It's All About the Chemistry
Coffee and Chocolate: It’s All About the Chemistry
When coffee first fell into chocolate, or vice versa, nobody wasted time whining, “Hey, your coffee fell into my chocolate!” or “Oh, no! Your chocolate is all up in my coffee!” No, friends. There was none of that. Rather, angels sang, music swelled and the world became a much brighter place. As much as you may love your Reese’s, the happy union of coffee and chocolate is much more profound. You guys ever heard of Maillard reactions? Well, it’s all kind of technical, but here’s the Very Basic Idea. Back in 1912, Maillard the Chemist (for real) began studying the way foods brown. Not the oh-no-my-guacamole-is-all-gray kind of browning. THAT kind is caused by enzymatic voodoo. No, Maillard was interested in non-enzymatic browning, in how and why it happens and in why stuff tastes so much better because of it. He began doing all sorts of chemistry set type experiments with foods, and he discovered that foods brown when amino acids react with certain sugars at different temperatures. No, don’t fall asleep–it’s really cool stuff. He also figured out that each of these specific reactions (amino a+sugar b+temperature x) created specific flavors. Now, take into account that foods can contain up to 20 amino acids and several types of sugar that can combine in all sorts of ways at temperatures from warm-ish all the way up to smokin’ hot, and it becomes clear that there’s a whole lot of Maillard going on. So, now, back to our lovers, coffee and chocolate. Coffee beans and cocoa beans are both roasted. They both contain similar amino acids and sugars. So, there tends to be a lot of similarities in the Maillard reactions that occur. In the Venn Diagram of coffee and chocolate, there is a lot of overlap. And this little explanation brings us, logically, to Trader Joe’s. Thank you, Trader Joe’s, for making “Cookies with Perks.” No, they aren’t like “friends with benefits.” Perks….coffee? Get it? Those TJ’s folks sure are funny. Anyway, more specifically, dear Trader Joe friends, thank you for Espresso Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chunks. I am staring at some right now. I will not eat them for breakfast. I will not eat them for breakfast. I will not eat them for breakfast….. Where was I? Oh, right. When I saw them on the shelf yesterday–and incidentally, TJ’s was almost empty during the pre-game which is why we went at 4:50pm on Superbowl Sunday–I thought, “Hmm. These are probably pretty good,” and I threw them in our jaunty red TJ’s cart. I got them home and put them away like a good girl. You know, like someone who has will power and stuff? My will was like iron until 10:24pm, at which point, the cookies began calling to me in a most alluring voice right from my cupboard! At any rate, I caved pretty quickly–you would have, too–and I literally stopped in my tracks and called to the Beloved. He thought that something was wrong as I stood, transfixed, chanting “Oh. My. God.” over and over. Friends, these little cookies are Ridiculous. Strong, not-too-sweet, espresso flavored cookies with just-sweet-enough chocolate chips. They’re like little biscotti in their crunchiness, but they aren’t twice baked. They’re biscookies. I just made that up, but that’s what they are. I think I need to meet with the TJ’s cookie naming committee. I know that some of you do not have access to a Trader Joe’s. Not wanting to rub your little noses in the fact that you can’t get Cookies with Perks where you live, I decided to whip up a little recipe for you. It’s based on a couple of recipes from Rosie’s Bakery Chocolate-Packed, Jam-Filled, Butter-Rich, No-Holds-Barred Cookie Book by Judy Rosenberg. Really, people, how can anyone resist a book with a title like that? And don’t even try. Just give in; it’s easier than being all self-denying and sad. Back to the recipe: When Coffee Met Chocolate Biscookies
  • 8 oz. all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2TBSP (4 1/2 tsp) espresso powder (or 2 TBSP instant coffee powder)  This is kind of to taste, depending on how coffee-y you want your cookies to be.
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • more than 1/2 tsp but less than 3/4 tsp salt
  • 7 oz. butter at cool room temperature
  • 3.5 oz. light brown sugar
  • 1.75 oz. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 oz. milk chocolate chips (or use any combination of chips as long as you have about 4 oz. in total)
Make these using The Creaming Method:  Whisk all dry ingredients together. Cream softened butter and sugar to a paste. Mix in egg and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients until the dough comes together. Stir in chips at the end. Of course, scrape the bowl as necessary. This dough will be waaaay better if you refrigerate it for a couple of days, but you won’t be able to wait that long, prolly. So, make sure your oven is preheated to 400 degrees, F, and you have lined some cookie sheets with parchment. Make the cookies in whatever size you want, just make sure they’re all the same size, so they’ll bake evenly. Since they’re baking at 400 degrees, I wouldn’t get too crazy–maybe no larger than rounded tablespoon size. Leave a couple of inches between the cookies, and bake until they are very firm and a bit darker around the edges than they are on the tops, about 15 minutes or so. Watch them carefully, since it will be harder to see the browning because of the color of the dough. Let these guys cool on the cookie sheets (or slide the parchment off onto a cooling rack after they’ve been out of the oven for a couple of minutes). If you’re going to reuse the cookie sheet, rinse it in cold water to cool it off. You don’t want to put this dough onto hot sheets or they’ll spread too much. Keep them in an airtight container for up to two days. If you need to keep them longer (yeah, right) they’ll freeze just fine for two weeks or so. PS If your will is made of titanium and you are able to refrigerate this dough for a day or two before cating baking, you can flatten the dough a little so they will bake evenly. Or, you could let the dough warm up to cool room temperature before baking. PPS I made the picture really big so you can see how beautiful they are. PPPS You’re welcome.

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14 Comments

  1. I am SO glad I found this. Now that Trader Joe’s has discontinued their Chocolate Cookies with Perks (can’t imagine why), I’ll have to bake my own! Thank you for this recipe.

  2. Mmmmm… these look so yummy! I used to live 5 minutes away from Trader Joe’s and since I moved I really miss all their delicious treats so thanks so much for sharing this recipe ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Great read! We have a TJ’s here but I avoid it like the plague because of the ridiculous line (that often wraps around the entire store). These cookie sound like they might be worth it though?

  4. Hey, I’m excited to learn about baking here! I need serious help with pastry, lightness, fluffiness, rolling out and not sticking everywhere and that kind of thing:)

  5. Thanks for the heads up on the cookies at TJ’s. I might mention that to my DH. I, who hate coffee, might even be tempted to try this. I wish I would like coffee, maybe I haven’t met the right kind yet.

  6. Don’t feel bad, I would have caved too (but in all likelihood, right after purchasing them). These sound absolutely delicious. Would you pit your version against TJoes’s? I guess you’ll just have to make another batch… ๐Ÿ˜›

    Their Meyer Lemon Cookies are also great if you’re just looking for a sweet fix. They are excellent at tea time ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Lucky you posted that recipe ‘cos there ain’t no Trader Joes in these here parts! (and yes, you really should get on to their cookie naming committee – biscookies? why that’s just inspired!)

  8. What a fun post. And interesting. I guess that’s why I love tiramisu. I like a little cream with my coffee chocolate. But I could just dunk these in milk right?

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