Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
Making your own edible gifts always seems like a fun idea...until you try to roll out some gingerbread dough on the non-existent countertop in your New York kitchen. Still, this year I was compelled to do something. I found a recipe on epicurious.com for Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies that looked tasty, attractive for gifting, and easy enough in that they required neither rolling out nor piping of frosting nor meringue. Plus, the ingredient list was simple enough that I thought I'd be able to find everything in my Brooklyn neighborhood and not have to make a special subway trip to the Whole Foods.
Of course, it wasn't quite so simple in the end. By the time I was assembling my little chocolate cookie+peppermint buttercream sandwiches one-by-one, I was tired, I'd been to no less than four stores, and I couldn't help but wonder if the homemade treats were even worth it. Would the cookie recipients even care? Today, when I tasted my hours of shopping and handy-work, I decided my efforts were not in vain. They tasted like a love-child conceived of a threesome between Girl Scout Thin Mint, brownie, and peppermint ice cream. After the jump, more pictures of the cookies and a recipe walk through.
It begins with a simple batter of flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, butter, an egg. Pretty easy, just make sure the butter is unsalted and at room temperature. Yesterday, the Times had an article all about butter and cookies: "The most common mistakes made by home bakers, professionals say, have to do with the care and handling of one ingredient: butter. Creaming butter correctly, keeping butter doughs cold, and starting with fresh, good-tasting butter are vital details that professionals take for granted, and home bakers often miss."
Then it's time to roll them into little balls and pop them on a baking sheet. Parchment is called for, but I forgot it. I've already been to no less than four markets in the neighborhood to get ahold of the peppermint extract for the frosting, so I say screw it and just use some cooking spray. For subsequent batches, I use shortening and flour to further prevent sticking. Later, when I'm assembling the cookies and having to scrape unsightly bits of shorteninging-flour residue off the bottom, I'll wonder if maybe a trip back to the store for parchment would have been a good idea.
Then the balls need to be flattened with a 2" round (I used the bottom of a glass). Plenty of flour is required to keep the round from sticking to the cookies.
While the cookies are baking, it's time to make the buttercream filling. Again, butter temp is key. Once butter is at room temp, simply beat with powdered sugar then add peppermint extract and red food coloring. I add tons more peppermint than the recipe calls for, but slowly so as not to overdo it. With the rich chocolaty cookie and all the butter, I think the peppermint needs to be pretty crisp and strong to give a good counterpunch.
Candy canes need to be crushed into little peppermint bits for rolling the completed sandwich of cookies and buttercream in. I use a mojito muddler as a mallet and put the candy canes in a Ziploc (they did not sponsor this blog). If you have a butch boyfriend or an older child with aggression issues, this can be a really fun task for them.