Vail baking: Cookies can add sophistication
Vail, CO Colorado
Small additions can make a big difference in baking in Colorado’s Vail Valley. Need proof?
Check out this cookie. It starts from a basic recipe for shortbread, stirs in a teaspoon of espresso and a few toffee bits, and tops it with a chocolate glaze. Nothing you’d describe as transformational, but the net results of these little changes are impressive.
In fact, they add quite a bit of sophistication to what began as a simple pastry of butter, flour and sugar. These toffee-coffee half moons have a complex taste that appeals to adults, even those who aren’t crazy about desserts. The blending of coffee and chocolate gives it a distinct mocha flavor that isn’t overly sweet and mingles nicely with its tender texture and rich chocolate glaze.
It’s hard to find the milk chocolate English toffee bits that are called for in the recipe. When I can’t locate them, I take a couple of Heath or Skor Bars and smash them into tiny pieces with a heavy rolling pin. I find it easiest to do this while they are still in the wrapper; it keeps them contained while I am crushing them.
Though it may be tempting, I wouldn’t substitute toffee bits without milk chocolate for those with it; the chocolate melts into the cookie batter as it bakes and adds a lot to the overall success of the cookie.
The cookies can be stored in the refrigerator for several days or frozen for at least a month. If frozen, defrost them at room temperature. The chocolate glaze will melt if you thaw them in the microwave or oven.
Adjusted for altitude
Makes about two dozen cookies
1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso powder or coffee granules
1 teaspoon of warm water
1/2 cup of unsalted butter (one stick)
1/3 cup of powdered sugar
1 cup of all purpose flour
A pinch of salt
A generous 1/4 cup of milk chocolate English toffee bits or crushed Heath or Skor Bars
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 (two) teaspoons of mild vegetable oil
Step One: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, preferably non-stick. Don’t grease the pan or the cookies may spread too much while they’re baking.
Step Two: Combine the espresso or coffee granules and the warm water in a medium bowl and stir until the espresso/coffee is completely dissolved. Cut the butter into small pieces; add it along with the powdered sugar to the dissolved coffee. Beat this combination with an electric mixer until it is creamy. Give this a little time; it may take several minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the flour and the salt and, on a low speed, mix only until well blended. Don’t over beat or the cookies will be tough. Gently stir in the pieces of chocolate-covered toffee.
Step Three: Shape heaping teaspoons of the dough into crescents and place them about two inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet (They flatten and spread a bit as they bake). Place the cookie sheet, with the cookies on it, in the freezer until the cookies are quite firm. This takes about 10-15 minutes and will help prevent them from spreading and losing their shape in the oven. Bake until they are set but not browned. Start checking after about 15 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, wait about two minutes, and then use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies from the cookie sheet to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Step Four: Prepare the glaze – melt the chocolate chips in a saucepan over low heat or in a microwave at a medium-low setting. Stir frequently and add the vegetable oil about half way through the melting process. Stir to combine them well. If it is quite hot, let the glaze cool until it is thick enough to adhere to the cookies. Dip the top of one end of each cooled cookie in the glaze and place it back on the rack or on a piece of waxed paper until the chocolate glaze hardens. You can put the cookies in the refrigerator to speed up this process. Once the glaze is set the cookies are ready to serve.
This is a variation of a Land O Lakes recipe.
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 Vera Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
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