Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies

They say that love is in the air, but I’m detecting an enticing aroma of freshly baked cookies.  There are many ways to express your love to someone special, but few are as tasty and memorable as a batch of homemade cookies made with love straight from the heart.

These chocolate-y cookies are rich and buttery with a light crunchy texture and are extraordinary entirely on their own.  However, the mint buttercream filling provides a wonderfully creamy and refreshing flavor contrast.  The fusion of crunchy and creamy is so irresistible it will take hold of all your senses tantalizing every last taste bud.

This recipe was inspired by my insane love for peppermint patties.  I just can’t get enough of them and these cookies share a striking resemblance to my all time favorite treat.  I hope that you and your loved ones have a wonderful day full of love, appreciation and most importantly sweets!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!! xoxo

Chocolate Cookies          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 1 dozen sandwich cookies

1 ¾ cups all-purpose white flour

1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted after measuring

1 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 Tbsp canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, oil and sugar at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, vanilla and salt and mix until well incorporated.  Adjust the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture until just combined.

Divide the dough in half and place each portion between 2 sheets of wax paper.  Roll dough to an 1/8” thickness and refrigerate on a baking sheet for at least one hour and up to 24 hours (still between wax paper), until chilled and firm, but not too hard.  Let dough warm up slightly before cutting.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Working with one portion of dough at a time, remove the wax paper from both sides of the dough and place on a lightly floured surface.  Using a 2” fluted round cutter (or any cutter of your choice) cut the dough and place rounds on the prepared baking sheet.  You can re-roll any leftover scraps, but chill again before cutting.  Chill all of the cut cookies until firm again before baking.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until set.  Let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Mint Buttercream Filling

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp non-hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening or unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ tsp peppermint extract

¼ tsp vanilla extract

2 cups plus 3 Tbsp powdered sugar, sifted

¼ cup egg whites, pasteurized

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, add the shortening, peppermint extract and vanilla extract and mix at medium speed until blended.  Adjust the mixer speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar, egg whites and the pinch of salt.  Increase the speed to medium to fully incorporate the ingredients, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Chocolate Ganache

½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

3 Tbsp heavy whipped cream

Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium low heat until slightly simmering (the edges start to bubble).  Be careful not to boil the cream too long or it will scald.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate chips, stirring until well incorporated.  Let the chocolate mixture sit and cool until it becomes a spreadable consistency, about 30 minutes.

Assembling the cookies

Pair the cookies so that the sizes match as closely as possible.  Using a pastry bag fitted with a small or round metal piping tip, pipe about a tablespoon of the mint buttercream onto the bottom cookie.  Pipe using another pastry bag, or spread with an offset spatula, a thin layer of the chocolate ganache onto the other cookie.  Sandwich the cookies together allowing the filling to ooze just a bit at the edges of the cookie.  Let set for about 10 minutes.  These cookies can be kept at room temperature in a sealed container for a couple of hours, but refrigerate for longer storage.  Make sure to bring back to room temperature before serving.

Visit www.frontrowmonthly.com to also view this recipe as well as the latest in fashion news and entertainment.  My recipe post is on page 17 of the “page-flip” under the section Dish.

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Ding Dongs To Die For

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There is nothing more nostalgic than a ding dong. I remember ding dongs as a child; unwrapping the shiny foil packaging to reveal a smooth chocolate-y cake with a surprise creamy filling on the inside (and not having to share it with anyone)! Oh the simple pleasures in life! I think back to when I discovered this recipe for ding dongs. Honestly I think it was the beginning of my baking journey. Since that time, I have made several batches of these snack-sized cakes…they seem to be loved by all.

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The only thing more enjoyable than the ding dongs themselves is what we call the “ding dong buffet”…a truly cherished event in our household. The buffet consists of “ding dong holes”; small morsels of devils food cake leftover from the top of the cakes. They are joined by bowls of chocolate ganache and whipped cream. The buffet is utterly delicious and never disappoints!

Devil’s Food Cake

Yields: Makes one 9x13x2 sheet cake or 10-12 3 inch cakes

2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (2 1/3 cups at high altitude)

1 1/4 tsp baking soda (1 tsp at high altitude)

1/4 tsp salt (1/2 tsp at high altitude)

1/2 cup sifted natural cocoa, such as Ghiradelli

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (minus 1 Tbsp at high altitude)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups buttermilk (plus 3 Tbsp at high altitude)

Position the  rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Butter the pans, line with parchment, then butter and flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa.  Set aside.

In the large bowl on an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar for 3 to 4 minutes, until very well blended.  Scrape down the bowl and beater.  Beat in the vanilla and eggs and scrape down the bowl and beater again.

With the mixer on the lowest speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk ending with the flour.  Once the ingredients are blended together, increase the speed and whip for about 30 seconds.

Divide the batter between the pans (1/2 full).  Bake the sheet cake for 45-55 minutes or the 3 inch pans set on a cookie sheet for about 25-28 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  (Make sure to rotate the pans after about 20 minutes of baking for even browning).  Cool the cakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges of the cake pan to release them.  Cool completely.

Recipe from Pie in the Sky, by Susan Purdy

Whipped Cream Filling

1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla on medium speed with the whisk attachment, into firm peaks.  Transfer to a pastry bag and set aside.

Use a 3 inch cutter to cut eight rounds from the cake (if using a sheet cake).  Insert a small paring knife through the middle of the cake horizontally cutting about 3/4 through the cake.  Use a 2 inch cutter or simply cut a circle out of the top of the cake to created a pocket  for the filling. Slice the top of the small cake lid in half as it will become the cover for the opening once the cake has been filled.  The other half is the “ding dong hole” which is anxiously awaiting the buffet :).  Pipe the cream to fill the hole in each cake.  Press the round slices of reserved cake onto the top.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

12 oz bittersweet chocolate (preferably Valhrona)

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.  Warm the cream in a small saucepan just until it begins to boil.  Immediately pour over the chocolate.  Let the mixture sit for 1 or 2 minutes, then whisk gently until completely blended and smooth.

Working with one cake at a time, place it on a cooling rack set on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Pour approximately 3 Tbsp of glaze onto the top of the cake, using an offset spatula to gently push the glaze over the top and sides, letting the excess run down the side to coat them.  (I find that a small ladle works perfectly for drizzling the glaze over the cake).  Repeat with the remaining cakes working quickly so that the chocolate remains warm and thin.  If the glaze becomes too thick to pour over the cakes, reheat it in the microwave or set over a bit of simmering water until fluid again.

Refrigerate the cakes for at least 30 minutes so that the chocolate can firm up and the cakes can be eaten by hand.

Ding Dong concept adapted from the Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet

This recipe isn’t a difficult one, however, it has several steps to completion.  I usually make the cakes one day and fill and glaze them the next day.  If it still sounds like too much work, email me and I’ll make you some!! 🙂

Enjoy!

shannon