While I’m always fascinated by the culinary traditions that are specific to different regions of the U.S., I find that I don’t often revisit my own. I was raised in St. Louis, which has a great (and in my opinion, underrated) restaurant scene, and a rich history of culinary peccadillos. I think the most recognized of these would be toasted ravioli (meat-filled ravioli breaded and fried, served with marinara for dipping) and what we simply call “pork steaks” (a bone-in pork shoulder sliced into steaks, usually grilled and mopped with BBQ sauce). And while those are delicious to some and strange sounding to others; the real gem of the Gateway City seems to have originated when a well meaning St. Louis baker, while attempting to bake a coffee cake, mistakenly inverted the amounts of butter and flour in the recipe. The result is a quite a culinary (and coronary) experience, so plug in your pacemakers because here we go…
While I’ve had the original gooey butter cake many times (I’m telling you, even one slice and you feel in danger of slipping into a diabetic coma), I think the cookie version is superior. Less intense, more reasonably sized for a single serving of something so rich. I’ve divided the recipe in half and re-worked it to produce two flavors of the same cookie — classic original and a chocolate version. If one flavor isn’t your thing, the recipes fit back together easily.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you — this is not a one bowl affair. But I’ve worked the steps so that we’re using the least amount of dishes possible, I promise. To that end, don’t wash any bowls until you’ve got both doughs resting in the fridge. We’re recycling them through the recipe as much as possible, so you’ll probably need it again. Your dishwasher (whether that’s you or a machine) will thank me.
I know we’ve been talking cookies a lot this month, but it can’t be helped. ‘Tis the season and all. Feel free to fill those Christmas cookie tins with chocolate chip cookies with sea salt or dark chocolate crispy swirls, but I think these deserve a demo in your kitchen sometime. Because texturally, these cookies are just awesome. They seem barely held together by enough flour to be reasonably called a cookie, but hold they do. That is, until you bite into one and the gooey center takes over and you see the truth — that these things are impossibly delicious.
Gooey Butter Cake Cookies, 2 ways
Adapted from Dessert for Two and Taste of Home
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar (294 g)
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour (210 g)
¼ cup cocoa powder (28 g)
2 tablespoons nonfat milk powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line 2 sheet trays with foil, parchment or a silpat. If using foil or parchment spray with a nonstick spray.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese and beat (with either electric beaters or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer) until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the sugar, increase the speed and continue to beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl again, add the eggs and egg yolks and beat on low until well combined.
This is the point where the recipes converge and we build the separate flavors:
With a rubber spatula, remove the wet mixture and place it in two separate containers of the same size. Try to be as exact as you can (this is much easier if the containers are identical. You could also weigh the batter for this step before you divide it). Do not wash the bowl, but set it aside.
In a smaller bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 cup of the flour (120 g), 1 tablespoon milk powder, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Whisk to combine. Pull the large bowl back out and add one of the wet mix containers, making sure to scrape extra well. Set the mixer on low speed and add the dry mix in 3 additions, letting the previous addition fully incorporate before you add the next one. Once the dough comes together, add the dough back to the bowl you used to combine the dry ingredients for that batch (we’re using that large bowl one more time, don’t wash it!). Cover with plastic wrap and chill for no less than one hour.
In another smaller bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of the baking powder, ¾ cup of the flour (90 g), all of the cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon of the milk powder and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Whisk to combine. Return the larger bowl to the mixer one more time. With the mixer still running on low, gradually add the dry ingredients in three additions as before. Beat until just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Add the finished dough to the bowl used for the chocolate dry ingredients and cover with plastic wrap. Place the dough in the fridge to chill for no less than 1 hour.
Place the powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Scoop the plain gooey butter mixture, using either a tablespoon measure or a size 40 scoop to measure out the dough, roll each into a ball with your hands (It helps to dust your hands with powdered sugar to prevent sticking). Place the ball of dough in the bowl of powdered sugar and roll it around gently until it’s completely covered in sugar before placing it on the baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve scooped all of the regular dough. Repeat the scooping process with the chocolate gooey butter dough, making sure it’s plenty cold from the fridge before you slide them into the oven. Chill further in the fridge on the sheet pans after you scoop if necessary. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pans: front to back and side to side. Bake for an additional 6 minutes, then set aside to cool on the pans.
Makes about 24 cookies, a dozen of each flavor