Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Espresso Shortbread Cookies

 One of the most enjoyable activities I do during the holidays is making cookies.  What other time of the year do we have the excuse to make a ton of cookies.  It is a lovely hostess gift, the neighbors love them and you keep some dough tucked away in the freezer or frig to have fresh cookies when guests show up.  There is nothing like homemade treats during the holidays (or any other time of the year!)

One of the cookies I really like are a shortbread espresso cookie dipped in dark chocolate.  I love shortbread cookies and the combination of coffee, chocolate and vanilla is amazing to me.   This cookie goes quite well with champagne.  Champagne and dark chocolate have a natural affinity for each other.  This recipe is adapted from Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Shortbread from Fine Cooking:  Cookies, issue #23.  I added vanilla and feel the addition of vanilla really brings out the chocolate and espresso flavors in this cookie. 

These are tasty and super simple to make so lets get to it!

Place the cold butter, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl.  Mix on slow speed until blended.  You should still be able to see sugar granules in the batter.

Add the remaining ingredients:  the flour, espresso and vanilla.  Mix until it comes together.
At first it will look dry and then after a couple of minutes it will pull together, kind of the way pie dough does.  Be careful not to over mix so you will have a tender cookie.

This dough is very easy to roll.  Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick.  I chose a biscuit cutter for circles but in the past I have done stars and cut the dough with a sharp knife into diamonds.  I did cut a few squares and diamonds with the left over dough so as not to waste.  Place the cookies on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  I usually spray a little cooking spray between the cookies sheet and the parchment to hold the parchment paper in place.
Now chill the cookies for about 20 minutes and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Bake the cookies for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the cookies are slightly darker and look dry on top.  Take them out of the oven and cool on the pan for a couple of minutes and transfer them to a cooling rack.  Cool completely.
Note:  I must take a moment here to apologize for the picture quality.   The raw cookies here look darker than the cooked cookies.  That is not the reality, they were lighter and the cooked cookies were darker.  The picture of the cooked cookies is accurate.  The shorter, cloudy, gray winter days are giving me quite the challenge when shooting my pictures.  I used the flash that my camera came with, so shoot me.  I know it is bad form.  Someone took pity on me and gave me a quality flash for Christmas.  Thank you!  Hopefully, in the future you won't be able to tell or there will be drastic improvements when the lighting conditions are poor. 

For the chocolate:  Melt the chocolate with the vegetable oil over a double boiler or in the microwave.  If you choose to microwave, then mic it for 30 seconds, stir, mic for 30 more seconds, stir until the chocolate is shiny and smooth.  You know your microwave so be careful not to over mic it.  That can make a sad, nasty mess and you will have to start all over.  Not fun and frustrating.  Be patient, it is worth it.  (I might be talking to myself here!) The vegetable oil (I used canola) helps keep the chocolate shiny and a tiny bit soft on the cookies so don't skip it.

When the chocolate is ready, dip half of the cookie or you can just drizzle chocolate over the tops of the cookies.  Dipping leaves more chocolate on the cookie than drizzling but they both look awesome.
As you can see, I dipped.  Then place them on wax paper and let the chocolate set for about 2 hours.

These make lovely gifts and as I said before goes really well with champagne. A nice addition for New Years Eve. 

I love putting cookies or candies in a clear party bag for gift giving!

Note:  Shortbread cookies have very few ingredients therefore the quality of the ingredients matter. They are typically made of flour, butter, sugar and sometimes a flavoring like vanilla extract.  Use a good quality butter and real vanilla, not imitation.   

Espresso Shortbread Cookies dipped in chocolate
adapted from Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Shortbread in Fine Cooking: Cookies-issue #23

1/2 lb (1 cup) of cold unsalted butter, cubed into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup of white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt, fine ground not course or kosher
2 1/4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour, (10 ounces)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons of finely grounds espresso beans

9 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening

To make the cookies, place the butter, sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer (this much easier than using a hand mixer.  If you do use a hand mixer, use a large bowl).  Mix on low speed until combined.  You should still be able to see sugar granules in the butter.  Add the flour, vanilla and finely ground espresso beans.  Mix until it comes together.  This will take a few minutes.  When the dough just pulls away from the bowl (like a pie dough) and pulls together the stop mixing.  Do not over mix.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface about a 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or cut squares or rectangles/bars with a knife.  Place the cookies on parchment paper on top of a cookie pan and chill for about 20 minutes in the frig.

While the cookies are chilling, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cookies look dry on top and are a shade darker.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

To melt chocolate and dip the cookies,  place 9 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler (I used a glass bowl over a small saucepan with gently simmering water).  Add the vegetable oil (I used canola,)  And stir until it is melted and glossy.   Take each cookie and dip them halfway into the chocolate and set on wax paper until set, approximately 2 hours.


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  1. Expresso and chocolate in a cookies, sounds really yummy and tempting!

  2. I have never heard of espresso shortbread! Coupled with the dark chocolate, I don't think I could resist. Yum!

  3. your espresso shortbread cookies look delicious! I love the texture and color!!
    Now if I only had a few to go with my coffee!

