Monday, December 16, 2013

Chocolate Mint Shortbread Stars

So apparently Christmas is next week.  Had you noticed?  Have you been keeping track of your Christmas baking lists?  Have you checked off all the gifts you have to buy, need to make, have already bought?  I haven't done any of those things.  I'm totally off my game this year.  I'm typically the most organized person when it comes to Christmas, as I have perfectly maintained lists of what I'm thinking of getting my friends and family, and by now, most, if not all, of my gifts are perfectly wrapped, tagged, and finished off with big pretty ribbons and bows.  That hasn't exactly happened this year.  I have bought exactly zero gifts, and have come up with exactly zero ideas for what to get everyone.  It's shameful.  I'm not exactly sure why I'm so behind, but I am.  Last night I went on Amazon and felt just a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of having to get all these gifts and having so little time to come up with something good for everyone.  Fortunately, my baking schedule has been much more organized.   I've been baking cookies pretty much without stopping over the past few days, and I'm so ready to share allll these recipes with you.  I'm glad that at least this aspect of my life is under control!

If you follow me on Instagram, (if you don't, you should!) I shared a photo and announced that this week would be cookie week on the blog, aka a brand new cookie recipe will be poeveryday this week.  I'm excited to be sharing so many great cookie recipes with you, but also a bit nervous.  I've never shared this many recipes so close to each other, so part of me is slightly concerned that I'll simply run out of things to talk about! That would be unfortunate, because I'm really excited to share all of these cookie recipes and photographs with you.  So, I'm crossing my fingers that I won't get hit by a big case of writer's block, but if it happens and you notice my writing getting a bit questionable, I apologize in advance.  At least the cookie recipes and photographs will be up to par!  In any case, let's move on.  We heave more important matters to discuss, like these mint chocolate shortbread stars that have been completely enrobed in a layer of dark chocolate and sprinkled with little white nonpareils.  Excited doesn't even begin to explain how I feel about sharing these cookies with you!

I wanted to create these cookies after seeing something similar at my local Trader Joe's. I saw some chocolate covered shortbread stars and I wanted them...both in my tummy and on the blog.  I have no idea if the shortbread cookies I saw at Trader Joe's were chocolate or plain shortbread, or if they had any kind of additional flavoring at all, but once I had the idea to make chocolate covered shortbread I knew that I wanted to make chocolate shortbread with some mint favoring.  My version of the Trader Joe's cookie ends up being like a subtle, "cookier" Thin Mint.  Who wouldn't want that right?!  These cookies are crisp and not too sweet, and the mint and dark chocolate work together so nicely.  The thin coating of dark chocolate that envelopes the cookie gives it an elegant look, and the white nonpareils that adorn its top give it a nice final hint of crunchiness.

I loved the way these chocolate shortbread cookies came out, especially because of how simple the cookie dough recipe itself was to prepare.  The cookie dough only took a few minutes to mix up, and the dough can be adapted to suit a variety of different flavors and occasions.  The original recipe that I used as the basis for this cookie called for a bit of orange zest and flavoring, a flavor pairing that is one of my favorites.  I wanted to create a minty cookie, so I used a mint extract to mix into the cookie dough.  Other extracts, like almond, or nut oils could easily be substituted in to create unique chocolate cookies.  And, since this is a dough that is rolled out and shaped with cookie cutters, there's literally an infinite number of ways in which you can cut out your cookies to fit an occasion.  

These minty shortbread stars were great on their own, but I really wanted to cover them in chocolate to elevate them from a simple everyday cookie to one that is more special for the holidays.  Covering them in chocolate is pretty simple, but does take a little bit of time.  If you want something more simple, or if the idea of enrobing the cookies in chocolate intimidates you, you can simply melt some chocolate and drizzle it over the cookies, or even just dunk half of the cookie into some melted chocolate.  This way, you can still have a base for the white nonpareils to stick onto.  If you decide to go all out and cover the cookies entirely, here's a few tips to make your life a bit easier.  I always recommend melting chocolate with a double boiler setup.  I find that my chocolate never seizes up when I melt it this way, which isn't always the case if I use a microwave.  Use a deep bowl to melt the chocolate in, as this will make the dipping process much easier, and you will end up with a smoother coat of chocolate than if you use a shallower bowl.  Use a fork to help you dip the cookies into the chocolate and give it a couple of shakes when you're done to get rid of the excess chocolate, and then place the covered cookies onto a sheet pan or tray lined with wax paper rather than setting them on a wire rack, because they will be easier to remove once the chocolate has set.

These minty chocolate shortbread cookies are addicting and festive, and would certainly be a great hit at any cookie swap or holiday party.  See what other flavor combinations you can come up with; they're bound to be delicious! Enjoy, and come back tomorrow for a new cookie recipe!

Chocolate Mint Shortbread Stars

cookie recipe from Simply Recipes


1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
few drops of mint extract or mint oil
12 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2-3 tablespoons canola oil
white nonpareils, for decorating


 Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a bowl, and set aside.  In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl every now and then as needed.  Beat in the vanilla extract and mint extract, mixing for 30 seconds.  Add the mint extract or oil a few drops at a time, as this flavor is usually concentrated and you don't want to overpower the cookies.  Add about half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.  Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, and add the remaining flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

At this point, the recipe suggests rolling out the dough immediately, but I found the dough easiest to work with after it chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Simply divide the dough in half, form each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.  I found the dough easiest to roll out in between two sheets of parchment paper.  If you find that the bottom sheet of parchment paper is moving around too much and making the rolling out of the dough a bit difficult, place the parchment on top of a Silpat or silicone liner.  This will help hold the bottom piece of parchment paper while you roll out the cookie dough.  Roll the dough out until it is 1/4 inch thick, and using star cookie cutters in a variety of sizes, cut out stars and place them on the prepared baking sheets.  Gather the scraps of dough, roll, cut, and repeat until all the dough has been used.  Chill the cut out cookies for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

While the cookies are chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, and then remove from the oven.  Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  

Once the cookies have cooled completely, it's time to cover them in chocolate.  Add the chopped dark chocolate to a heatproof bowl and place it over a saucepan of simmering water to create a double boiler.  The water in the saucepan should not be touching the bowl!  Melt the chocolate until smooth, using a spatula every now and then to give it a quick stir.  Once the chocolate has melted completely, remove it from the heat, and add the canola oil.  Stir in the oil (this will help to thin out the chocolate a bit).  Rest a cookie on a fork, and slowly dip it into the melted chocolate, shaking off any excess.  You only want to have a thin layer of chocolate covering the cookie.  Place the chocolate covered cookie on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle some white non pareils over the cookies.  Repeat until all the cookies have been covered in chocolate. 

I originally placed the cookies on a wire rack, and when I ran out of room, placed the remaining cookies on a wax paper lined tray.  The cookies on the rack were a little stuck, while the cookies on the wax paper peeled off easily!
Place the cookies in the fridge for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to set and harden.  After that, serve and enjoy!

Yield will vary depending on the size of the cookie cutter you use


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