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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Savor the Surprise

I've been dating Molly a long time, and it's nice to know that I can still surprise her. While she was at work on Monday, Valentine's Day, I quickly set about baking a cookie she had requested. Now, normally I have no opposition to baking a delectable dessert, but Molly's requested cookie included a combination of chocolate and orange. Maybe it's because of those fake chocolate oranges they sell at grocery store checkstands or maybe it's something else, but I have never cared for the combination of citrusy orange with deep, rich chocolate. Either way, this wasn't about me. Molly wanted me to make this recipe and what better day to oblige than on a holiday that reminds us to be sweet and caring to those we love.

Turns out, these cookies are pretty tasty. Despite zesting almost two oranges, the orange flavor was subtle, equally balanced by butter and chocolate. Also, there's not much to these cookies. Combine everything in a mixer and they make a chocolate-orange sable, a sandy shortbread cookie that is firm but melts and crumbles in your mouth. And of course, I baked them in the shape of a heart for Valentine's Day.

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Hearts

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies
Courtesy of Garrett McCord

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon of orange zest

1 Preheat oven to 325F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2 Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl. (Do not skip this step as cocoa powder has a tendency to clump. You want the dry ingredients sifted to ensure a tender cookie.) Set aside.

3 Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed for 5 minutes, being sure to scrape down the sides and bottom as needed. Add the vanilla and orange zest and mix for 30 seconds. Add about half the flour mixture and mix on low speed. Scrape down the bottom and sides and add the rest of the flour mixture. Once incorporated mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.

4 Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and place the dough on it. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness with a rolling pin. (You can also lightly flour a work space, but I find my method far easier, cleaner, and the shortbread keeps a sandy texture by not picking up the extra flour.) You may find the dough getting too soft. If it does, place it in the freezer for ten minutes to firm it up before you continue rolling or cutting. (The dough is very hard to work with when soft.) Cut into desired shapes and place on the baking sheets about 1-inch apart.

5 Bake for 13-15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. It can be difficult to tell when these cookies are done, so when they smell like freshly baked cookies and the edges are slightly firm but still give a bit then consider them done (simply enough, it takes some judgment on your part). Remove the pans and allow the cookies to cool for a minute or two before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen.

Eric Lovelin Photography


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