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Sprinkle of sea salt makes shortbread not-too-sweet

Salty snacks, as opposed to sweets, have always held more sway over my palate.

When the sweet treat is salted, though, I tend to give it more credence. The trend toward sprinkling desserts with fine-quality salt over the past decade or so has moved beyond chocolates and caramels into humble cookies. The recipe with my column in this week’s food section is a prime example of the not-too-sweet types of cookies I prefer.

While we’ve all heard that unsalted butter should be the de facto in any recipe (so cooks can control salt), salted butter is a vehicle for enhancing the intentional saltiness in recipes like Salted Chunky Peanut Butter Cookies and these shortbread, also courtesy of Tribune News Service.

Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

8 ounces semi- or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped into chunks (do not chop too fine)

1 large egg, beaten

Demerara or turbinado sugar, for rolling

Flaky sea salt, or kosher salt, for sprinkling

Line 1 or 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using an electric mixer and a medium bowl or a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter, both sugars and the vanilla on medium-high until it’s very light and fluffy, for 3 to 5 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down sides of bowl. With mixer on low, add the flour, followed by the chocolate chunks, and beat just to blend.

Divide dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold plastic over so that it covers dough (this will protect your hands from getting sticky). Use your hands to form dough into a log shape about 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Rolling it on counter will help smooth it out; it does not have to be perfect. Refrigerate until very firm, for about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush outside of logs with beaten egg and roll them in the demerara or turbinado sugar.

Slice each log into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, place them on prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart and sprinkle with flaky or kosher salt. Bake in preheated oven until edges are just beginning to brown, for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack.

Makes about 32 cookies.

Recipe from “Dining In,” by Alison Roman.

Tribune News Service photo