High Country Baking: Chocolate sandwich cookies with walnut-Kahlua filling
Try pairing different flavors with this recipe: almonds and Amaretto or hazelnuts and Frangelico, for example.
Photo by Vera Dawson
Some tastes are decidedly adult. The coupling of coffee and chocolate is a perfect example. And, if the coffee is captured in a liqueur and embraced by crisp, barely-sweet dark chocolate wafers, as it is in this cookie, it’s a grown-ups-only treat. Serve them with a cup of espresso, a snifter of additional Kahlua or vanilla gelato drizzled with a splash of the Kahlua.
They’ll be just as sophisticated if you use a different nut and liqueur in the filling. Try hazelnuts paired with Frangelico or almonds matched with Amaretto. You also can use a different cocoa powder, but it may not result in cookies with the same intensely dark color as those made with Hershey’s Special Dark. The espresso powder, though optional, does a lot to enrich the chocolate flavor.
Chocolate sandwich cookies with walnut-Kahlua filling
Works at any elevation. Yields 17 two-inch sandwich cookies. Make on a shiny metal cookie sheet.
1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Hershey’s Special Dark
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Kahlua
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.
To make with a food processor: Put the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and instant espresso powder (if using) in the bowl fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until the ingredients are well mixed. Cut the butter into 24 pieces, add them to the bowl, and pulse until they are well distributed but still in chunks about the size of peas. Combine the vanilla extract and egg in a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk only until blended. Add the egg mixture to the food processor, and pulse until large, moist curds form and no dry ingredients are visible.
To make with a mixer: Combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and espresso (if using) in a bowl and whisk to blend well, set aside. Cut the butter into small pieces, place them in a mixing bowl and let them come to room temperature. Add the sugar and beat until smooth and light. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to blend. On low speed, stir in the flour mixture, stopping as soon as it’s incorporated.
Dump the dough out on a sheet of waxed paper and gently knead into a 6-inch disc. If necessary, refrigerate it, covered, until firm enough to roll easily. Roll the dough between two sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Move it to the freezer for about 10 minutes or until the dough is quite firm. Place the rolled and chilled dough on a counter, remove the top sheet of waxed paper, and use a 2-inch scalloped circular cutter to cut out cookies. (Those made from the rerolled dough will not be quite as tender as those made from the first roll-out, so get as many as you can from it). Place the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. If they’ve softened, stick the pan, with the cookies on it, in the freezer until they’re firm. Reroll the remaining dough, freeze it until firm and repeat. If using the same cookie sheet for the second batch, cool it to room temperature before filling it again.
Bake until both the top and bottom of the cookies are set, the tops are no longer shiny, and they don’t bend when gently picked up, about 15 minutes (though the time will depend on the temperature of the cookies when placed in the oven). Remove to a rack, wait a few minutes and move the cookies from the pan to the rack to cool completely. They can now be frozen for a month and defrosted before adding the filling.
Make the filling: Beat the cream cheese, sugar and Kahlua until well-blended. Fold in the nuts. Give it a taste and add more liqueur, sugar or nuts to your liking, making sure the consistency remains thick enough to hold its shape. Pair up the cooled cookies and spoon a rounded teaspoon in the center of half of the pairs, bottom side up. Spread it to the edges, top with the second cookie, bottom side down, and gently press the two together so the filling is level. Refrigerate for at least two hours and up to overnight before serving.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly at SummitDaily.com. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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