These beautiful flourless cookies are in particularly high demand at Payard during Passover, but they have become so popular that we sell them year-round. Their crackled surface gives them an elegant look, and because they are so easy and take barely any time to make, they are great for last-minute entertaining. They have a slightly crunchy exterior and a soft, almost brownie-like interior. They should only be about a half inch at their thickest.
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (68 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3 cups (350 grams) confectioners' sugar
Pinch of salt
2-3/4 cups (272 grams) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 grams) pure vanilla extract
Place a rack each in the upper and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Combine the cocoa powder, confectioners' sugar, salt, and walnuts in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, slowly add the egg whites and vanilla. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes, until the mixture has slightly thickened. Do not overmix it, or the egg whites will thicken too much.
With a 2-ounce cookie or ice-cream scoop or a generous tablespoon, scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, to make cookies that are 4 inches in diameter. Scoop 5 cookies on each pan, about 3 inches apart so that they don’t stick when they spread. If you have extra batter, wait until the first batch of cookies is baked before scooping the next batch.
Put the cookies in the oven, and immediately lower the temperature to 320°F. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until small thin cracks appear on the surface of the cookies. Switch the pans halfway through baking. Pull the parchment paper with the cookies onto a wire cooling rack, and let cool completely before removing the cookies from the paper. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
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Excerpted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard and Anne E. McBride. Copyright 2008 by Francois Payard and Anne E. McBride. Excerpted by permission of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.