I have a raging sweet tooth, but I’ve never really liked candy. Halloween trick-or-treating was always much more about the process than the product; my loot would remain almost untouched for a year, at which point my parents would contemplate the morality of re-distributing aged candy to the next round of kids. Don’t worry, West Windsor residents – I don’t think we actually ever did this, and even if we did sneak stray pieces in here or there, you guys grew up fine!
The weird thing is, I loved vegetables (and still do). When I was really little, I would eat my leafy greens so fast and with such excitement that I would regularly choke on the longer pieces. My mom had to remind me to take smaller bites and actually chew them to prevent an early death by asphyxiation.
But back to a more relatable subject – sugar! I may not like candy, but I can’t resist good quality chocolate melted down and mixed into baked goods. Insomnia Cookies were a huge weakness of mine in college. They offered late-night delivery but there was a minimum charge that was most optimally met by the combination of six large cookies and a bottle of milk. They’d arrive still warm, with melted chocolate streaks marking the wax paper wrappings already translucent with a buttery sheen. I should’ve shared these, but I never did; maybe I was subconsciously making up for two decades of sugar-free Halloweens. I definitely did not think through the fact that I was eating a single day’s worth of calories with every delivery.
These cookies are slightly less sinful, a little lower on sugar and butter than other cookie recipes. Lower sugar means the chocolate really speaks; the only issue with reducing sugar, as I’ve discussed before, is that you lose moisture and compromise texture. So I used dark brown sugar, which not only has a more complex flavor, but has a higher liquid content due to the molasses and makes for a fudgier cookie. The taste that I really wanted to stand out was the gochugaru, which is a Korean chili flake that pairs surprisingly well with chocolate. It’s similar to paprika – the spice profile is a round full heat rather than a sharp snappy bite. Gochugaru doesn’t have the smoky element, however, so I think of it as more of a pure spice.
At first, the chocolate is the dominant taste in the cookie, but the gochujgaru peeks in a few seconds later and slowly expands across the palate. Crunchy walnuts add texture and fragrance. My younger self would’ve been pretty grossed out by the thought of a spicy cookie, but I love these bold sweet bites.
Chocolate Gochugaru Cookies Recipe (makes 20-24)
- 6 oz semisweet (63%) chocolate, melted (I use Scharffen Berger)
- 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp gochugaru chili flakes
- 4 tbsp softened unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and chili flakes in a bowl; set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar. Beat the eggs and add the vanilla. Slowly, add egg mixture to the butter/sugar, whisking all the while so the mixture does not break. It's important to add gradually, particularly as there is a fairly low ratio of butter/sugar to egg. If the mixture does break, you can rescue it by whisking in some flour.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Add in the chopped walnuts.
Chill the cookie dough (it should be pretty soft and not too firm) for four hours or overnight in the fridge. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scoop the dough into golf ball sized spheres and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, around 1.5-2 inches apart. They won't spread a ton because the dough has been chilled; if you prefer a flatter cookie, then don't chill the dough. Bake for 12-14 minutes - they are ready when the tops are slightly cracked but still a little shiny.