Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cold adds to the charm of
Double Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch Cookies

One of my favorite childhood memories is this: Sneaking into the basement freezer at Baba’s house and retrieving one of her beautiful baked treats that were piled up in ice-cream pails. (Baba is Ukrainian for grandmother.)
   There was something about eating a completely frozen butterscotch bar or mint-chocolate cookie that made it even more delicious.
   My husband had a similar ritual at his Nanny’s house, sneaking frozen goodies out of the freezer.
   We were both reminded of these childhood escapades when we enjoyed Double Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch Cookies from Bon Appetit magazine right after they’d been taken out of the fridge.
   Although these cookies are fine served at room temperature, I prefer eating them right out of the fridge. The cold makes the crushed candy cane on top extra crunchy.
   These cookies are the ultimate fun family holiday treat. Everyone will scoop them up and eat ’em quickly, but not before admiring the crushed red peppermint candy on top.
   My one suggestion for this recipe is to finely crush the candy canes or peppermint candies, not coarsely crush them as the recipe says.
   I have learned through past experience that coarsely-chopped candy canes or peppermint candies can be very annoying to bite through in baked goods. They could even be a choking hazard, especially for children.
   I broke up candy canes into pieces, then crushed them into very fine pieces in a mini-chopper, though a food processor or blender would probably work too.
   To make the cookies look especially festive, buy candy canes or peppermint candies that have a large amount of red on them. I bought gourmet candy canes with lots of red color at a bulk foods store, and, once finely crushed and sprinkled on the cookies, they looked fantastic.
   The bittersweet chocolate chips called for in the recipe can also be found in well-stocked bulk and natural foods stores.
   Be sure to follow the recipe’s direction to make each cookie from one level tablespoon of dough. These cookies are meant to be small and cute.
   Bittersweet chocolate chips are melted in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.
   Two-thirds of a cup of the melted chocolate is measured out to be used as drizzle later on. The recipe says to transfer this reserved chocolate to a small metal bowl to be rewarmed later on over simmering water. I sped things up a bit by measuring the reserved chocolate into a glass measuring cup. Later on, I put it in the microwave for a few seconds to warm and melt the chocolate again.
   Flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, instant espresso powder and salt are whisked together in a medium bowl.
   Butter is beaten in a large bowl until creamy, then sugar and vanilla and peppermint extracts are added and the mixture beaten until smooth (actually, it won’t be entirely smooth – more like pieces of buttery smoothness).
   Eggs, melted chocolate and the dry ingredients are beaten into the butter mixture, then ½ cup of bittersweet chocolate chips is stirred in.
   Level tablespoonfuls of dough are rolled into balls and placed on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. (I got lazy and didn’t bother forming all the cookies into balls; I picked up pieces of dough and put them right onto the baking sheet. They still come out of the oven nice and flat.)
   After baking, the cookies are cooled completely.
   The reserved melted chocolate is rewarmed (see my microwave technique, described above), and drizzled over the cookies with a fork. The finely-crushed candy canes or pepperming candies are sprinkled on top.
   The cookies are chilled until the chocolate sets, about 20 minutes.
   As I said at the top of this blog entry, I prefer to store these cookies in an airtight container in the fridge, and serve them right after they’ve been taken out of the cold. However, they’ll also be fine at room temperature for a few hours.

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