it.
snippets of thyme
| March 1, 2011 7:42 AM
What a positively fabulous idea. A cookie bar. With all of the popular cupcake shops thriving, this seems like a great idea. I love how you bake all of the cookies in the molds so that they have a very uniform look. Congratulations on the success of your business. What an exciting life!
| March 4, 2011 11:08 AM
I met you a few weeks ago at Sarabeth Levine's bakery at the Chelsea market. I gave you a "call out" on my blog today and thought you might enjoy reading it!
As always I am inspired - thanks!!
| April 9, 2011 7:47 AM
I also tried roasting wheat before grinding and using in bread out of curiosity about flavour, given that roasting most things with natural oil brings out the flavour, but like you, found it did not add much to the overall end result. Still, shortbread sounds awesome!
| April 10, 2011 1:11 PM
this is great, I stepped away from a white sauce for homemade mac and cheese(kids beating each other with lincoln logs) and the flour browned up deeply. I feared it was ruined but NO! the flavor was deep, rich and toasty. So delicious.
PS sorry I tried to cut in front of you at BlogHer Food 2010 registration, I was just excited ;)
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