Note: The text below I wrote on Monday (12/5), after making this recipe once. The picture above is of version 2.0 of this cookie, which is superior in every way. I outline the changes I made a little bit farther down in this post and include the final recipe.
I have a confession to make: I did not start this Christmas cookie project with 12 perfected recipes. More than half are rock-solid recipes, but in a few instances, I’ll be experimenting and sharing my thoughts.
Today’s recipe was all about filling a need: I needed to have a recipe with peppermint in it. In general, I’m suspicious of peppermint in cookies, and I’m equally suspicious of peppermint extract. There’s something about it that just tastes so … unnatural.
Tradition is tradition, however, and not including a recipe with candy canes would be crazy. I figured that peppermint would pair well with a super-chocolatey cookie, so I turned to one of my go-to chocolate cookie recipes from Martha Stewart.
My plan was to make the cookies as directed (with a couple tweaks to the recipe), then sprinkle crushed candy canes on top, then bake. I was worried about the appearance of the candy cane bits after they baked for 15 minutes – would the candy turn into a solid blob? I figured there was only one way to find out.
This cookie dough is very wet thanks to the melted butter and chocolate – think of it more like cake or brownie batter than cookie dough. That meant the candy cane bits would easily stick to the dough. In the end, though, my fears were realized. The candy cane pieces melted just enough to make the cookies look amateurish and tacky. They do taste great, however. I’m glad I didn’t put peppermint extract into the cookie dough so the pure chocolate taste was preserved. The candy cane bits were nice, but the peppermint flavor wasn’t actually as strong as I was hoping.
I also need to improve my cooking method for this cookie. The sprinkled bits of candy cane stuck firm to my non-stick cookie sheets, which meant the cookies were tough to remove cleanly.
I have three main things I want to improve with the next version of this cookie:
- Increase the amount of peppermint flavor while preserving the chocolate purity of the cookie itself.
- Make sure the peppermint bits look prettier.
- Bake the cookies in a way that makes them easier to remove.
I have concrete ideas of how I’m going to improve this cookie. Later this week I’ll update this post with my improvements, and the final recipe. Stay tuned!
The changes I made were simple, but the overall effect was striking. First, I made the cookies smaller. Instead of making 24 cookies, I made 36. These are rich cookies,and I was going to be adding a frosting and topping. Second, I didn’t cook the peppermint bits. This made the cookies much easier to remove, and the bits looked much prettier. So how did I get the bits to stick? By making a third change and spreading frosting on the cookies, then rolling the cookies in the crushed peppermint. I wanted to give the cookies a more pronounced peppermint flavor, so for a fourth change I used peppermint extract in the frosting instead of vanilla. That extra peppermint kick was exactly what these cookies needed.
Now the cookies are creamy and packed with chocolate, with a beautiful peppermint accent that isn’t too strong. Here’s the polished recipe!
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used 60 percent cacao), chopped
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 package (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 ounce (two squares) unsweetened baking chocolate
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- Crushed peppermints (I bought my peppermint pre-crushed at a restaurant supply store. I used about 6 ounces of peppermint, so crush the appropriate number of candy canes.)
Step 1. Set the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan heat the chocolate and butter together over medium heat. Stir constantly. With 60 percent cacao chocolate, the melted chocolate and butter mixture won’t be perfectly smooth. Don’t worry.
Step 3. Add the melted chocolate to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Then add the dry ingredients, and finally, the chocolate chips. Don’t over-stir this dough, but make sure the chocolate chips are evenly integrated.
Step 4. Using a small spoon, scoop dough onto a non-stick cookie sheet. This dough is very wet (it’s really like batter, not cookie dough), so don’t freak out. Even though the batter is very wet, the cookies won’t spread that much. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes. Let them cool for 10-15 minutes before removing from the sheet.
Step 5. While the cookies are cooking and cooling, make the frosting. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan. In a medium bowl combine the powdered sugar and peppermint extract. Pour the melted butter and chocolate over the powdered sugar and stir to combine. Initially (top left image) the chocolate will get absorbed in the powdered sugar and the frosting won’t look like chocolate. Add milk, a teaspoon at a time, stirring after each addition (top right and bottom left pictures). Eventually (bottom right picture) the frosting will be creamy and moist enough to spread. It’s important to add the milk slowly, so the frosting doesn’t get too runny. I used 1 1/2 tablespoons, but I wanted a pretty stiff frosting.
Voila! A peppermint cookie that isn’t tacky!