High Altitude Baking: Cookies for coffee lovers | VailDaily.com

High Altitude Baking: Cookies for coffee lovers

Vera Dawson
High Country Baking

Editor's note: High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.

Calling all coffee lovers. It's time to think outside the cup and look inside the oven.

These two cookies could satisfy your cravings like a trip to your favorite coffee shop. Barely sweet, redolent with coffee flavor and hints of chocolate, both are close to addictive.

They're adult indulgences — not for the cookie jar. Instead, serve them with a cappuccino or brandy or as the perfect foil for berries, ice cream or fruit sorbet.

Chocolate-Espresso Sandwich Cookies

Yields 14 two-inch cookies

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Make on a shiny metal cookie sheet lined with parchment paper

Cookie

2 cups bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons instant espresso powder

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (two sticks)

Filling

5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1⁄3 cup heavy cream

½ teaspoon instant espresso powder

Drizzle, optional

1 ½ ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon canola oil

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center. Make the cookies: Put the flour, salt, sugar, and espresso in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine well. Cut the butter into small pieces, add them, and pulse only until large clumps of moist dough form. Dump the dough onto a sheet of waxed paper and gently knead it into a disc. Cover the disc with a second sheet of waxed paper and roll the dough to a thickness of 3/16th of an inch. If the dough is too soft to cut easily, then chill it, between the two sheets of waxed paper, until it firms up. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and, using a 2-inch, round cookie cutter, cut out cookies and transfer them to the prepared cookie sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart. Re-roll the dough (if it's soft, then chill it first) and cut out more cookies.

2. Freeze the cookies, on the cookie sheet, for about 5-8 minutes, until they're quite firm. Place the pan in the oven and, immediately, turn it down to 300 degrees. Bake until the cookies are set, 20-25 minutes. Remove the pan to a cooling rack. After 5-10 minutes (when the cookies have firmed up), transfer them from the pan to the rack to cool completely.

4. Make the filling: Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside. Combine the cream and espresso, heat the mixture to boiling (on stovetop or in microwave), stir to blend, and pour over the chocolate, covering all of it. Let it sit until chocolate is melting, then whisk until completely smooth and shiny. Set aside, at room temperature until thick enough to spread. Spread a teaspoon on half of the cookies, top with the remaining cookies, and press gently to secure the sandwich. Let them rest until the filling firms up. (Any leftover filling can be frozen.)

5. Make the drizzle, if using: Place the chocolate in a small, heatproof bowl and melt at low temperature in microwave until only a few lumps remain. Remove, add oil, and stir until smooth and shiny. Let rest until no longer runny, then drizzle over the top of each cookie. When drizzle hardens, store cookies, airtight, at cool room temperature, for 3 days. Serve at warm room temperature.

Coffee-Hazelnut Rounds

Yields 30

Make on a shiny metal cookie sheet lined with parchment paper

1 (one) cup skinned hazelnuts

¼ (one fourth) cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker's

¾ (three fourths) cup plus 2 (two) tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour

2 (two) tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 (one) teaspoon instant espresso powder

¼ (one fourth) teaspoon salt

8 (eight) tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter

1 ¼ (one and a fourth) teaspoons vanilla extract

¾ (three fourths) cup confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center. Put the hazelnuts, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, espresso and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until the mixture is thoroughly blended and the nuts are finely chopped. Cut the butter into 16 pieces and add it, along with the vanilla, to the processor. Pulse until large clumps of moist dough form and no dry ingredients are visible at the bottom of the bowl.

2. Break off pieces of the dough, roll them into teaspoon-sized balls, and place them 1½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Put the baking sheet, with the cookies on it, in the freezer for about 15 minutes, until the balls are quite firm. (This helps prevent the cookies from spreading while baking.)

3. Bake until the cookies are set, but not hard when touched, 12-17 minutes. Check the bottom of one, it should be baked through. They won't darken in color or turn golden as they bake. Remove the pan to a rack and, when the cookies have cooled slightly, remove them from the pan to the rack to cool completely.

4. Roll each cooled cookie in confectioners' sugar until well coated. Serve, store at cool room temperature for four days or freeze, well wrapped, for a month. If the cookies have been frozen, then add another sprinkle of confectioners' sugar once they're defrosted and ready for serving.

Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks "Baking Above It All" and "Cookies in the Clouds," available at The Bookworm of Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, is a high-altitude baking teacher. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at veradawson1@gmail.com.