As an avid cookie baker, I found myself oddly resistant to Alison Roman’s internet-famous salted butter and chocolate chunk shortbread.
Maybe it was that Roman had the audacity to insult traditional chocolate chip cookies in the introduction to the recipe in her book, Dining In: “I’ve always found chocolate chip cookies to be deeply flawed … Too sweet, too soft, or with too much chocolate, there’s a lot of room for improvement, if you ask me.” (Too much chocolate?)
Maybe it was the viral appeal of this shortbread. The cookie has appeared not only on the Smitten Kitchen, Eater, Bon Appétit, and The New York Times’ websites, but also in Nylon, Refinery29, and several thousand Instagrams. Roman, a former pastry chef at Momofuku Milk Bar and food editor at Bon Appétit, has 100,000—yes, 100,000—followers on Instagram herself, many of whom were tagging her in their own ‘grams of the freshly baked, salt-sprinkled cookies. They are so hip right now.
Maybe it was just the requirement that I purchase salted butter and Demerara sugar, and roll the dough into logs to be chilled in advance of baking.
That’s not to say I wasn’t curious. Eventually, with a hint of resignation, I slogged to the store to buy that salted butter and Demerara ($5 for a small bag). I beat the dough, formed it into logs, and rolled them in the sugar crystals. I regarded those logs in my refrigerator suspiciously for two days before slicing them, sprinkling them with sea salt, and baking them.
Reader, I was wrong to resist. The Demerara sugar made crispy, crystalline edges. The hand-chopped chocolate chunks made each bite a little bit different. (Not “too much chocolate,” but rather a perfect, unevenly distributed, amount.) I hate to admit that I haven’t craved a chewy cookie since my first buttery—but not soft—bite of the shortbread. I’ve even converted to using salted butter on my toast, a glorious side effect. I Instagrammed the cookies in atonement.
These cookies are nothing less than the next generation, blonde incarnation of Dorie Greenspan’s salted, dark chocolate, and completely viral World Peace Cookies—not in a retrograde “blondes have more fun” way because Roman is blonde and Greenspan is brunette. No, in an actual blonde-rather-than-brown cookie way, because both are salted, chocolate chunk-studded shortbread cookies that are chilled as dough logs before they are sliced and baked. A tin of either—or better yet, both—will make you an MVP of a party guest, co-worker, lover, or friend. And both are paradigm-shifting cookie revelations.
There’s no point trying to resist Alison Roman’s Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread. It’d be like hating Bruno Mars or “Despacito”: You’re only punishing yourself. Make them for your Valentine. Make them for yourself.
From Dining In, by Alison Roman (Reprinted with permission © 2017 by Alison Roman. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC):
Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread, or Why Would I Make Another Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever Again?
Makes 24 cookies
I’ve always found chocolate chip cookies to be deeply flawed (to know this about me explains a lot). Too sweet, too soft, or with too much chocolate, there’s a lot of room for improvement, if you ask me. But no one asked me, and rather than do a complete overhaul on the most iconic cookie known to man, I took all my favorite parts and invented something else entirely.
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2¼ sticks) salted butter (see Note), cut into
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
6 ounces semi- or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped (but not too fine, you want chunks, not thin shards of chocolate)
1 large egg, beaten
Demerara sugar, for rolling
Flaky sea salt, such as Jacobsen, for sprinkling
NOTE: If you find it tragically annoying to buy salted butter just for this recipe, you can use unsalted butter and add ¾ teaspoon kosher salt to the flour.
DO AHEAD: The cookie dough can be made ahead and stored, tightly wrapped in plastic, up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or 1 month in the freezer. Cookies can be baked and stored in plastic wrap or an airtight container for 5 days.
Made with lots of salted butter (it has a slightly different flavor and a deeper saltiness than using just salt—I prefer unsalted butter everywhere else but here), the dough has just enough flour to hold it together and the right amount of light brown sugar to suggest a chocolate chip cookie. The chocolate is cut into chunks to prevent chip congregation, and once the dough is formed into a cylindrical log, the whole thing gets rolled in Demerara sugar for the crispiest-ever edges. Less chocolate chip cookie, more brown sugar shortbread with chocolate chunks— they just might be the cookie you’ve been looking for. 1 Line a rimmed baking sheet (two, if you’ve got ’em) with parchment paper. 2 Using an electric mixer and a medium bowl or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, both sugars, and vanilla on medium-high till it’s super light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and beat just to blend. 3 Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic over so that it covers the dough to protect your hands from getting all sticky. Using your hands (just like you’re playing with clay), form the dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help you smooth it out, but don’t worry about getting it totally perfect. You can also do this using parchment paper, if you prefer, but I find using plastic wrap easier when it comes to shaping the log. Each half should form two logs 2 to 2¼ inches in diameter. Chill until totally firm, about 2 hours. 4 Preheat the oven to 350°F. 5 Brush the outside of the logs with the beaten egg and roll them in the Demerara sugar (this is for those really delicious crispy edges). 6 Slice each log into ½-inch-thick rounds, place them on the prepared baking sheet(s) about 1 inch apart (they won’t spread much), and sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating them all.