December Cooking Club

Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

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Welcome to the inaugural Cooking Club!

I am so excited to kick off this special series with you.

Here’s the premise of this group. Each month I’ll share a recipe with you. The recipe might be from the blog, one of my cookbooks, or someone else’s cookbook. Make the recipe, take a photo and tag me in it on Instagram (@abrowntable) or TikTok (@abrowntable) and I’ll share it with the community.

This being the first month and the holiday cookie season, I’ve got a bonus recipe for you. You can choose to make either or both cookie recipes.

The first recipe is for Bolinhas or the Goan Coconut Cookies from The Flavor Equation cookbook we make every year at Christmas. The cookies are highly aromatic with the sweet, nutty aroma of coconut, and we pack them in gift boxes along with other sweet treats like marzipans, milk creams, fruit cake, etc., to give to neighbors, friends, and families.

The second recipe is for the Spicy Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies from my cookbook, Season. Tiny bits of chopped crystallized ginger and a ground black pepper give these chocolate chip cookies a magical flavor. Plus, the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate is one of the best fragrances in your kitchen.

What will you bake? 

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bolinhas, goan coconut cookies

Bolinhas/Goan Coconut Semolina Cookies

Coconut fans, this cookie is for you. I like these with a cup of hot, sweetened, milky black tea. Bolinhas, as they are called in Goa, are crunchy and crisp, full of coconut aroma and sweetness. You may notice that this cookie uses pound cake ratios to come together. I strongly recommend using a brand of desiccated coconut with a strong coconut aroma, or use a good-quality coconut extract. I use the fine-grade (No. 1) semolina flour; the smaller particle size eliminates the need to soak the cookie batter before baking as is classically done with the coarser variety used in India. 

  • Yield: 24

Ingredients

3 cups + 2 Tbsp/250 g unsweetened shredded desiccated coconut (see The Flavor Approach) 

1 1/2 cups + 1 Tbsp /250 g]fine-grade semolina flour 

1 1/4 cups/250 g sugar 

2 Tbsp ghee or unsalted butter 

1⁄4 tsp fine sea salt 

1 1⁄2 to 2 tsp ground green cardamom 

1 tsp coconut extract (optional) 

3 large egg yolks plus the white of one large egg, lightly whisked together 

All-purpose flour, for shaping the cookies

Instructions

  1. Place half of the coconut in the bowl of a food processor and grind it into a fine powder. Mix the ground coconut and remaining shredded coconut with the semolina in a large mixing bowl. 
  2. Prepare a simple syrup by combining 1 cup plus 2 tsp/250 ml of water and the sugar in a medium saucepan and bringing to a boil over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the ghee and salt and stir until the fat melts. Remove from the heat, pour the hot liquid over the semolina and coconut, and fold with a spatula until evenly combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool to room temperature. 
  3. Once the semolina mixture is cooled, sprinkle on the cardamom and coconut extract, if using, and fold to combine. Add the whisked egg yolks and fold into the mixture until combined. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours to let the dough firm up and absorb the flavors. 
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F /180°C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  5. You can store the wrapped cookie dough for up to 2 weeks in the freezer. When ready to use, leave it out on the kitchen counter for about 15 minutes, until soft enough to be pliable. 
  6. To assemble the cookies, work in batches. Lightly dust your hands with a little flour to help prevent the dough from sticking to the surface of your palms. Take about 2 Tbsp of the dough and shape it into a 1 in/2.5 cm round patty. Evenly space about 12 patties on each baking sheet. Take the blunt end of a knife and press gently to make three equally spaced parallel cuts in the center of the cookie patty. The cuts do not need to be very deep or go all the way across the diameter of the cookie. Rotate the tray and repeat to create three perpendicular cuts, creating a crosshatch pattern. 
  7. Bake two sheets at a time for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cookies turn brown on the edges and light golden brown on top and are firm, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. Remove the sheets from the oven and transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough. The cooled cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month in the refrigerator; just remember to bring them to room temperature before serving.

Notes

  • The aromatic molecules in the ground green cardamom and coconut help amplify the perception of the cookie’s sweetness. You can apply this trick to other sweets too when you want to accentuate the sweetness without increasing the amount of sweetener; use aromatic ingredients and spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, orange blossom water, or rose water, that we commonly associate with sweets.
  • The classic bolinha uses fresh coconut ground to a paste, which yields a smooth texture. I prefer the texture of shredded coconut, so I use a combination of ground and shredded.
  • You can toast the desiccated coconut before it meets the semolina, but remember to cool it before you add it.
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Spicy Chocolate Chip–Hazelnut Cookies

In the early eighteenth century, a marriage took place in Turin, Italy, and the world has never been quite the same ever since. I’m talking about the sacred union of chocolate and hazelnuts, ground together into what is called gianduja. It was born out of economic necessity when cocoa was expensive, and hazelnuts became a filler. Be forewarned: these cookies are maddeningly good. 

  • Yield: 12 cookies

Ingredients

2 cups/165 g hazelnut meal or flour 

1 cup/200 g packed jaggery or muscovado sugar 

1½ tsp baking powder 

½ tsp baking soda 

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper 

¼ tsp fine sea salt 

1 large egg, lightly beaten 

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted 

1 tsp hazelnut extract or vanilla extract 

½ cup/75 g chopped bittersweet chocolate 

1/3 cup/55 g chopped crystallized ginger 

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the hazelnut meal, jaggery, baking powder, baking soda, black pepper, and salt. Add the egg, melted butter, hazelnut extract, chocolate, and ginger and stir with a large wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Grease your hands with a little oil to prevent the dough from sticking. Divide the dough into twelve equal parts and shape them into balls. Flatten them into 2 in/5 cm rounds. Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Wrap the entire baking sheet tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes, and preferably 2 hours. 
  2. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F /180°C. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the baking sheet from the freezer and put half the rounds of dough on the second sheet. Spread out the rounds on both baking sheets and refrigerate one of them. Bake one batch of cookies at a time until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. 

Notes

  • Black pepper and ginger add a kick of spicy heat, which intensifies the taste of the chocolate. If you want these even spicier, double the amount of pepper. The hazelnut extract amps up the hazelnut flavor of the nut meal. The end result is a cookie that’s irresistible. 
  • The difference between hazelnut meal and flour lies in the skin. Hazelnut meal contains the skin, while the flour is made from blanched hazelnuts where their skins are removed. Some people prefer the taste of nut flours over nut meals because the skins of some nuts can be mildly bitter to taste. Use what works for you.

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