Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spicy Chocolate Shortbread

On Sunday we baked Holiday Cookie #4: Spicy Chocolate Shortbread. This recipe is also from the Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine.

The whole reason I chose these cut-out cookies was to use my Christmas cookie cutters.The star and bell cookie cutters were given by my grandma to my mom when she and my dad were first married, so they're very old. Mom never did take up baking, so I have inherited them. Over the years I've received other star and bell cutters (along with other shapes - I have a whole bin full of cookie cutters!). The old ones remain my favorites. It's not Christmas if I don't use them.

Usually SP makes vanilla spritz cookies - it's his tradition and he always gives them to friends, takes some to work, and gives some to family. They are similar to my sugar cut-out cookies - basically, a sugar cookie. Since the spritz are his tradition, I decided to choose another flavor cookie for my cut-outs. I was going to go with gingerbread, but then we found a yummy 3 ginger drop cookie recipe, so I decided on chocolate cut-outs. When I saw this recipe with the chipotle, I thought it would be great because SP likes spicy foods and usually I enjoy chocolate with a hint of spice.

This was our first time making this recipe and we certainly encountered some difficulties! These are shortbread cookies, so the ingredients are simply sugar, flour, cocoa, and butter. The spicy part comes from the addition of some cinnamon and some chipotle chile pepper. Rather than cut in the butter with a pastry blender (which we do not have, and we didn't want to use forks), we pulsed the ingredients in the food processor. We thought we had fine crumbs beginning to cling, but when SP turned the dough onto this huge board to knead and roll, the dough was a very, very crumbly mess.

He was in charge of kneading and he got frustrated.He was annoyed. Vowed to never make these again. Threatened to throw the dough at me (I was teasing him and he wasn't in the mood!). It took him a very long time to knead the dough together and into a smooth ball. For a while I thought we were going to have to toss the whole mass into the trash and admit total failure.After finally achieving a smooth ball, he needed a break, so I made us each a coffee and we relaxed with coffee at the kitchen table. We sampled two of the new coffee flavors I ordered: gingerbread and chestnut cream.Soon enough it was time to roll the dough.The recipe says to roll the dough 1/2 inch thick. ?!?! That sounded way too thick. We decided to not make them that thick. In the end, some of ours are 1/4+ inch thick and others are maybe 1/8 inch thick. SP was not too into these cookies so his rolling was a little uneven!!!We used only my star, bell, candy cane, and snowman cookie cutters. Gingerbread man and Christmas tree will have to wait another year for some cookie cutting action.

These baked for about 20 minutes. After cooling, they were ready for the glaze.The glaze is 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon cocoa, 1 teaspoon butter, and 2 teaspoons milk. The butter isn't melted, just softened, which means you really have to work to get it smoothly incorporated. I found that I needed an additional 2-3 teaspoons of milk to get 'drizzling consistency.' We poured the glaze into a squeeze bottle and drizzled it over the cookies, then placed them in the refrigerator for the glaze to set.

The verdict? On the one hand, they have a yummy shortbread taste with a definite kick of heat after swallowing. They are not disgusting, which is what I was starting to fear when we were making them. Do I personally like the kick of heat? Not enough to want to make these again, especially given that the recipe makes only 2 dozen cookies and an awful lot of elbow grease went into making the dough. The payoff just doesn't seem worth the effort.

Maybe if we pulsed the dough longer in the food processor or just made the dough in the KicthenAid stand mixer instead of kneading by hand, but either of those options could change the texture of the dough enough to make a not-so-yummy/rich shortbread. Maybe if we let the butter soften more the dough would be easier to work with. I just don't know, and I just don't think I want to make an effort to know!

Plus, I have another chocolate cut-out cookie recipe that also calls for the addition of some cinnamon so I could get the same taste (chocolate-cinnamon) in a cut-out cookie (thus using my Christmas cookie cutters) with less effort and a greater yield (5-6 dozen) - just not a buttery rich shortbread.

By the way: we just discovered that SP's spritz cookie press is broken, so there will be no spritz cookies this year. We could have made regular sugar cut-out cookies after all...!


  1. They sure look good! Sounds like my flop with the first batch of oatmeal cookies last week, though mine just spread out and looked like a giant oatmeal pancake.

  2. They really are pretty good, just more work than we expected.