Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Chocolate Peppermint Snowflake Sugar Cookies


I gotta say, in all my 40 years of baking, these are the prettiest cookies I've come up with to date. When I was a confirmed to be participating for the third time (first was here and second here) in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap benefiting Cookies for Kids Cancer, I started thinking of what kind of cookie I wanted to make. Then I quickly forgot about it until, weeks later, I received my matches from the swap organizers, then I knew I had to settle on something. Quickly.


I waffled a day or two until one night, while I was trying to fall asleep, visions of my newly bought and not yet used black cocoa sitting on my baking supplies shelf in my pantry came to mind. Just as I was finally drifting off to sleep, dark chocolate snowflakes with white piping popped into my head. They lived there for another several days until, finally, I had time off from work and could devote several days to recipe development and testing.


The first iteration of these were actually made with whole wheat – I was trying to stay somewhat healthy, y'all. Even though I didn't want an overtly sweet cookie, these weren't sweet enough. And the texture was a little gritty. They also had just a mere teaspoon of mint extract (all I had left!) that was completely obliterated by the slightly bitter chocolate (note to self: watch cookies baked with Dutch process and black cocoa powders closely because over baking will turn the cocoas bitter– fast!).

I received this baking mat from one of the cookie swap sponsors, Dixie Crystals. I also received gifts from two more sponsors: measuring cups from OXO and coupons from Land O'Lakes for butter. 

For the second go, I swapped out the whole wheat for white whole wheat, added a bit more sugar, along with 2 teaspoons of peppermint extract. The results were more encouraging but still not quite there. By the fourth go, I finally gave in and went with my favorite all-purpose flour and a full tablespoon of peppermint and voilà! Success.


One of the #FBCookieSwap recipients, as well as some of my taste testers, said these cookies tasted like thin mints but hefty versions since my cookies were just over ¼ inch thick. As for the icing, piping master I am not judging from the many little craters (air bubbles that I didn't bother poking with a toothpick when they first surfaced) in the piping, uneven lines and random patterns and the fact that it took me three hours to decorate three-and-a-half dozen 3-inch cookies. Even with their very handcrafted look, I am very proud of these little works of art that, when sitting on the dining table drying, were quite impressive en masse.

As for the cookies I received this year, I have to say, it's probably the best batch of cookies I've been lucky enough to receive.


First up where these Brown Butter Sugar Cookies with Vanilla Bean Icing from Kristen of Bourbon & Honey. They were small cookies bursting with tons of flavor.


Next I received these Holiday Sugar Cookies from Nancy at Capability Mom. So good.


Lastly, these hefty Brown Butter White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies came in the mail and oh my! So good. I never think to bake with macadamias but I think these cookies convinced me that it's time to give it a whirl. These babies bakery-sized cookies were from Jessica of Golden Brown and Delicious.


CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT SNOWFLAKE SUGAR COOKIES

This dough comes together very quickly and doesn't need to be chilled first. If you're going to pre-make and chill the dough for later use, I suggest reducing the flour by ½ cup. Using the three kinds of cocoa along with the espresso powder makes for a more complex chocolate flavor. I order my black cocoa powder from King Arthur Flour but recently came across the same brand at my local Sur la Table. Ditto the espresso powder. When it comes to Dutch process, I absolutely adore Valrhona cocoa powder. It's a bit more expensive but well worth it. As for the regular cocoa powder, I am still a fan of the old family favorite, Hershey's. Also, I suggest using premium European-style butter, such as Kerrygold. I pick mine up for a little less than the average retail cost at Trader Joe's. And a final tip: keep parchment paper from rolling back up on you as you're trying to work by wadding it up into a ball, then smoothing it out. Try it. It works!

Makes 18 (3-inch) snowflake-shaped cookies


INGREDIENTS:
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
¼ cup black cocoa powder
1 tablespoon espresso powder, optional
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

For the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons ice cold whole milk (for a whiter icing) or ice cold water

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cookie sheets with baking parchment or silicone baking mats; set aside.

Using a fine mesh sieve, sift sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add butter, egg and extract; beat on low for 15 seconds, then on high for 30 to 45 seconds, just until the sugar is incorporated. Remove bowl from stand mixer.

Sift cocoa powders, espresso powder (if using), flour and salt directly into the bowl; return to stand mixer, beating on low for 15 seconds, then on medium for 15 seconds, and finally on high for 30 seconds.

Dump dough out onto a large sheet of parchment paper and knead until dough forms a ball. Cut ball in half, returning half back to the bowl. Cut a second piece of parchment and cover the dough with it. Roll dough between the parchment sheets to roughly ¼-inch thickness (use wooden spoons as a guide for uniformity as thickness guides, see photo at top of post for visual). Press a 3-inch cookie cutter into the dough, pinching cutter together a little as you lift up, ensuring that the cut dough lifts with the cutter then hover over the baking sheet and carefully push dough out directly onto the sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, leaving 1-inch of space between cookies on sheet and re-rolling dough as needed (I was left with not quite enough dough for that last cookie to be cut out so it became a simple hand-flattened circle). Bake for 8-9 minutes, just until edges are done and the centers no longer look wet but are still ever-so-soft to the touch. Let the cookies cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until completely cool.

To make the icing, sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in the corn syrup and milk until icing is smooth. Transfer icing to a piping bag, make a tiny snip on the end and decorate completely cooled cookies. Icing will take about 2 hours to completely harden at which point the cookies can be stacked and transferred to an airtight container for storage. Cookies will keep for about a week, if they last that long, that is.

I've included a copy of the recipe card I sent out to my cookie swap recipients for you. Just right click the photo below and choose Save Linked File or single-click, then when the file finishes loading, right-click the full size file and save the JPEG to your desktop to print out at home.


Click on recipe card above to download a copy to your desktop.

Want to participate in next year's cookie swap? Sign up for the email list here to be notified when enrollment opens.

Until next time my friends … xo, ahi

2 comments:

  1. Ani, your cookies are decorated beautifully and, of course, photographed beautifully too! Thanks for the tip on how to keep my parchment paper from rolling up.

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  2. Wow, your snowflake cookies are so, SO beautiful! I wouldn't have guessed from looking at them that they have peppermint, but what a welcome surprise!

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