Christmas in July

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Scrooge-ish curmudgeons like yours truly don’t even want to conceive of the notion that the holidays are nearly 4 months off at this time of year.  This particular blog’s moniker may be a touch off by the time it is published (July being, well, over), but with how rapidly 2014 is already flying, we will be – shudder – decking the halls in only a matter of time.

Typically, Christmas is a time of year I take off from baking.  However, the recent assignments of two tasty treats through Baked Sunday Mornings – Chewy Chocolate Mint Cookies with Chocolate Chunks and Cinnamon Spritz Sandwich Cookies – have me putting aside a prematurely grumpy holiday spirit.  These two cookies are not only fantastic, they are an outstanding addition to your holiday baking repertoire.  File these away in your December baking files, folks.

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The Chewy Chocolate Mint Cookies with Chocolate Chunks truly put those bland Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies to shame.  I hesitate to mention those cookies together in one sentence, because I feel like Thin Mints went downhill when they redesigned them with scalloped edges.  I’m weird, I know.  That aside, I’m a tremendous fan of a good mint and chocolate pairing, and when I first got Baked Elements, this was a recipe that stood out for me to try.  I’m only curious as to why it took me this long!

I also understand why store-bought cookies maintain their incredible softness and chewiness, as these chewy delights do, indeed, contain a hefty half cup of light corn syrup.  I know, I’m not a fan either, but if you love chocolate mint as I do, you are depriving yourself a true indulgence if you hesitate to make these based on this alone.  It’s okay once in a great while, though I dare you to make a batch of these and not want to quickly make another once you have devoured the lot of them.  Use really nice dark cocoa (Hershey’s Special Dark does fine, if you cannot afford the expensive stuff).  I also swapped out Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips for the chocolate chunks called for in the recipe.  Slightly flatter and disc-like, they substantiate the size of chocolate chunks and melt beautifully into the midnight-dark chocolate cookie.

Inititally, I was a trifle stymied by the full 1.5 tablespoons of peppermint extract in the recipe, and felt perhaps I had read it wrong.  A little peppermint extract goes a long way.  Unless you use the full measurement of extract called for in this recipe, however, the true “pow” factor of the mint will be dwarfed by the intensity of the cocoa and chocolate, so add those full 1.5 tablespoons. You want to go ultra-mint here.  Of course, if you’re not a fan of intense mint, scale it back a touch.

IMG_3348These gems are sinfully good and easy to put together, but allow yourself some planning and time with these.  As suggested, an overnight refrigerator rest of the dark cookie dough perfectly weds the mint and chocolate flavors, so don’t skip this step because of impatience.  With their coat of sparkly sugar and crackly tops, these cookies are beautiful to boot.  Soft, chewy, and delightfully chock-full of chocolate chunks or chips and permeated with the effervescence ofmint, I found it hard to eat just one… or two.  Okay, maybe I ate three.  Then a couple more later in the day.

First batch - definitely held their shape better!

First batch – definitely held their shape better!

A word to the wise:  if you’re super-particular about your cookies like me, preferring them more on the plump, chewy side as opposed to thin and wafer-like, fold in your dry ingredients and chocolate chunks by hand, rather than using the mixer – taking care not to over mix. Chill the dough well and keep it chilled as you scoop off, roll, and bake the cookies.  I made two batches of these, and my first batch was infinitely better (I folded in the dry ingredients by hand).  The cookies held their shape and were fatter and soft.  The second batch spread and were not as attractive – though they still tasted fabulous.

For a bit of almost old-fashioned whimsy on your cookie plate, the Cinnamon Spritz Sandwich Cookies are just the thing.  I tend to avoid spritz cookie recipes, leaving them to those select few who seem to ace them every holiday.  I loved Baked’s idea of a cinnamon spritz, however, and decided to give these a go.

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I’m a fan of anything cinnamon, and the stronger and hotter the cinnamon, the better – so I went for Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon here.  I balked at the inclusion of cardamom.  I’m a traitor to my Danish heritage, I realize, by stating that cardamom is not one of my favorite spices.  I find it a bit too floral and musky in taste, but I included it when making these nonetheless, to stay true to the recipe on my first go-round with these.

IMG_3371The dough mixes together incredibly quickly and easily, with minimal ingredients.  As with any spritz or shortbread cookie, the butter shines appropriately as the main player here. Upon discovering that I had misplaced my cookie press (I had really hoped to pipe these out like true spritz cookies), I used a pastry bag and star tip as the recipe suggests, but I’m pretty sure I piped my cookies out slightly larger.  The dough may feel a little tough at first to work through the pastry bag; just carefully manipulate it down through the piping tip and don’t apply so much pressure that you risk splitting your bag.  Make sure your piped-out spritz are chilled well on the cookie sheets before baking.  I also opted to bake the spritz in-between the recommended cakey and crispy times – for about 15 minutes or so, until I could see the edges brown slightly.

A subtly sweet, glossy, soft meringue filling is made to sandwich two spritz halves together.  Again, the filling recipe comes together fast and shouldn’t be too daunting – but feel free to substitute a nice jam or speculoos spread if you feel so inclined.  All that is left for presentation is a delicate dusting of powdered sugar.

The flavor of these is reminiscent of a lightly-spiced snickerdoodle; not as intense, but similar.  I liked the slightly crisp texture of the cookie, and the warm notes of the cinnamon are nicely rounded out by the touch of cardamom (indeed, the cardamom intensifies a little after a day or two).  The light meringue filling is a nice contrast to the cookie flavors.  My slight complaint was that my first bite into the sandwich cookie had the filling oozing messily out of the sides.  What was a very elegant-looking cookie fast turned to sticky chaos between my fingers.  I’m wondering if letting the filled cookies sit on a plate to ‘dry’ slightly might firm up the meringue and remedy this effect a touch.

If these cookies tempt you to fire up your stove in the heat of summer to give them a whirl long before the snow flies and the tinsel is on the tree, check out the recipes on the Baked Sunday Morning site:

Cinnamon Spritz Sandwich Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Mint Cookies with Chocolate Chunks 

I guarantee that these festive cookies will not having you saying “bah, humbug!” like yours truly, regardless of the time of year.  Please be sure to visit the wonderful sites of my fellow BSM bakers as well.  They have some wonderful blogs and photos to share with you!

Until next time, thank – as always – for reading and Happy Baking!

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6 thoughts on “Christmas in July

  1. I LOVED these chocolate mint cookies – mine were on the fat and chewy side – I chilled the dough for about 3 days, so maybe that had something to do with it. I wasn’t a fan of the spritz cookies – but yours look so pretty!

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