A classic cookie with a chocolate touch
Vail CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Like Beethoven’s 5th Symphony or a simple black dress, these layered shortbread cookies are classics.
Rich chocolate sandwiched between two layers of tender vanilla shortbread. What could be more elegant or more timeless? And, like all classics, they are appropriate just about anywhere. Serve them with berries or mousse to end a dinner party or take them in a picnic lunch; they seem perfect in every setting.
Chocolate sandwich cookies abound, both commercially and in recipe collections. I probably have 20 different recipes for them. This one is my favorite for our altitude because, unlike many that lose their shape while baking, the cookies don’t spread while in the oven. I also like the addition of cream cheese to the usual shortbread ingredients; it yields a rich and tender crumb. And, I’ve chosen a filling that is made with real chocolate and real butter … far superior in taste to chocolate chips and vegetable shortening!
I love cookies I can devour in two bites, so these are petite; they measure two inches by one inch in size. If you want larger cookies, I suggest that you double the recipe or you’ll end up with a very small number of them.
The cookie dough can be made in a food processor or with an electric mixer.
Makes 14 two-inch-by-one-inch sandwich cookies
(28 single cookies)
Recipe can be doubled
1/2 cup of butter (8 tablespoons, one stick), softened if making with mixer, cut into eight pieces
2 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup of all-purpose flour
3 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, very soft
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. Don’t grease it, the cookies might spread.
Place a second cookie sheet under the one on which you’ll bake the cookies to provide insulation and prevent the bottom of the cookies from overbrowning.
Make the cookie dough: With a mixer: Beat the softened butter with the softened cream cheese until very smooth. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is creamy.
Stir in the vanilla, and then gradually add the flour, stirring only until it is no longer visible after each addition. When the dough starts to come together, stop stirring and gently knead until it is smooth and coherent. With a food processor: Put the flour and sugar in the bowl of the processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the vanilla, the pieces of cream cheese and the cut-up butter to the bowl and pulse until the dough starts to come together but stop just before it forms a ball. Turn the dough out of the processor and gently knead until it is smooth and coherent.
Pat the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill until it is firm enough to roll out. (This takes about an hour in the refrigerator and about fifteen minutes in the freezer). Place the disc of dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll to a thickness of just over an eighth of an inch. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap and, using a cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them about an inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Re-roll the scraps of dough and cut out more cookies. If the dough gets so soft that it sticks to the cutter, chill it again before cutting out the second batch of cookies. Place the cut-out cookies, on the cookie sheet, in the freezer and freeze for about 7 minutes, until they are very firm. This helps prevent them from spreading while they are baking.
Bake in the preheated oven until the top is set and the bottoms and sides of the cookies are just golden. This takes about 9 to 13 minutes in my oven, but times will vary. Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately transfer them to a rack to cool.
Fill the cooled cookies: Make the filling by melting the chopped chocolate, either in a microwave at a low heat (I use number four in a range from one to ten and stir after every minute of heating) or by stirring constantly in a small saucepan on the lowest heat possible on the stovetop. Chocolate burns very easily, so remove it from the heat (either microwave or stovetop) before it is fully melted and stir it until all pieces are melted and it is smooth. Let it cool to room temperature, then add the softened butter all at once, smashing and stirring it with a small rubber spatula until the mix is completely combined, shiny and smooth. Pair up the cooled cookies. Spread some filling on the bottom of one and top it with the second cookie, bottom side down. Let the filled cookies rest until the chocolate is set. Store the layered shortbreads for up to three days in a cool place.
The cookie recipe is a variation of one in “500 Best Cookies, Bars and Squares.”
The filling comes from “Cookies Unlimited.”
Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.