December 30, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies & The Year in Review

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Tomorrow is the last day of the year. Sunday is the first day of 2012, the year the world might end. Although, the last time the end of the world was predicted, I went to the Stempunk World's Fair and spotted the Tardis, so maybe the Doctor will come and save us once again on December 21, 2012. It's close enough to Christmas that he'll be around saving the world anyway, right?

Anyway, considering that this might be my first and last New Year's post, I wanted to do the traditional New Year summation post. You know, what I accomplished on this blog this year, what I hope to accomplish next year. What? I've only been blogging a month. It won't be too long.

My most popular post this year was my French Toast Cupcakes post. Not surprising. I'm not trying to pat myself on the back or anything, but those were some pretty tasty cupcakes. In a close second was my Easy Gift Sets post. My personal favorite recipe however, was one of my least viewed, and that was my Applesauce Cupcakes.

Most of you found me via my new obsession, Pinterest. I hope that I can keep you as pinterested in the new year (haha, see what I did there? I crack myself up). Considering that I've only been blogging for a month, I'm fairly pleased with the stats here. I squeal in delight with every new page view.

For the new year, I resolve to keep updating at least once a week, and to try for twice. If any of you follow my fanfiction, you know that I'm a procrastinator, so this may be a tall order for me. Also in the new year, although this isn't really a resolution, I hope to move people to comment on my blog. I love reviews on everything that I do, so that would make me very happy.

Now onto the cookies!
The cast of characters here are flour, butter, sugar, cocoa powder, peppermint extract, salt and an egg. These are ingredients most people already have in their pantry, so no special trips. Yay! Don't have peppermint extract? Use vanilla to make a perfectly respectable chocolate wafer cookie.

You can also add 1/4 cup of milk. The first time I made these, that's what I did. The second time, I forgot the milk. They come out fine either way. With the milk, the texture is more crumbly, like a short bread cookie. Without the milk, it's dry and crunchy, like a wafer cookie. The milk also gives more lift to the cookies, so you get a rounded top.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Personally, I hate sifting. It's an extra step, it takes time, it's a pain to clean the sifter. But, cocoa powder has a tendency to clump and in a recipe with almost no wet ingredients, that's a problem. So I broke out the sifter.
Here's the part I don't hate. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (Viola, I love you so much more than that sifter, words can't even describe).
Beat until fluffy. (Now if only Viola came with a sifting attachment....)
Add the egg and the peppermint extract and beat well.
Now add the flour mixture and beat until a dough forms. This won't seem like it will happen. But just trust in your mixer and let it go for a few minutes at medium. If you're adding the milk, you'll want to do that before the flour is fully mixed in. Also, if you live in a particularly dry climate, you might find you need to add the milk. This is a very thick, heavy dough. It has a mud-like consistency (appetizing, I know).
Roll the dough into a ball and flatten it to about 1/2 inch thickness on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat (like? It was a Christmas present. I was so excited to break it in). Use a tablespoon of dough for large cookies and a teaspoon for small cookies. These don't spread very much will the milk in the batter, and without the milk they don't spread. At all. I got 24 (small size) on a normal sized cookie sheet and 15 on a half-size. Which is good, because I got 68 cookies in total (34 sandwich cookies).
Bake 8-10 minutes in a 375 degree oven (8 minutes for the small size and 10 for the large is what I got), until cookies are firm. This is one cookie where you don't want a soft middle.

Now these are tasty as-is. A not-too-sweet, crunchy chocolate wafer cookie with a nice hint of peppermint. My family sure likes them this way. However, I think a wafer calls for a filling, don't you?

I went with a white chocolate peppermint ganache, but you can use anything you want. Any sort of sturdy frosting would work well, or raspberry jam, especially if you're not using peppermint extract.

For the ganache you need:
Heavy cream, peppermint extract, and white chocolate chips. You really should use baking chocolate, but I only had chips on hand, so that's what I used. And yes, I went a little more high-end with my Ghiradelli chocolate, but good quality chocolate does make a difference. Besides, they carry it cheap at The Christmas Tree Shops. Still don't have peppermint extract? You can use flavored liqueur for a little extra kick, especially if you want to make it for New Year's Eve.
In a small saucepan over low heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil, stirring occsionally.
Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate and the extract. Stir until smooth. You might find it necessary to return the pan to low heat to help the chocolate melt (I did). If that happens, stir constantly until the chocolate is melted (a few chunks here or there is fine). Do not let it boil again.
Let it cool completely, a minimum of 30 minutes. If you had to reheat it like I did, 45 minutes to an hour is  a better estimate. This tip comes from experience.
You want to use about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the ganache to fill the cookies. (You can see the ones where I was a little over-eager with the ganache and it dripped over the sides. A combination of "not enough time to thicken" and "just too much"). Make sure to line your counter with something to catch the drips. I let it set up on the bottom cookie for a few minutes before adding the top cookie. This generally keeps the top from sliding around.

Leftover ganache? Make truffles. Chill it in the fridge for a few hours, scoop it out with a melon baller, and roll it into a ball. While the chocolate is still soft from the heat of your hands, you can roll it in decorations, colored sugar, crushed nuts, whatever you can think of. Or if you want it more like Lindor truffles, dip it in melted chocolate and chill in the fridge. You'll have the hard chocolate outer shell and the soft ganache center, just like the Lindor truffles. They're very impressive at a party.
Now, I'm not gonna lie. These cookies are time consuming. No part of this recipe is especially difficult, but there are just a lot of little things that you have to do. These aren't cookies that I'll be making regularly; however for a party or special occasion, I think they're well worth the time. The ganache is heaven and a perfect complement to the not-too-sweet wafer cookies. The peppermint flavor isn't overpowering; it's just a nice, wintry note of flavor.

Have a safe and happy New Year, and I'll see you in 2012! Hopefully, we don't die.

Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies {Printable Version}
Yield: 17 large or 34 small sandwich cookies


For the cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. peppermint extract
¼ cup milk (optional)

For the filling:
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups white chocolate chips
1 tsp. peppermint extract


Preheat oven to 375°. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl with electric beaters, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and peppermint extract and mix well. Add the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until a dough forms. If your dough is too dry, add the milk and mix well.

Roll the cookie dough into balls, 1 tsp. worth for small cookies or 1 tbsp. worth for large cookies. Flatten to about ½ inch thickness on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are firm. Cool on wire racks.

For the filling: in a small saucepan over low heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add chocolate and extract, stirring until smooth. If necessary, return the saucepan to low heat and stir constantly until chocolate is fully melted. Let cool completely (minimum 30 minutes) before sandwiching between cookies. Use about ½ to 1 tsp. of filling per sandwich cookie, depending on size.

Recipe by Kim