I was so nervous the first year I traveled to New York City to attend cooking classes at the International Culinary Center, although back in 2008 the ICC was known as the French Culinary Institute. The two intense days of cooking school was a very generous birthday gift. I was the only attendee from Boston with almost all of the students coming from New York and all the participating chefs were highly regarded. My first class was taught by the acclaimed pastry chef, Francois Payard and we made the most unbelievably delicious double chocolate walnut cookies. These thin, ooey-gooey cookies are easy to make and at the time, the most surprising aspect of the recipe was that there was no flour in the ingredients. Gluten-free baking was still not mainstream yet and in all the classes I had taken to date, we never baked without any flour! Now there’s an unlimited amount of gluten free recipe options. You could make these cookies by hand with a whisk or with a standing mixer, just don’t over mix the batter. These cookies are perfect for the holidays that are just around the corner.
Place oven racks in lower and upper thirds of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Spread the pecan pieces on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 6-9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Let the nuts cool slightly, then transfer them to a cutting board and coarsely chop them.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking sheets. If using parchment then give it a quick coat with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the chopped chocolate and toasted pecans. Then whisk the egg whites and vanilla into the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Spoon the batter by the tablespoonful onto the lined baking sheets, spacing 2-3 inches apart. An ice cream scoop is a good tool to use.
Place the trays into the oven and bake rotating sheets once, after 5 minutes. Bake the cookies until the tops are dry, cracked and set just around the edges, 14-16 minutes. They will look a bit underdone. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool on the pan. They’ll firm up when they cool. Cookies can be baked 3 days ahead and stored in and airtight at room temperature.