Here’s how I can best describe these: they’re like a very dry brownie. I mean, crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth just like a good shortbread, but also ugh, so chocolaty and rich just like a brownie.
Let’s be clear, these are nothing like a traditional shortbread. I mean first there’s the chocolate, but there’s also the absence of butter. And while you might think that’s a bad thing, it actually works in this cookie’s favor. Like, not only will you not miss it (the recipe wasn’t created to be negative of anything) you will not actually want these to be anything but what they are.
Oil coats the flour proteins better than the butter leading to a much, much more tender ‘cookie’ (when it covers it it prohibits it from forming as much gluten – think of the way you use butter to coat the flour when making pie crust for example). And while cocoa has the effect of drying out a cookie or cake, the oil here does double duty in also keeping it from being too dry.
Side note: I did in fact try these with butter (once with brown butter!) and didn’t like them as much – shocker! If you do want to do butter, melt it and measure after melting.
Flour All purpose flour – unlike my salted vanilla shortbread you do not want a low protein flour for this one. Use a regular ap, like King Arthur.
Brown sugar: dark or light, it gives the shortbread extra flavor and moisture.
Powdered sugar: I use organic powdered sugar made with tapioca starch (Trader Joes!).
Cocoa: Dutch process cocoa; any brand. Some I like: Guittard Rogue, Rodelle Dutch, Ghirardelli Dutch, and Hershey’s Special Dark.
Salt (two kinds): Fine sea salt goes into the dough (if you are using table salt, halve it) and some flaky sea salt on top to finish these off with the perfect salted dark chocolate touch.
Vanilla: Pure extract or vanilla bean paste.
Avocado oil: To me, this is the magic ingredient. Avocado oil gives us all those qualities that we talked about (coats the flour to prohibit gluten from forming, keeps them from being overly dry) but has the added bonus of having a buttery taste. I love, love it here!
Can’t do avocado? Use another flavorless oil like canola or safflower.
I wanted to get the ‘finger’ shape for these little chocolate shortbreads so we’ll use a square pan and then cut one side into thirds and the other into eighths.
You’ll need to do this after the first bake and do it very, very carefully.
The parchment paper will help you lift the giant shortbread out of the pan. Do it quickly and swiftly – moving it to a chopping board or the counter. It’s probably going to break or crumble a bit, don’t worry if it breaks a couple times in the center. Once it’s on the counter, use a chef’s knife to nudge it back into the square shape.
Then, again with the chef’s knife, gently but firmly slice the shortbread. Keep at this until you have 24 slices.
The best tool to use now is a fish spatula but an offset spatula will do. You need something that can carry the shortbread but is also thin enough to slide very neatly under it. This will help you transport it to the cookie sheet.
There’s no need to score it to know where you’ll slice, and you also don’t need to prick it with a fork – since there’s no butter, nothing is melting and creating pockets of air that would usually cause the shortbread to bubble up (like a pie crust).
Brilliantly, this recipe gives you everything you love about shortbread, without any of the fuss.
Like biscotti, this chocolate shortbread recipe requires two bakes. The first in the square pan, then once sliced, baked again. This is done to get that crumbly texture all over. Don’t skip the second bake – it really seals in that ideal crispy and crumbly texture.
If you want a double batch of chocolate shortbread, use two square pans. I wouldn’t use a 13×9” here because you need to lift it out and since it’s so much bigger, you’ll be dealing with much bigger breaks in the dough.
These will keep open in a container for weeks. I usually keep mine in a cookie jar although, twice I just left them on the pan and I was a bit shook, realizing that days later they still tasted great! I wouldn’t package these for sending because they are very crumbly.
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