Friday, September 17, 2010

Kahlua & Cream Shortbread Sandwich-Cookies

My initial affection for Kahlua, the ubiquitous coffee-flavored liqueur, began at least 25 years ago when one of my roommates--a vivacious girl named Jill, who was far more sophisticated and adventurous than I was--whipped up her own homemade version of the stuff. She served it at a party, ice cold, in big tumblers with a generous dash of cream. For me, it was a taste revelation.

I was already a devoted coffee lover at the time and, not surprisingly, the more a drink resembled a dessert, the more it appealed to me. Given the choice, though, of expending precious calories on a drink versus a dessert . . . well, you know I almost always chose the latter.

Even today, I would still make the same choice. And because of that, my preference for using liqueurs is through baking--even in baked goods as humble as cookies. Today's recipe is a case in point. A shortbread-like dough, flavored with Kahlua, cream, and a little cocoa, rolled out thin, and dusted lightly with sugar. The filling is a simple medley of melted dark chocolate, stirred together while warm with a bit of Nutella. The result is a grown-up sandwich cookie that offers up layers of flavor only an adult could fully appreciate.

I adapted this recipe from several Kahlua shortbread versions floating around the internet, most of which seem to be attributable to the Regatta Cafe in Scituate, MA. And so, without further ado, I present to you my version of a truly happy cookie.

Kahlua and Cream Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

1 and 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 granulated sugar
3 and 1/2 cups All Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. Dutch process cocoa
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. instant coffee powder or crystals
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 and 3/4 Tbsp. Kahlua
2 Tbsp. heavy cream

1/2 cup high-quality dark chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips)
2 to 3 Tbsp. Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread

In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and granulated sugar. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, the cocoa, and the kosher salt.

In a very small bowl, mix together the coffee powder/crystals, vanilla extract, and Kahlua. Add into that the heavy cream and stir until combined.

In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and confectioners' sugar until it's nice and smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. Add in the Kahlua mixture, beating until well blended.

Add in the flour, in two or three batches, beating on medium speed just until the flour is well incorporated. Stop to scrape the bowl with each addition of flour.

Scoop the dough out equally onto two sheets of plastic wrap. Shape each chunk into a thick disk and wrap it securely; chill the dough in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

When the dough is fully chilled and you're ready to form the cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Take the dough out of the fridge, and let it soften at room temperature just long enough so it can be rolled out; if it gets too soft it will be impossible to roll (in which case you could always form it into balls if you wanted, or put it back in the fridge).

Flour your rolling pin and, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of less than 1/4 inch. Cut it with a cookie cutter and place the pieces onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle each cookie lightly on top with a pinch of granulated sugar. Bake the cookies for about 12 to 15 minutes, or just until they start to look golden on the bottom and slightly golden around the edges. Let the finished cookies cool on the cookie sheet for five minutes before you attempt to move them on a cooling rack.

To make the filling, melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl set over simmering water, or do it carefully and slowly in your microwave. While the melted chocolate is still quite warm, stir in the Nutella until the mixture is completely smooth. Let it cool to almost room temperature (it will thicken a bit) before attempting to sandwich the cookies together.

On the bottom of one cookie, dab a small dollop--perhaps one teaspoon--of the filling, and top it off with another cookie, so both cookie bottoms are touching the filling, and the sugared sides are on the outside. Press the cookies together just enough so the filling reaches near the edge. Let the filled cookies sit in a cool spot, or put them in the fridge for a few minutes, to set the filling.

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