Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies

Are you a morning "news" show watcher?  For the past two years or so, I've been a loyal Good Morning America fan.  Robin, George, Lara, Josh, the departed Sam, and Ginger have become my breakfast buddies.

This week, Ginger and Josh have begun a countdown to the first day of spring.  That's all well and good, but I feel there are so many more important countdowns to feature.  Countdowns of national interest.  Like the countdown to Girl Scout cookies.

Now that's a countdown everyone can get behind, don't you think?  It's of utmost importance to our mini household, that's for sure.

Matt and I have very different tastes when it comes to Girl Scout cookies.  My favorites are Thin Mints, Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties, shortbread, and Samoas.  I could and will polish off an entire box of Samoas without thinking twice.  Matt only has eyes for one cookie -- the shortbread.  He's eaten an entire sleeve (each box contains two) in one sitting.

In years past, we ordered multiple boxes, vowing to store or freeze some "so we can enjoy them all year long."  Are you laughing as hard as I am right now?  Because yeah, that's never, ever happened.  Those boxes of cookies didn't have a snowball's chance in summer of lasting more than two weeks.

This year, as we mature and approach 30, we finally acknowledged our weaknesses, exercised restraint, and ordered one box each of Samoas and shortbread.  (So, this year, the cookies will last approximately 3 days.)

Too bad our patience hasn't matured one bit.  We've been itching for shortbread and actually Googled when cookie orders arrive.  With no firm date, I did the next best thing -- made them.

Guess what?  Homemade shortbread is incredible!  So buttery, so delicious, and so unbelievably easy to make.  Dipping them in chocolate isn't necessary, but it sure is good. 

You could make whatever shapes you're grooving; I made trains and hearts since Valentine's Day is just around the corner.  Not that trains have anything to do with Cupid, Hallmark, or romance.  Matt just loves trains.

And he/we sure loved these shortbread cookies.  So much so that the Girl Scout cookie countdown has been almost forgotten.  The shortbread countdown, anyway.  Samoas are another story... until then, I'll distract myself and those near and dear to me with yummy shortbread hearts, thankyouverymuch.

One year ago: Coconut macaroons
Two years ago: Roasted tomato soup
Three years ago: Peas with shallots and pancetta
Four years ago: Snickerdoodles

Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookies
(adapted from Ina Garten's recipe)
-makes 16-18 large hearts, depending on the shape of cookie cutter

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6-7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
Sprinkles, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put half of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds.  Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted.  Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.  Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.  Place on parchment paper and top with sprinkles, if using.  Allow to rest for an hour or up to overnight, so that chocolate sets.

Cookies can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 5 days.  Plain shortbread can be frozen for up to 3 months.

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