Get the recipe behind the cookie that became a viral sensation

  • "The Cookies" — officially dubbed the Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread cookies — have become something of a viral phenomenon. (Amelia Rayno/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Perhaps if you spend much time on Instagram or surfing the web, you’ve already heard of them.

“The Cookies” ­— officially dubbed the Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread cookies — have become something of a viral phenomenon in the months following the release of Alison Roman’s debut cookbook, “Dining In.”

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The New York Times’ Sam Sifton has praised them. Food Network’s Bobby Flay has raved. So has Bon Appetit, the “Today” show and “Inside Edition.” Not to mention the thousands of smartphone-wielding home bakers boasting social media accounts and no shortage of emoticons for the sparkling-edged sweets.

So what’s the deal? How have mere cookies that are reportedly not filled with money or drugs achieved such fame?

Roman, in her cookbook, defines them as a cross between the traditional chocolate chip cookie — which she calls “deeply flawed” and often too sweet, too soft or containing too much chocolate — and a shortbread, with a demerara sugar rim for maximum crunch.

But Roman, a former Bon Appetit and BuzzFeed food editor, admits that she was taken aback by the cookies’ explosion in popularity — especially since they come from a book that in general leans much more heavily into the savory than the sweet.

Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

Makes 24 cookies.

Note: Demerara sugar is a light brown cane sugar with large grains; find it sold with other sugars. Cookie dough can be made ahead and stored, tightly wrapped in plastic, up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or 1 month in the freezer. Cookies can be baked and stored in plastic wrap or an airtight container for 5 days. From “Dining In,” by Alison Roman.

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

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups flour

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

1 egg, beaten

Demerara sugar (see Note)

Flaky sea salt

Using an electric mixer and a medium bowl or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until super light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

Using a spatula, scrape down sides of bowl. With mixer on low speed, slowly add flour, followed by chocolate chunks, and beat just to blend.

Divide dough in half, then place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold plastic over to cover dough and protect your hands from getting sticky. Using your hands, form dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help. Each half should form a log that is 2 to 2 1/4 inches in diameter. Chill until firm, about 2 hours.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush outside of logs with beaten egg. Roll logs in demerara sugar.

Slice each log into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Arrange on prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake cookies until edges are just beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating.