Monday, April 05, 2010

Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies

As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, the truth is that I do not always handle disappointment with the utmost grace. I'd love to be the sort who accepts bad news with a sunny shrug, and then rolls up her sleeves and moves on to the next task. But the truth is that I often spend several hours mourning the loss of Plan A before I can even think about moving on to Plan B. Which brings me to flourless chocolate walnut cookies.

This past weekend I attended a delicious Sephardic-style Passover Seder, full of saffron pilaf, Tunisian fish patties with aioli, spinach-feta minas, and good friends. My host asked if I would bring chocolate-covered matzoh caramel buttercrunch, known to all who enjoy it as matzoh crack. It's ridiculously addictive, the sort of dessert you almost don't want to make, because it is all anyone will ever you to make ever again. Well, for Passover at least.

I headed out to the grocery store with this singular vision, but couldn't find any matzoh. I figured my matzoh-finding skills must have been on the fritz, and sought out some assistance:

me: I'm sorry, I can't seem to find the matzoh.
manager: We're sold out.
me: Are you joking?
manager: Why would I joke about that?

Yes, they were sold out of matzoh. On Passover. So did I cruise the shelves looking for alternate dessert inspiration? Did I phone a friend to get a shopping list for a new recipe? Of course not. I fumed out the door and biked home, composing angry letters to the grocery store management in my head all the while. Because that's helpful. And then I proceeded to reenact the above conversation to several people, both in my home and on the telephone, and share my indignation. And then I remembered Oh yeah! I still have to make dessert! Like now!

After all this attempted-matzoh-getting and protracted-hissy-fit-throwing, I didn't have time to go shopping again. Luckily I remembered a recipe I'd seen a few years back for a flourless chocolate cookie studded with toasted walnuts. I had all the ingredients in my house, and the mixing and baking times were nice and short. And the cookies? Divine.

If you're seeking a chewy chocolate gluten-free (or Passover-friendly) cookie, look no further. They're ridiculously simple--just some toasted walnuts, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and egg whites, spiked with a bit of salt and vanilla. Because the egg whites are just stirred in rather than beaten, you end up with a cookie that's fudgey-chewy rather than meringue-crisp. They're glossy and chocolatey, and taste much more sinfully rich than they are. Not getting what you planned on should always be so delicious.

Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies

adapted from Payard, via New York Magazine

yields ~4 dozen cookies

2 3/4 cups walnut halves or pieces
3 cups confectioners' (aka powdered) sugar
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp cocoa powder (Dutched is recommended)
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, ~7-10 minutes (check frequently!). Let cool slightly, and coarsley chop. Set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 320 degrees, and line two baking pans with parchment or Silpat liners if you have, or grease well and hope for the best. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Add the chopped nuts, stir, and then add the egg whites and vanilla. Stir until just combined (do not overmix). Let the batter sit ~5 minutes.

Spoon the batter onto the prepared cookie sheets in heaping tablespoons (allow space--cookies will spread). Bake 14-16 minutes (rotating racks halfway through), until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked. Remove from oven, and let set a few minutes until the cookies are cool enough to remove. Remove to a rack to cool completely, and repeat with remaining batter.


  1. Wow, these look great. Your seder experience sounds really great, too. I've got to save this recipe, despite my link list reductions, because most flourless anythings have humongous amounts of butter...not that there is anything wrong with that...but sometimes you want something exactly like this. I am so happy that you posted these, and the photos are really fantastic, too!

  2. You don't need to beat the whites? Wow, this is super simple. Will surely try soon!

  3. Cakewalk: I was actually looking for something that was dairy-free as well as Seder-friendly -- unless you want meringues or macaroons (or macarons, which take most of a day) it can be a bit difficult. These are crazy rich for being dairy-free.

    Nags: They're dead simple - you should definitely give them a go!

  4. can u use regular sugar instead of powder?

  5. I haven't tried regular granulated sugar, but I imagine the fine texture of the powdered sugar (and the slight bit of starch that's added to keep it from caking) contribute to the final texture. You can experiment with regular sugar, or make your own powdered sugar by blitzing granulated sugar and a spoonful of cornstarch or potato starch in a coffee or spice grinder until powdery.

  6. I love 'matzoh crack', and since I'm not Jewish and am usually making it for barbecues instead of Passover, I can always just use saltines instead. That said, I totally would have done the exact same thing - stewed and pitched a fit until I realized I had no other choice but to whip up another dessert! But the dessert you chose looks lovely, can't wait to try it.

  7. I just made these to use up egg whites! Yum, Deena!

  8. where do you get dutch cocoa?

  9. MacB: Dutched cocoa is the common form of cocoa powder that's been treated with an alkalizing agent. It's a bit darker in color and mellower in flavor. The alternative is usually labeled "natural" cocoa. If it doesn't say anything, it's probably Dutched.

  10. This recipe sounds delicious!
    I'm wondering if i can subsitute the sugar with maple syrup or agave, would that work?

  11. Hm these cookies spread a bit, so I'd worry about adding more liquid. You might have to experiment with adding additional starch (you could use potato starch if you're avoiding wheat/corn) to compensate.

  12. They look great, but not a kosher for passover recipe if powdered sugar is used. Powdered sugar contains corn, which is prohibited during Passover for Ashkenazi Jews.

    1. Good point — for those who avoid corn products, you can seek out kosher for Passover powdered sugar (which is cut with potato starch instead of cornstarch), or blitz up your own in the blender.

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