Thursday, March 17, 2011
I'm trying to get ahead on my blog posting because the next few months? They're going to be crazy. Just in the last couple of weeks I've been in Connecticut visiting family (twice!) and Boston for research and visiting friends. Next up is Chicago to visit my sister and see this show at the Art Institute (I'm not going to apologize for planning trips around art exhibitions. Just be glad you're not being dragged with me), Washington D.C. for more research and more visiting friends, and, if everything works out the way it should, Norway in June. That's a lot of places in a few short months.
In Boston, well more exactly in Cambridge, I had what is probably the best hot chocolate I have ever had at a place called L.A. Burdick in Harvard Square. (Turns out there's one in NYC as well!) It helped that it was a positively stormy, wintry day, the kind you spend hopping from brunch place to cafe to perhaps museum and back to cafe.
Being the intrepid travelers that we are, we also spent an afternoon wandering the Freedom Trail, which was so much more fun than I thought it would be. The views were beautiful, even as night fell and it started to get really frickin' cold.
Before we left I made some Chocolate Crème de Menthe Sandwich Cookies that would have been perfect alongside that Burdicks hot chocolate. Although I don't think they would have been quite upscale enough. The original recipe called for peppermint extract to be added to the buttercream filling, but I went with crème de menthe for a couple of reasons. The first being that I have a bottle taking up precious room, and I'm really only able to use it a couple tablespoons at a time. So I'll take any excuse. The second is that I love the bright green color that would be lost using peppermint extract. Also, it's delicious.
A word of warning about the dough. It's very fudgy and impossible to roll out with your hands into any kind of log. Helen Witty, whose recipe this is, suggests a somewhat complicated process involving used, but cleaned, tin cans with their tops and bottoms removed. Umm, no. Instead, just glop the divided batter into the center of two sheets of cling wrap, wrap it up, and roll it out like you'd roll out a clay snake. Then refrigerate it long enough to firm up. It will be easy to cut at that point.
Chocolate Crème de Menthe Sandwich Cookies
Adopted from Helen Witty's Mrs. Witty's Monster Cookies
For the cookies:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut up
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Buttercream filling (follows)
In a double boiler or in the microwave, melt the chocolate along with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Stir constantly if using a double boiler, and often (about ever 30 seconds) if using the microwave. Set aside to cool.
Cream the rest of the butter with the shortening. Next beat in the sugar, then the egg, the water, the melted chocolate and the vanilla in that order, adding the next ingredient once the previous one has been combined. Beat until everything is well blended.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir this dry mixture into the just-creamed mixture. Divide the dough in half, and form two logs by rolling each mound of dough using cling wrap (see the note above).
Refrigerate the dough for several hours, until it is firm enough to cut with a sharp knife.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. You'll be using an ungreased baking sheet, so have it out and ready.
Cut disks from each log, about 1/8 inch thick. Rotate the log as you go so that it maintains its round shape. Lay the disks on the baking sheet leaving about an inch between each, although they shouldn't spread much.
Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes until they are barely firm to the touch. Allow to cool on racks completely before filling and sandwiching.
For the filling:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
4 teaspoons crème de menthe
Cream the butter by itself until soft. Add the sugar and continue to beat until fluffy. Add the crème de menthe and beat until completely combined. You can add a tablespoon or so of milk if it's too stiff, but the crème de menthe will probably take care of that.
Use to sandwich the chocolate wafers together.