Friday, December 10, 2010

Cooking With Locally-Made Chocolate: Occoquan Shortbread

When I first heard about Potomac Chocolate's plans to start up a bean-to-bar chocolate maker to the DC area, my first question after my immediate giddy reaction was, "will you offer bulk chocolate for baking?" How cool would it be to make truffles with locally-made chocolate? Or brownies? Either way, talk about a serious recipe bragging point at potluck events.

Justin and Ben indicated that thier immediate plans focus on retail bars, but that bulk chocolate for baking and confection making may become part of the future business plan. Since I'm impatient, I decided I needed to bake with their Upala 70% cocoa bars that I reviewed yesterday anyway. Given the urgency of this project, I considered recipes that would work best with finely-chopped chocolate bars.

I also considered the properties of the Upala 70% bar. The cherry undertone seemed to merrit highlighting, and I wanted to pair it with something buttery given that it was just a tad dry. And since sea salt is a trendy ingredient to pair with chocolate, it seemed like another good bet for a recipe.

But how to blend butter, cherry, chocolate, and salt? Such a conundrum. Until I was browsing David Lebovitz's site and found a recipe for a salt-based shortbread. His involved the use of seaweed (!), but surely the substitution of dried cherries and chocolate would go off without a hitch.

At least I hoped. And as I hoped, I made a few adjustments to the recipe and got to work in the kitchen. As I was working, I decided to call this cookie “Occoquan Shortbread” as a nod to the Woodbridge headquarters for Potomac Chocolate.

Occoquan Shortbread Ingredients (as inspired by David Lebovitz)

16 tablespoons butter, softened

2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus extra for topping the cookies

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 egg yolks

2 1/2 cups flour

8 ounces dried cherries

4 ounces Upala 70% cocoa chocolate, finely chopped

Mix the butter and two teaspoons of sea salt until smooth, then beat in the powdered sugar, and then the egg yolk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the flour, beat until smooth.

That’s some nice looking shortbread dough. To make it look even nicer, mix in the cherries and chopped Upala.

Divide the dough into four equal portions; roll each portion into cylinders about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap each cylinder seaparately in plastic wrap, freeze for at least one hour. Preheat your oven to 325° F, then remove the dough from freezer and soften for approximately 5 minutes. Cut dough into ¼ inch discs and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top of each disc to add a bit of saltiness.

Bake for 14-15 minutes, and savor the intense aroma of the chocolate that escapes from your oven in the process.

These little gems are dense and buttery, and the cherries and salt compliment the Upala 70% bar perfectly. Head out to Biagio to pick up some Upala to try it for yourself, or order some directly from Potomac Chocolate.

You know you want to.

Do you have a favorite recipe that uses locally-sourced ingredients?


  1. These look tasty and would make a lovely tea-time snack! You are so creative with chocolate.

  2. I've had a couple now (thanks Victoria!) as well as shared some with the folks at Biagio and some co-workers. The consensus is that they're great! I especially like the salt, which I really notice right at the end.

    Oh yeah, the chocolate's pretty good, too. :)

  3. @Alina @ Duty Free Foodie Alina, you're totally right, these would work wonderfully with tea (or coffee :) for those of us who like that). Nice and buttery and salty.

  4. @Ben Glad to hear you're a fan, Ben. And the chocolate aroma during the baking process is overwhleming. It was hard to not pull out the half-baked cookies and start eating them right then.

  5. Oh, beautiful! I'm actually looking for a shortbread recipe to make my dad for Christmas... this might be a keeper! (Though with normal boring chocolate...)

  6. @Hannah Hannah, if he likes cherries he would adore these. Try to find an intense bittersweet chocolate, and I think you'll be golden.

  7. These look fantastic! I read on Sarah's blog (glutnfreegrazer) that you're going to the cookie swap :) Looking forward to meeting you!

  8. @Biochemista I *am* going to the cookie swap, but not bringing too many of these guys - maybe just a few. Be on the lookout :). Can't wait to meet you.

  9. These sound amazing! I love sweet and salty together, and this seems like a great way to utilize that chocolate and really let it shine. By the way, seaweed cookies? I love the way he thinks!

  10. @Jessica @ bake me away! I know, I kind of want to make the seaweed cookies. But I want something else in there, too...

    And David Lebovitz is totally awesome. He belongs in your twitter/RSS feeds. Freaking hilarious dude.

  11. Ooh, I won these babies at Lauren's bake sale. Now I'm even more excited!! :)