  4. These little shortbreads look like the perfect accent to a cup of espresso or strong coffee! The dark chocolate is great touch, well done!

  5. Wow, never heard of espresso shortbread before, I will give this a try. thanks for the tip

  6. I like shortbread cookies and the combination of coffee, chocolate and vanilla as well. Mico Equipment

  7. Help! I am making these cookies but the dough will not come together. At first, I thought I just hadn't mixed enough (wary of the warning to not overmix though) so in my second batch, I mixed longer. However, the fine cooking recipe says about 3 minutes. I neared 5 minutes and still the dough wasn't coming together! It looked like ground beef. When I tried to roll it out, it again kept ripping and not rolling flat. Any ideas as to why??

    1. There could be a couple of reasons for this. Sometimes you can add too much flour by using a measuring cup instead of using a scale and and measuring by weight is always more precise. It is worth investing in a scale and easier than a bunch of measuring cups. Not all butters are the same and contain differing ratios of water although a very small amount. It can be very dry where you are ( it is winter!) and causing problems.This dough can be a little like pie dough in that if you can pick up a handful and squeeze it together and in holds then you have the right consistency. Let it set in the fridge or on the counter for an hour. If it is still too crumbly to roll put it between wax paper or plastic and roll it like that, chill and cut. Alternatively, you can hand press it into a small jelly roll type pan, chill, cut into bars and proceed. Shortbread type doughs can be tricky. I hope this helps. I used King Arthur up bleached all purpose flour and Keller's unsalted butter (a middle of the road butter, not store brand and not high end, this is not to say all store brand are bad because I like whole foods, 365 brand.) I hope you saved your batters to work with. Good luck, let me know how it works out.

  8. Hi! I am baking these cookies tonight and encountered the same problem as Anonymous - a bowl full of crumbs. I followed the recipe to a T. I was reviewing the recipe again and decided to use an online calculator to check the measurements. I converted 10 ounces to cups and 10 ounces actually equals 1 1/4 cups of flour NOT 2 1/4 cups. Yikes!!! There is a typo in the original recipe but of course the peeps who measured their flour by weight would've been fine. I am kicking myself as I actually do have a scale to do this but automatically grabbed the measuring cups. I managed to pull the dough together kneading it by hand. It was a little hard to roll out but managed to cut out shapes and bake. Just don't know how good they will taste! LOL...I guess I will have to try again tomorrow with the proper measurements. Sigh...

    1. Thanks for your input jn. When I used an online conversion converter (, I actually got 2.8 cups for 10 ounces which is way off. I used this converter which did not specify the ingredient (flour) and got 1.25 ( and then this site gave me 2.269 cups but did require ingredient input before calculating ( How frustrating is all this not to mention confusing?!. The best way to convert flour to weight is by by using the "Nutrition Facts" on the back or side of the container, this in the end is the most accurate and reliable because if they don't know how much their own products weighs . . .

      Fine Cooking states in some of their articles that each cup should weigh roughly 4 1/2 ounces. I took my 2 cup dry measure and simply scooped the flour and leveled without fluffing so it was probably a bit compacted and got 9.9 ounces. If I had stirred and gently spooned the flour into the measuring cup as recommended by Fine Cooking it would have come out closer but probably a little off.

      This is main argument for using a scale because everyone's method can be off because of differences in the process of measuring. We should use a scale always in baking because it is more accurate and consistent, not to mention easier with less clean up. It is hard to break old habits but you might be glad when this one has been kicked. All that being said, I still will use measuring cups when I am trying a recipe for the first time. It is a pain to convert US recipes to weight measure simply because it varies so much and have to make the recipe more than once to get it right . . . that is become a kitchen scientist!! But who really has time for that!

      All that being said I do believe the original Fine Cooking recipe is right if you used their method for measuring at . I am sorry for the frustration that you have had with this recipe and hope this info helps. It really is a very good cookie! I don't make them much because I am sensitive to the caffeine and can only have them in the morning. Yes this is a cookie that keeps me up at night!

      Have a great Holiday!

    2. Hi Laura, thank you for your reply and all the good info! Long story short, for round 2 I ended up weighing not just my flour but my butter as well on my little digital scale and the cookies came out perfect. I should note though, that my little hand held mixer did not do a good job of pulling the dough together. I was starting to think that I was going to wind up with a bowl full of crumbs again but once I chucked the mixer aside and started working the dough with my hands, it pulled together beautifully. I think it's time to invest in a Kitchen Aid! The cookies have been dipped in chocolate and are drying and they look absolutely heavenly. Can't wait to bite into these and gift my friends and family with them!

    3. Who knew measuring flour really is rocket science?! I am not surprised you hand mixer had problem with this dough. I have had my classic Kitchenaid for 20 years now and what a workhorse not to mention how easier and quicker it is to do some recipes. I have just purchased a grain mill for it which will be interesting. I have torn up my grater accessories (Parm cheese will do that!) but all in all, it has been amazing except for needing a tune up, but who doesn't after 20 years!

      What lucky family and friends you have - A gift from the kitchen is a gift from the heart.


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