There is so much to love about dark chocolate. The allure of that bitter edge, like the curlicue at the end of a long straight line… and the way sugar, like fairy dust, transforms the formidable Beast of Bitter into an enticing Good Witch.
Coffee is also bitter, of course, but instead of sugar, rich machismo depth and roasted nutty warmth soften the bite. And, oh! Coffee wakes me up, keeps me up and tingles my brain.
Mother’s Day is coffee and dark chocolate.
The day makes me yearn and cry, even this third time of being motherless. But how sweet it is to see my children, early in their adulthoods, make smart choices, take good care of themselves and others (Puppies and Bunnies and Hedgehogs, Oh My!), and navigate the rolling landscape of building their lives.
Oh, lucky, lucky me. My son and daughter are a pantry full of sparkling sugars and bottles upon bottles of magical toasty flavor, and they capture my salty tears in a game like Ring Around the Rosy, transforming them into glimmering dark crystals of bitter. And we bring it all into the kitchen, where we bake and we bake, until we create a cookie that is rich and bitter and sweet– and so appealing, we want to partake forever. I think we shall.
Shortbread Cookies with Salted Dark Chocolate Coffee Ganache
The cookies are remarkably simple to make, but require advance planning. The ganache needs to cool for an hour or two, and the shortbread is easiest to handle when the dough is refrigerated for an hour or so.
For the ganache:
3.5 ounces dark chocolate, such as 70%, finely chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1. Heat the cream in the microwave or in a small pot until it is just warmer than body temperature. (I test it by placing a drop on the inside of my wrist). Stir in the vanilla.
2. Set up a double boiler: fill a small pot about 1/3 the way with water and bring to a boil. Top with a bowl that rests comfortable in the pot without coming in contact with the water. Place the chocolate and espresso powder in the bowl and stir as it melts. When it is melted, Whisk in the cream and vanilla, stirring until it is smooth and silky looking. Allow to cool at room temperature for at least 1-2 hours.
For the shortbread:
8 ounces butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to 300 ° .
2. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat the flour in, working the batter as little as possible until it is fully incorporated. If you have time, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for an hour until it is firm. If not, proceed with the next step. (It will be slightly more difficult to spread the dough out in an even layer).
3. Spread the dough in a 9 x 13 baking pan. (You needn’t grease it.) Prick it with a fork along the lines you will later cut: 2-inch long rectangles, for example. The fork marks are like perforations, making cutting the cooled shortbread easier. Be sure the tines of the fork go all the way to the bottom of the baking dish.
4. Bake until the shortbread is lightly golden at the edges, but still pale in the center, and firm to the touch, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven. Run a knife along the edge and allow to cool int he pan 5 minutes; remove from the pan and cool on a rack.
For the assembly:
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1/2 teaspoon Wellfleet sea salt (or other coarse sea salt)
1. Spread the ganache over the surface of the cooled shortbread. Sprinkle with the sugar and salt and cut into pieces.
For Jane, Rachel and Zak; for my father, Barb and Cynth. For me.