These featherlight cookies have an almost-black chocolate color and a distinctive crackly top when baked. They taste like a cross between an American brownie and a French macaroon – with a chewy middle and a thin, crisp outer shell. While there are many variations of these cookies across the United States, the original idea traces back to a 1997 recipe by pastry chef François Payard.
This recipe is extremely versatile: any type of nuts can work or be entirely omitted; the cocoa can be Dutch-process or natural; and additional flavorings can be added. My favorite version is detailed below.
2 egg whites, at room temperature and slightly beaten with a fork until frothy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60 grams (2 ounces or ⅓ cup) finely chopped semisweet or dark chocolate or chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 175C (350F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Place the pecans on the baking sheet and toast until golden and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Let nuts cool completely before coarsely chopping. Set aside.
Measure all of the remaining ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until smooth. If the mixture is lumpy, sift the ingredients into another bowl.
Carefully add the egg whites and vanilla to the sugar-cocoa mixture, stirring until incorporated (do not overmix). Fold in the chopped nuts and chocolate.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour to let the dough stiffen. It will be easier to shape the cookies if the dough is chilled. You can skip this step and bake right away but the cookies will be slightly flatter and will spread more. They will still taste delicious.
When ready to bake, place a new piece of parchment paper on the baking sheet and set the temperature of the oven to 165C (325F).
Spoon tablespoonfuls of batter onto the lined baking sheet. Make sure that the cookie mounds are spaced apart as they will spread considerably. You should have about 12 mounds.
Bake the cookies for about 12–15 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. The cookies are done when the tops are glossy and lightly cracked.
Cool the cookies completely before removing them from the parchment. They will firm up as they cool.
Store leftovers at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The cookies are crispest on the day they are made, softening and becoming chewier over time.