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This recipe is part of Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies.

Espresso Walnut Cookies

Espresso Walnut Cookies

Emma really went to bat for the Espresso Walnut Cookies out of Cookies and Brownies. She tested the cookies three times, each time getting a different result. Here are her findings:

Attempt 1: Made with soften butter and cheap instant coffee instead of instant espresso. The finished cookies were tasty yet somewhat unattractive. They spread much more than expected and were delicate to the point of almost crumbly. They had a texture similar to very tender shortbread.

Attempt 2: Disaster. Same recipe but using the cold butter option instead of softened butter. I think I was short on my flour measurements because the cookies looked like greasy Florentine cookies. They crumbled upon touching and had to be scraped directly into the garbage.

Attempt 3: Made with cold butter and assumed 4.5oz per cup of flour. These cookies spread into slightly flatter cookies with a subtle coffee flavor. The walnuts add a little chewy texture to the cookies but otherwise I cannot tell they are there. The nuts also seem to add a little tenderness to the cookies so they are definitely more delicate than a typical sliced cookie.

The difference between the batch made with softened butter and cold butter was very noticeable after baking. Some of this could have come from not assuming a weight in the cups of flour of batch 1 but the raw dough with the cold butter was much easier to handle and form.

Overall I like the way the cold butter made the dough easier to handle, I think espresso powder or instant coffee are interchangable but definitely go with something you would drink. When I make them again (and I will) I might try adding just a 1/4cup more flour to make the cookies more substantial and also try scooping the dough before chilling instead of slicing.

A few notes about this recipe:

  • In batch 3 I used Starbucks Via Italian Roast. The amount in the packet is a little off from the measurements in the recipe so if you want a more subtle coffee flavor use 1, for something stronger use 2. There is approximately 1 T of instant coffee in 2 packets and the recipe calls for 2+1/2 tsp.
  • My food processor is an older model and is a 8cup capacity I believe. In order to successfully make the recipe I had to make 2 half batches in mine. Larger and newer models shouldn't have a problem with the full recipe.

Espresso Walnut Cookies
2+1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
1 T + 1 tsp brandy
1+1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c AP flour
1 c walnut pieces
3/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
16 T unsalted butter, soft or firm
45 roasted coffee or espresso beans (optional)

Food processor
2 cookie sheets, ungreased

  1. Mix the espresso powder with the brandy and vanilla in a small cup. Set aside.
  2. Combine the flour, walnuts, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
  3. Pulse until the walnuts are finely ground.
  4. Add the butter (cut into several pieces if firm).
  5. Pulse until the mixture looks damp and crumbly.
  6. Drizzle in the espresso mixture and pulse until the mixture begins to clump up around the blade.
  7. Remove the dough, press it into a ball, and knead it a few times to complete the mixing.
  8. For slice-and-bake cookies, form a 12 x 12-inch log. For rolled and cut cookies, form 2 flat patties.
  9. Wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, or up to 3 days. The dough may be frozen for up to 3 months.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350F. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  11. To slice and bake cookies: Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough log into slices 1/4" thick. Place cookies at least 1+1/2" apart on cookie sheets. Press a coffee bean in the center of each cookie.
    To roll and cut cookies: Remove 1 patty from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature until supple enough to roll but still quite firm. It will continue to soften as you work. Roll thr dough between two pieces of wax paper or between heavy sheets from a plastic bag to a thickness of 1/4". Turn the dough over once or twice while you are rolling it out to check for deep wrinkles; if necessary, peel off and smooth the paper or plastic over the dough before continuing to roll it. When the dough is thin enough, peel off the top sheet of paper or plastic and keep it in front of you. Invert the dough onto that sheet and peel off the second sheet.
  12. Cut cookie shapes as close together as possible to minimize scraps, dipping the edges of cookie cutters in flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Use the point of a pairing knife to lift and remove scraps as you transfer cookies to cookie sheets. Place cookies at least 1+1/2" apart on the cookie sheets. Press a coffee bean in the center of each cookie.
    Note: If the cookie gets too soft at any time - while rolling, cutting, removing scraps between cookies, or transferring cookies - slide a cookie sheet underneath the paper or plastic and refrigerate the dough for a few minutes until firm.
  13. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
  14. Press all of the dough scraps together gently (don't overwork them with too much kneading), and reroll.
  15. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until light golden brown at the edges, rotating the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.  Repeat until all the cookies are baked.
  16. Let the cookies firm up on the pan for about 1 minute before transferring them to a rack with a metal pancake turner.
  17. Cool cookies completely before stacking or storing. Cookies are delicious fresh but even better the next day.

Makes about 45 2-inch cookies

May be stored, airtight, for 1 month or more

This recipe comes from Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies, and is available on Purple House Dirt with permission from the author.


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