Saturday, December 15, 2012
Wish: Chocolate Shortbread with Cacao Nibs & Sea Salt
Every Christmas Eve, when it's quite late, with just the Christmas tree lights glowing in the corner of my small living room, I peel back the curtain and find a tiny star to wish upon. It's super dorky to admit that to complete strangers, but maybe you do it too. And it's a big wish. Something I yearn for deeply, to come true in the next year or so. Something that I need to happen to just make life a little better. Given the wonderful things that I've been blessed with this year, I can tell you they come true, too. This small moment, after all of the stresses of the season have passed, is what I think I look forward to most. Now more than ever, in a world filled with so much pain and suffering, we need to have hope in our back pocket.
So I told you I like to make wishes. Know what else I love? Shortbread! Remember last year's Rosemary Oatmeal Shortbread? Yeah, awesome stuff. It can't possibly be Christmas unless I've eaten too much shortbread - the buttery the better. This cookie is a bit on the sophisticated side, what with the cacao nibs (crushed cacao beans) and sea salt (I used fleur de sel), and because it's not terribly sweet, it helps balance out the heavy hitters on the dessert platter. Tender and light and full of chocolate flavour teased with a little salt, one bite and you're in shortbread heaven. I kind of love how the nibs give a little crunchy action too. If you like, you can crush them first before adding them to the dough. I've never baked with cacao nibs before, but according to the package, they are a Mayan Superfood. Really? That means eating 3 or 4 at once is good for me then. Excellent.
So lets get rolling. I don't usually sift dry ingredients (I'm a rebel, I know), but in this case, what with my lumpy cocoa, I totally did and you totally need to, too. Plus it looks pretty. The dough is your basic butter, sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, vanilla concoction. The nibs are added and all of a sudden it's magic dough.
Roll it out between layers of parchment - saves you scraping your counter and clean up is breeze.
Cut out into desired shapes. I love stars, so stars it is. The recipe called for sprinkles of sea salt, but I went with coarse sugar instead, only because I felt the dough was salty enough and the coarse sugar would look pretty. A dusting of icing sugar after they have baked wouldn't be totally bonkers either.
Wherever you are on Christmas Eve, after you've eaten too much shortbread, I hope you too will peel back a curtain and make a wish. It truly can't hurt.
Chocolate Shortbread Stars with Cacao Nibs & Sea Salt
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup cacao nibs (crushed fine with rolling pin, if you like)
1 tsp fleur de sel or sea salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 325*F
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa. Set aside. In another small bowl, combine the nibs and sea salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy - about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture, and beat on low speed until moistened. Add nibs and salt to the mixture, beat on low until mixture clumps together. Turn out onto a piece of parchment paper, and pat gently into a circle. Place another piece of parchment on top and roll the circle out until it's about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into your desired shapes and set scraps aside. Sprinkle the stars with coarse sugar and bake in centre of oven for 11-12 minutes, until tops look dry. Remove from oven and let stand on baking sheet for a few minutes. These are tender little devils and if you move them too soon they will break. I know. Trust me :) Re roll scraps and continue baking until all of the dough is used up. Makes about 36 cookies, depending on how large your cutter is. Adapted from The Essence of Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg.