Chocolate Espresso Shortbread

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A few weeks ago, I acquired some Red Velvet Coffee from Peerless Coffee and it smells like a chocolate factory. I know, because I toured the Scharffenberger factory three times. They gave out free chocolate. The Red Velvet coffee smells rich and chocolate-y with vanilla. The taste is wonderful, and I have tried to convince people to come over just so I can brew them a cup. When that failed — who wants a cup of coffee 9 at night? — I decided I needed to bake with it just to share it with more people in the world.

Most of the coffee shortbread recipes I came across used instant espresso — bah! — but I did come across one that used three tablespoons of ground coffee. I was too chicken to try three tablespoons so I did a much more moderate 1 tablespoon. In future attempts, I think I will add a tablespoon or two of strong coffee into the cookie batter (if only for the color), but I’m happy with the result as is. It’s crisp and crumbly and not overly sweet.  I was told it was good on its own, but out of this world when eaten between sips of black coffee.It went fast!

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The neatest thing about this recipe is that you roll out the dough in a gallon sized ziplock bag and you get a perfectly square block of dough that you can then cut into little squares with a chef knife. My roommate calls the chef knife the murder knife. Sounds about right.

Chocolate Espresso Shortbread

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ADAPTED from Smitten Kitchen
YIELDS 36-42 cookies, depending on how you slice it.

INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon (about 4 grams) ground coffee or espresso
2 sticks (8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (80 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coarse, sea or kosher salt
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
3 ounces (86 grams) bittersweet chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s Pound Plus)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Cream the butter and confectioner’s sugar together with either a stand mixer, hand mixer, or by hand. Beat in the vanilla, 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.

Using a spatula, shape the dough into a roundish lump. Reverse a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag and grab the lump with the inside of the bag. Reverse the bag so the dough is resting inside the 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 the plastic from the 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.

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.

Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open with a knife or scissors. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets. Deb of Smitten Kitchen pricked her cookies, but mine were so studded with chocolate that I was afraid I’d tear through the dough. Prick if you please.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

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