Chocolate Mint Creams

Baking is such a joy with my new Kitchenaid. It truly is. The possibilities that were once out of my reach are now firmly within my grasp. Macarons, Swiss meringues, chiffon cakes, whipping cream with ease… all of these are now possible with the flick of a switch. Furthermore, Thanksgiving and Christmas are great reasons to bake up all manners of delectable desserts. Today, I present to you chocolate mint creams, made possible by a powerful Kitchenaid.

The stand mixer helped to create a fluffy, lighter-than-air, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the mint cream. I wanted my peppermint patties to be more creamy than firm, so I added a bit more liquid than in the original recipe. This makes the mint cream a bit hard to work with but the texture is divine. You have to work quickly when coating these in melted chocolate. You are dunking sugar in dough form in hot melted chocolate; its natural inclination would be to melt into the chocolate. I would insist on using pure peppermint oil instead of peppermint extract. Peppermint oil might be expensive, but a little goes a long way, and the cooling sensation each bonbon leaves in your mouth lasts a long time.

Chocolate Mint Creams
Adapted from Joy of Baking
Makes 40-50 bonbons

Mint creams:

2 cups (240 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil (make sure it is labeled for internal use) (do not use peppermint extract)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

Chocolate coating (you might have to make more of this depending on how thickly you coat your bonbons):

8 ounces (240 grams) semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon (12 grams) shortening or butter

Mint creams: Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, smoothing out any wrinkles. Lightly dust the foil with confectioners sugar (powdered or icing).

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat (on low speed) the sugar, butter, peppermint oil, vanilla extract, and evaporated milk until combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until very creamy (about 2-3 minutes). Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer to chill until firm enough to roll into balls (about an hour).

Roll the batter into 1/2 inch balls and place on the prepared pan. Cover and place in the freezer until the patties are firm (at least one hour, or even overnight).

Chocolate coating: Melt the chocolate and shortening in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove the patties from the refrigerator and dip, one ball at a time, into the melted chocolate. (You can use 2 forks or a chocolate dipping fork.) Let any excess chocolate drip back into the bowl and then place the balls back on the foil. Once all the balls have been dipped in the chocolate, return to the refrigerator to chill until firm (30 – 60 minutes). Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container (separate layers with parchment paper or wax paper) for up to one month.

Austrian Raspberry Shortbread Bars

I was personally a little bit suspect about the name of this recipe. What’s so Austrian about raspberry jam and shortbread? I guess it’s a variation of a traditional raspberry shortbread cookie, but raspberry jelly and shortbread is such a ubiquitous combination that I wouldn’t even think it was Austrian in origin. I guess you could say that their product has now been genericised!

This recipe is a riff on traditional raspberry jelly and shortbread biscuits usually offered during Christmas, because it appears in a bar form instead of cookie form. If you think stamping cookies is time-consuming and would like to cut back on effort by resorting to this recipe, let me warn you that this recipe would only reduce your effort if you had a food processor. I do not own one. In order to achieve the airy, crumbly crust, I had to grate a big ball of frozen dough by hand. It took some elbow grease, for sure.

Still, the fruits of my labor were much appreciate. These cookies were really delicious. Grating the shortbread gave it a fluffy and crumbly airiness, which gave some lightness to what would have otherwise been a dense and buttery shortbread. The shortbread could’ve used some brightening from lemon zest, which I unfortunately didn’t have. I also imagine that the raspberry jelly would do really well with a dash of Austrian 80-proof Stroh rum. It also looks so pretty; the scarlet red of the raspberry jelly poking through the crumbly shortbread. No wonder it’s such a common festive season staple.

Austrian Raspberry Shortbread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 1 9×9 square pan

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp vanilla or lemon extract
1/2 cup raspberry jam, at room temperature
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer) until soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well.

Mix the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the butter and egg yolk mixture and mix just until incorporated and the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and form into two balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and freeze at least 2 hours or overnight (or as long as a month, if you like).

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper or greased aluminium foil, with an inch overhang. Remove one ball of dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it by hand or with the grating disk in a food processor into the bottom of the pan. Make sure the surface is covered evenly with shreds of dough.

With a piping bag with a wide tip or a zip-lock bag with the corner cut off, squeeze the jam over the surface as evenly as possible, to within 1/2 inch of the edge all the way around. Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it over the entire surface.

Bake until lightly golden brown and the center no longer wiggles, 50 to 60 minutes. As soon as the shortbread comes out of the oven, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Cool on a wire rack, then cut in the pan with a serrated knife. Chill the pan in the fridge before cutting to get clean slices.

P.S. Here’s a GIF of the bars, sliced and moved around. I couldn’t resist.

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make animated gifs like this at MakeAGif

Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Sables

Sables are French shortbread biscuits, and it’s distinguished by its sandy, gritty texture and rich mouthfeel as a result of its high butter content. What sets these Pierre Herme’s cookies apart from a traditional sable is that it’s double chocolate – cocoa powder in the batter, and good quality chocolate studded within the cookies.

I’m currently learning French right now, and naturally I’ve been gravitating to all things French, and by extension, all things European as well. After having had the original Sachertorte from the Sacher Hotel in Vienna, I realized something: Europeans, unlike Americans, like their pastries dry and crumbly! When you think of American pastries, you think of chewy chocolate chip cookies and moist red velvet cake and creamy cheesecake. European pastries tend to have more finesse, and are carefully constructed and quite delicate. Think of macarons and crepes. Such refined things!

This chocolate sable recipe actually helps to bridge the gap between refined European and homemade American desserts. The cookie itself has the gritty, sandy texture of a sable, but has melty hand-chopped chocolate chips within it. It’s also a slice-and-bake cookie, i.e. you roll up the dough into a log and slice as many cookies as you want, so you can have them fresh whenever it’s convenient.

This is a recipe where it’s crucial that you use good quality butter and chocolate, because their flavors are so pronounced. I use Trader Joe’s unsalted butter and Pound Plus Bittersweet Chocolate. Using chopped chocolate instead of chocolate chips is highly recommended. I personally never use commercial chocolate chips because they make a cookie look so… lacking in character. I love it when hand-chopped chocolate swirls and melts into a cookie. It just looks and tastes wonderful.

Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Sables
From NYTimes
Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick and 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chip-size bits.

1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until the butter is soft and creamy. Add the sugars, salt and vanilla extract and beat for another 1 or 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated (the dough may look crumbly). For the best texture, work the dough as little as possible. Toss in the chocolate; mix to incorporate.

2. Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface, divide in half and, working with one half at a time, shape the dough into a log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (As you’re shaping the log, flatten it once or twice and roll it up from one long side to the other, to make certain you haven’t got an air channel.) Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill them for at least 1 hour. (Wrapped airtight, the logs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month.)

3. Center a rack in the oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Working with a sharp, thin-bladed knife, slice rounds 1/2-inch thick. (If the cookies break, squeeze the broken-off bit back onto the cookie.) Place the cookies on the parchment-lined sheets, leaving an inch of space between them. Bake only 1 sheet at a time and bake each sheet for 12 minutes. (The cookies will not look done nor will they be firm, but that is the way they should be.) Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest, on the sheet, until they are only just warm. Repeat with the second sheet of cookies.

Note: It is very important that you not overbake the cookies, and let them cool completely before you remove them from the baking sheet.