Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

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Labor Day we had a few friends over for a barbecue.  (Of course, you knew that already because you read the Pomegranate-Queso Fresco Salsa post, right?  Remember…Rosh Hashanah started just days after Labor Day…I was in barbecue mode, not Jewish holiday mode…remember? Yeah.  Yeah.)  Main course was Sriracha-Glazed Chicken Skewers and Broccoli Slaw.

Well, I really wanted to break out the Kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment and make a new flavor ice cream for dessert.  I looked all through David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop and didn’t see anything that really grabbed me, so I went to old faithful Smitten Kitchen and found Butterscotch Ice Cream.  I had been dreaming about this dessert (Butterscotch Budino from Nostrana) I had in Portland while visiting our son Kyle last year (okay, I dream about that dessert a lot…one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Seriously.), so I figure I’ll try the ice cream.  It was good (not Butterscotch Budino good, but good).  I served it sprinkled with a few chopped sugared pecans from Trader Joe’s on top and accompanied by Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

Oh yeah, the Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.  At the very end of the ice cream recipe, she says, “Note: If you serve with espresso-chocolate shortbread cookies, your friends might never leave. Proceed with caution.”  Okay fine.  Now I gotta make the cookies too.  Well, let’s just say it was a very good decision.  In fact, the cookies received far more kudos than the ice cream!  I mean, I love shortbread cookies anyway, but hat I liked about these is that you can really taste coffee in them.  And with the little bits of dark chocolate?!?  Mmmmm.   Will definitely make these again (even without the Butterscotch Ice Cream)!

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

(SK says these are adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, of which I am also a huge fan!)

Makes 42 cookies

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (plain, or a toffee variety), finely chopped, or 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool to tepid.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a sturdy rubber spatula.

3. Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

4. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.

6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

7. If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

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