December 1, 2011

Chocolate peppermint-chip cookies

December is here!  I love this month and what it symbolizes.  It's the holidays!  Everyone's a little nicer (though maybe a little bit more harried too) and it's the season of goodwill, giving, and indulgence.  Speaking of indulgence, am I the only person who secretly enjoys walking down the Christmas aisles at Target or the supermarket?  I was just telling my husband how I wish I could rip open all those bags of treats and sample everything!  A girl can dream.  On the home front, there are many goodies I need/want to make for Christmas but I told myself not to go crazy.  I've narrowed my choices to a couple of standbys and a few experiments this holiday season and we'll see how it goes.  My main focus is to relax, have fun, and enjoy the season.
I feel especially lucky to live so close to New York City at this time of year.  Sure, the crowds are insane but the city has so much to offer. 

Along the theme of winter and Christmastime, I'm offering these chocolate peppermint-chip cookies today.  To tell you the truth, I actually made these months ago when mention of the holidays would've gotten me some funny looks.  I just had a hankering to try it out so I did.  The thing is I love mint and especially mint with chocolate.  Think: mint chocolate chip ice cream, Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, and mint chocolate candies like Andes.  I love them all and when I think of Christmas, peppermint is one of the flavors I think of.  I am a huge fan of the peppermint bark William-Sonoma sells every year around the holidays - the ridiculously smooth chocolate mixed with peppermint oil and bits of crunchy peppermint candy on top are such an amazing combination.  Those flavors were the inspiration behind these cookies.
The basis for these chocolate peppermint-chip cookies are Martha Stewart's double chocolate cookies, which are among my favorites.  These cookies are brownie-like, slightly crackly on top and dark and chewy in the center as long as you don't overbake them.  I thought I'd just make a slight twist to those awesome cookies by adding some peppermint extract to the dough in place of vanilla extract and incorporating some Andes Mint baking chips.  We enjoyed the result a lot and it's a nice little change for the holidays.  You might consider giving these a try if you like that chocolate-mint combination. 

You can find the detailed description for the basis of these cookies in my previous post so I won't repeat them here.  There are only a couple of changes to that recipe.  Everything you need is shown below, with the exception of a bit of espresso powder that is an optional addition used to bring out even more chocolate flavor.  I am making a half recipe here, which yields about 14-15 cookies.
The only changes I'm making to the original chocolate recipe is to replace the the vanilla extract with a scant 1/8 teaspoon of peppermint extract (tread lightly with extracts since the flavor is strong and you don't want it to be overpowering).  Also, instead of chocolate chunks, I'm using about half a cup of the Andes baking chips in this recipe.  You could use a little more or less to suit your taste.  
Since I find the Andes baking chips to be sweeter than the chopped semi-sweet chocolate I would normally use in the cookie dough, be careful when measuring the sugar in this recipe and make sure you don't over do it.  I think a lighter hand with the sugar is fine here given the extra sweetenss from the baking chips.
Be sure to keep an eye on these cookies as they bake to make sure you don't over bake them and they become too dry once cooled.  The cookies should be flat and begin to crack on top when done.  This can take between 12-15 minutes so check early.  Once removed from the oven, they will cook and harden a bit more so we want to take them out early enough so that they remain soft and chewy in the center.  
The peppermint flavor with chocolate is definitely a winner in my book!  These cookies are so good warm from the oven.    


Chocolate Peppermint-Chip Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

- Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies - You could easily half the recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 to 1 cup Andes baking chips (or better yet, use the individually wrapped Andes Mints and chop into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

Melt the chopped chocolate with the butter and espresso powder (if using) in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.  Set aside and let cool slightly.

In the bowl of a standmixer, place the chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs, and peppermint extract.  Mix on medium speed until just combined.  Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients.  Fold in the Andes baking chips.

Scoop cookies using a small ice cream scoop and place onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart since the cookies will spread.  Bake until cookies are flat and tops have cracked.  This should take about 12-15 minutes.  Be careful not to overbake since the cookies should be soft in the center while the top is crackly.  Cool cookies on cooling racks until it hardens slightly.  These cookies are delicious while they're still warm from the oven but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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