One of the best professional cooks I know, Catherine Pantsios, gave me a few of these understated butter cookies, the recipe for which she she found in a dessert book by Alice Medrich. They hit me hard. I fell in love.
Almost savory and kind of Russian, the cookies are made with buckwheat flour and cocoa nibs, which are the crunchy, aromatic shells of cacao beans. When you roast the nibs in the oven, they infuse the kitchen with an intense aroma of chocolate.
Medrich features the recipe again in her current cookie book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy (Artisan, 2010).
Here’s the recipe, slightly adapted by me.
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup roasted cacao nibs (I toasted raw nibs from Ecuador in a preheated 350 degree oven for no more than 8 minutes or until they became fragrant. They toast fast.)
In a mixer, beat the butter with the sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth and creamy but not fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the flours and just mix until incorporated. Stir in the nibs.
Scrape the dough into a mass and knead with your hands a few times to make sure the flour is incorporated. Form into a 12 by 2 inch log. Wrap and refrigerate for at last 2 hours or over night.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 1/4 inch slices with a sharp knife. Lay on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until light golden brown at the edges.
Cool completely and store in an air tight container. The flavor of these cookies improve with age.