Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Bliss: Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

To the future Mrs. Jessica Brickell,

Since your relationship status has been changed on Facebook, I am going to assume that I can officially say CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR ENGAGEMENT! I am soooo thrilled for you both. You two make an amazing team and I am so excited to have shared in the first few moments after the proposal, and am looking forward to the excitement of wedding planning, and of course supporting and encouraging your future journey together. ... Have I mentioned that I am excited yet?!

So, on top of your exciting news, I have just realized how quickly Christmas is creeping up on us. I have decided (again) that most of my gifts will be homemade. Last night I decided to try this new recipe because - let's face it - I saw the recipe on my friend's blog Graceful Oven and almost melted in my seat. I thought to myself 'If these are as sublime as they sound then they will make perfect gifts!' 

The ingredients are easy to get. I thought it would be difficult to find Instant Espresso, but there it was in the instant coffee section in Independent. When I went through the check out there was this adorable middle-aged cashier with an English accent who was intrigued with the Instant Espresso. She said she had never seen it before. Terrified that she would think I was actually going to drink the stuff and think it's good espresso, I quickly said I was using it for baking. Well this got her very excited and we spent a good 5 minutes (to the annoyance of the man in a backwards baseball cap in line behind me) about Christmas baking and what else you could incorporate Instant Espresso into. So, long story short, the Instant Espresso created an Instant Friendship that would never have happened otherwise. Trying new things is beneficial for all!

I used my mom's stand mixer. So I could actually mix a batch of these puppies in 8 minutes - from dropping the first ingredients into the mixer to putting the final dough into the fridge. (I made two batches because the first took so short of a time. We actually timed the second batch for fun.)

My friend got this recipe from another blog, and that girl made a groundbreaking suggestion: Why not try Toffee-Coffee Shortbread instead of Chocolate-Coffee Shortbread? So while going through my cupboards looking for the chocolate chips what do you think I found? That's right! A whole bag of toffee chips! That is the story of how my second batch became Toffee-Coffee Shortbread Cookies.

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
makes 42 cookies
1 tbsp instant espresso powder
1 tbsp boiling water
2 x 8oz sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4oz bitter sweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips (or toffee bits!)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool to tepid.
2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners' sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don't work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a sturdy rubber spatula.
3. Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that's 1/4 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift teh plastic from teh dough so it doesn't cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.
4. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide adn a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating hte sheets from top to bottom and front ot back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be pale - they shouldn't take on much color. Transfer the cookies to the rack.
7. If you'd like, dust the cookies with confectioners' sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

And there you go! Christmas presents for all! I baked mine a couple minutes too long. The next batch I will do for only 15 minutes (in a convection oven). I really really really love the concept of rolling the dough in the Ziplock bag. The dough gets so firm, that you can cut it out of the bag and cut off as many squares as you need for that day, and then transfer the rest of it into a new bag and put it back in the fridge! I still have 1/2 of each batch in the fridge to bake again tonight! And let me tell you... the smell that goes through the house when these babies are in the oven is absolutely heavenly! They should make candles that smell like these cookies!

I love you so much. I can't wait for our weekend coming up. Good luck with all your lesson planning and ... report cards? Is it that time of year or am I making it up?

All My Love,

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