Double dark-chocolate shortbread

I believe this is the first cookie recipe I’ve ever invented myself — and it’s not half bad, if I do say so.

I’d been wanting a cookie to pair with Regan Daley’s awesome Butter-Toffee Crunch Shortbread, particularly for gift-giving. Early in December, I had kind of a rough day, and in true baking-therapy fashion, I got it in my head that I required a dark, rich, super-chocolaty shortbread. Three weeks and several pounds of butter later, we have a winner for you.

Double Dark-Chocolate Shortbread

Let me start off with a few notes on some slightly unusual ingredients, some of which I mentioned already in the Butter-Toffee Crunch Shortbread recipe.

  • Superfine sugar is just what it sounds like: very finely ground sugar (but not powdered sugar). I have seen superfine sugar in the “mixed drinks” section at liquor stores, and possibly in the baking aisles of some grocery stores. You can also use “fruit sugar” (which you can find at health food stores). I usually just take some regular granulated sugar and whiz it in my mini food processor for twenty seconds. (I just spun up a giant batch this week to handle all of my Christmas shortbread baking needs.) You could probably get the same effect if you go at it with a mortar and pestle, especially with this small amount. Or just go ahead and try regular sugar — how bad can it be?
  • Rice flour can be found pretty easily (at least in Chicago) in the organic/health food aisle in grocery stores. I’ve been using Bob’s Red Mill White Rice Flour in my recipes these days. You can also use cornstarch in a pinch, but it won’t lend quite the same crunchy texture to the recipe.
  • Many pastry chefs rave about the ability of espresso powder to enhance the depth of chocolate flavor in cakes and cookies. I’ve included a small amount here, but it’s not strictly necessary. (Or, if you’d like to make a mocha shortbread, increase the amount!) You can find espresso powder at online stores like King Arthur, or at some stores that sell high-quality spices. Sometimes I substitute good instant coffee (I’ve used Starbucks Via with pleasing results).
  • I’m not really one for buying specialty ingredients (as long as you, like I, consider “real butter” a pantry staple, not a special ingredient). But I think this recipe benefits from some good-quality cocoa powder — it can add a deeper chocolate flavor and a darker color. I splurged on some King Arthur Black Cocoa Powder for this project, which I use half-strength, along with some Trader Joe’s cocoa powder. If you have access to some good stuff, give it a whirl, but if not, use what you have — your shortbread might be lighter in color, but it will still be delicious.

¾ lb butter (3 sticks), room temperature
1 scant cup superfine sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup rice flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon espresso powder
1½ cup chocolate chips
1 recipe chocolate glaze (optional and only sometimes recommended, see below)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9”×13” pan, then line it with parchment paper, leaving a 1” overhang on the two long sides. Set aside.

Cream butter together with the sugar. In a separate bowl, combine flours, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to butter until just combined. (This will give your stand mixer a workout. If you’re doing it by hand, Regan Daley recommends mixing in the last bit of flour with your hands.) Add in the chocolate chips; mix until distributed throughout.

Press dough into the prepared pan using your fingers and the heel of your hand — don’t stress about getting it all perfectly even, just do your best. Smooth it with the back of a spoon, then prick it all over with a fork. Bake for 45 minutes, then take it out and prick it all over again. Return to the oven for 15 minutes, then remove.

This shortbread cools into a very firm cookie, so you’ll need to cut it while it is still warm. Let shortbread cool for 7 or 8 minutes after removing it from the oven. Then lift it up by the parchment paper and transfer to a cutting board (no need to remove parchment). Using a chef’s knife, make two long slices lengthwise, dividing it into three long rectangles. Then slice across the rectangles into ¾” to 1” fingers (see photo). Regan recommends wiping off the blade between slices so as to cut down on any tearing that might occur when sticky bits grab onto the blade, but I usually skip that step with no problem.

Leave the shortbread to cool, then package in an airtight container. These cookies also freeze very well, which sometimes helps reduce the pre-breakfast nibbling temptation.

Yields about 36 cookies.

Chocolate Glaze (optional)

I experimented with a few versions that included a glaze. Jon and I liked both glazed and unglazed. However, the glazed version doesn’t keep quite as well — it is still delicious, but it starts to soften a bit after a few days. I’ve included the recipe for the glaze here for fun, if you’re eating these within a day or two. But if you’re giving these cookies away, I’d say stick with the unglazed shortbread.

5 tablespoons butter
7 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate

Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring each time, until the chocolate is almost melted. Stir hot chocolate mixture together until completely melted.

Run your knife through the cuts you made in the shortbread previously, just to make sure the pieces are loose (but keep it all together in a plank formation). Pour the glaze over the shortbread and spread with an offset spatula or knife. While the glaze is still wet, remove the cookies from the cutting board one by one and place them, with some space between, on a couple of waxed-paper-lined cookies sheets. Refrigerate for an hour or so until set. Pack into an airtight box, layers separated with waxed paper, and store at room temperature for a day or two.

Photo: Here are our tidy little bundles of shortbread, all wrapped up and ready for holiday giving. Merry Christmas, everyone!

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