Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chef Dominique Ansel & Gluten-free Chocolate Pecan Cookies

November 4, 2014
At work, we regularly have guest speakers come and do a talk or a Q&A session with employees. It'll be announced on an internal company page with the date, time and a conference room location and it's first come, first served. I was thrilled to hear Chef Dominique Ansel, the inventor of the cro-nut, was coming for a visit. Although I'd tried a cro-nut (croissant + doughnut) before and decided it was good but not really my thing, I still have to appreciate the genius behind the invention and thought it would be fun to see the genius inventor in person. I've only tried a cronut from Paris Baguette and not at his actual bakery in New York. My niece, who had studied in New York over the summer, told me afterwards that she had gone to his bakery and tried the real cronut. Lucky duck,
Past experience at these guest speaker events has taught me that if I really wanted to see the guest in person, I had to be there right when the doors open as once the conference room is full, they don't allow any more people in due to fire safety regulations. Fortunately, I had just gotten out of a meeting when they were opening the doors so I was able to get there on time and snag a seat. Even more fortunately, I was able to sit in a seat that later turned out to be one of 10 marked ones that received a free copy of his newly released baking book, Dominique Ansel, The Secret Recipes. How cool is that?
The only thing more cool was Chef Dominique himself. In the Q&A session, he came across as a very humble person who really cared about doing and baking what's right for his customers. He was down to earth and matter of fact and I enjoyed his talk. You could tell he enjoys what he does, works hard and is great at it. He was also nice enough to take some pictures and autograph his book afterwards so I was lucky enough to both get his signature on my new baking book and to get a selfie with him - which he insisted on taking which was good since I suck at taking selfies.
To honor his visit, our onsite sweet shop baked his Chocolate Pecan Cookies just for that day. I "had" to get one, of course, just to try it, you understand *wink*. Theirs didn't look like his in the book but it was pretty good. It's also gluten-free for anyone who prefers no flour. From the outside appearance, I thought it might be dry and we know I can't abide a dry cookie. But I was pleasantly surprised to find it moist inside. I'm also not a fan of nuts in my cookies so I may try making this without it. Probably heresy, I know, but shhh, don't tell Chef Dominique.
Oh, one last thing as I've been reading through his baking book: you can really tell he cares about the readers being able to make his creations as close to how he makes it as possible. The directions and the amounts of ingredients are very, very precise (a food scale will be your friend for these). He mentioned in his talk that he tried to make it so anyone with a regular kitchen as opposed to a bakery commercial kitchen can make what he does and it shows. I've slightly truncated the directions to his cookie recipe below, mostly to save myself some typing but if you want the full version, I recommend getting his book. The care he takes in his baked creations comes through very clearly. As someone who owns a couple hundred baking books and has visited countless bakeries with a full appreciation of desserts, I'm struck by that level of caring. Because that's what it is - caring.
2 cups dark chocolate chips (60% cocoa or greater)
3 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon (45 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (250 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (42 grams) cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup (55 grams) pecans, coarsely chopped
  1. Melt 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) of the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Stir until melted smooth.
  2. Melt butter in the microwave and mix into the melted chocolate with a spatula. Keep warm over the hot water.
  3. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and whisk until fully blended and the mixture resembles pancake batter. 
  4. Slowly whisk in the melted chocolate-butter mixture.
  5. Gently fold in the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips and the pecans with the spatula.
  6. Transfer the dough to a shallow baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the batter, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight to rest.
  7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 degrees if on convection setting). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Roll the dough into balls and place them on the sheet pan at least 2 inches apart from one another. Press gently on the top of each ball with the palm of your hand to make a thick disk.
  9. Bake on the center rack for 4 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake for about 4 minutes more. When the cookies are just begining to crack on top but the dough is set on the edge and has a soft spot about the size of a quarter in the center, remove from the oven.
  10. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 to 7 minutes, to further set.
  11. Remove the cookies from the pan and set aside. Reline the cooled pan with clean parchment paper and continue with the remaining dough.


  1. So glad you got to meet him. He's my local baker. I know he's had a lot of press for his cronuts, but he makes kouign amanns TO DIE FOR.

  2. Ha! Mine did not look like the ones in the book either when I made them on Sunday. They were stuck to the paper and were super flat. The taste was amazing though.

    1. I still haven't made them myself and am wondering what kind of results I'll get. I'm almost afraid mine will turn out flat too.