Sharing is caring or at least that’s what they say. In most cases, I’m all about sharing – especially when it comes to food I’ve made. However, there are a couple areas in my life where sharing is a little harder. The first is french fries (there’s never enough!)…..and the second is recipes. Let’s be honest here, every baker or chef has at least one recipe they don’t want to share. That one recipe they’ll protect fiercely and keep to themselves. The recipe they’re most proud of and the thought of sharing it physically pains them. This one is mine……..
Ohhhhhh Cowboy Cookies. This cookie is my baby…..no joke. I developed it four years ago and it took me FOREVER. I’m talking dozens of different iterations and me eating a LOT of cookies to get them exactly how I wanted. It quickly became one of my best-selling items at the farmer’s market and has inspired a very loyal following of Cowboy Cookie crazed fans.
It started with a simple enough idea. I found an incredible hickory smoked sea salt that smelled just like a campfire and I wanted to create a cookie to use it in. The smoky fire smell of the salt conjured up images of cowboys sitting around a campfire at night telling stories and staring up at the stars (I have no idea if cowboys actually do this – but in my head they totally do). I wanted a tough cookie to go with this idea. A cookie that a bad ass cowboy/cowgirl could proudly eat. Basically, I wanted a cookie that would kick every other cookie’s ass.
I tried to think of ingredients that would compliment the smokiness of the salt. Brown butter was an obvious choice. As was bourbon…..because who doesn’t love a little booze in their baked goods?? Chocolate came into the mix, but not as just one chocolate BUT three different types (milk, dark, and semi-sweet). And since I love a little extra crunch and texture in my cookies – I figured why not throw some toasted almonds in there. I had all the components, but for some reason it just wasn’t doing it for me. The cookies were missing something and I couldn’t figure out what it was.
One day, I was drinking espresso and intensely staring down at the latest batch of cookies wondering, “Why won’t you work?!” and then it hit me…..I had an idea. To see if my hunch was right, I took a sip of my espresso and then a bite of a cookie. It was perfect. All the cookies needed was a little bit of instant espresso powder. They had been missing that backbone and one ingredient that melds everything together, which is exactly what espresso powder does. It’s kind of a magical ingredient. When added to recipes, you don’t necessarily taste the espresso. It just enhances all the other flavors and ties them together. With my missing piece in place, the cookies were finally everything I had hoped for.
Okay…..so now you know how long it took me to develop the recipe……and the slight internal struggle I had when deciding whether or not to share it. I seriously hope you love the cookies as much as I do!
Cowboy Cookies with Bourbon and Smoked Sea Salt
- Yield: 3 dozen cookies
2 ½ cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into one-inch pieces
1 ¼ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons bourbon
¼ teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 cup whole almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup milk chocolate chips
½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Hickory smoked sea salt
Place the butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, until it smells nutty and fragrant and is a light brown color. Pour the browned butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and set aside to let cool completely.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a small prep bowl, combine the bourbon, vanilla extract, and espresso powder and stir until the espresso powder is completely dissolved.
When the butter is cool, add in the granulated and brown sugar and beat at medium-speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then add in the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time – beating well after each addition. Add in the bourbon/espresso mixture and mix until fully incorporated.
Decrease the mixer speed to low and add in dry ingredients. Mix only until the flour is partially combined and then add in the chocolate chips and almonds and mix until just combined.
Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to let the dough rest for at least 12 hours, but preferably 24 to 36 hours……seriously, if you have the patience – it makes a huge difference. And if you’re super impatient and need the cookies ASAP, you can chill the dough for 2 hours…..but whatever you do – don’t bake the cookies right after mixing. They will not bake properly!
Once the dough is nice and rested, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350°F. Take the dough out of the fridge and let warm up to a little cooler than room temp. You want the dough to be easy to scoop, but not super soft.
Take roughly 2 ½ tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and then gently flatten the ball with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle a bit of smoked sea salt on top of the cookie dough. Continue this process with the rest of the dough. If the dough is feeling super soft at this point – pop the cookie tray into the fridge for about 15 to 20 minutes. This will help the cookies retain their shape as they bake.
Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes and then gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to let cool completely.