Every Christmas I make cookies for my friends. I always say I’m going to switch it up with new recipes, but I never do. This year I ventured online for new shortbread and gingerbread variations. Not that I don’t love my dog-eared, flour/butter/icing crusted heirloom cookbooks. As you’ll see, my cookie baking this year truly was an adventure.
This recipe is probably so simple, I was a bit skeptical with the apparently amazing results, however you will not be disappointed. Don’t be fooled by the minimal ingredients.
Dark Chocolate Brown Butter Shortbread
2 T strong coffee/espresso
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, browned, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (plain, or a toffee variety), finely chopped, or 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips.
1. Place butter into medium heavy bottom pot, heat on medium high 5-8 minutes until brown. Cool until it hardens to room temperature. I usually just put it outside in the BBQ to be honest, much faster than a countertop.
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 zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 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. You can put it in the freezer pretty much indefinitely and defrost it on the counter for a few hours when ready to use.
4. 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 cut the dough into 1 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 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.