High Country Baking: Swirly chocolate-coffee sandwich cookies
A failed baking project is a real disappointment, and, at high elevations, we have lots of them. Take cookies for example: they’re notorious for spreading. When I started making them at 9,000 feet, I often watched a prettily-formed one mutate into a flat, disappointing blob while in the oven. With time and experimentation, I’ve generated a number of recipes that I can count on to hold their shape, and this is one of them. It stars a creamy espresso filling that will melt in your mouth (and remind you of cappuccino) layered between two mildly-chocolate, sandy-textured swirls of shortbread. It’s pretty, delicate and flavorful.
Pay attention to the amount of flour you use; too much will make the cookies impossible to pipe and too little will make them spread while baking. Eight ounces is the magic amount, so use a scale to measure it if you have one. If you don’t have one, and are using measuring cups, make sure they’re for dry ingredients, not liquid ones, and if your flour is bleached (which weighs less than unbleached), add an additional tablespoon. Gently spoon small amounts of flour into the measuring cup, filling it to overflowing, then sweep a knife over the top, leveling the amount.
Swirly Chocolate-Coffee Sandwich Cookies
Make on a shiny cookie sheet. Yields 20 two-inch cookies.
- 8 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons), spoon and level
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder, more for dusting
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup lump-free confectioners’ sugar
- 1 ounce semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk or cream; more as needed
- 1 1/2-2 teaspoons espresso powder
- 1 1/2-2 cups lump-free confectioners’ sugar
Get ready: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper. Don’t grease the pan or the paper or the cookies may spread while baked.
Make the cookie: Combine the flour, salt, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and cornstarch in a bowl, whisk vigorously until blended and set aside. Cut the butter into 16 pieces and use an electric mixer to beat it, with the sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla. Using a low speed on your mixer, stir until combined. Add the flour mixture in three additions, stirring only until the flour is fully absorbed after each one.
Pipe the dough: Use a large star-tip to pipe the dough into 1 1/2-inch swirls on the parchment-lined pan, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Place the pan, with the cookies on it, in the freezer or refrigerator to chill until the cookies are quite firm (this will help them keep their shape while baking). If you want a stronger chocolate flavor, use a sieve to dust the cold cookies with more cocoa powder. Bake until the cookies are set. They won’t color and will still be slightly soft, but you’ll be able to use a metal spatula to carefully pick one up without it losing its shape. This takes from 12-16 minutes — but depends how cold the cookies were when placed in the oven. Remove from the oven, slide the parchment paper with cookies on it onto a rack. After about 5 minutes, when the cookies have firmed up, carefully move them off the paper to cool directly on the rack.
Make the filling: Combine 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon milk/cream, and 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder in a small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup and stir/whisk until the espresso powder dissolves. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, until the mixture thickens to a spreadable/pipe-able consistency. Taste it, add more vanilla and/or espresso powder to your liking. Add more milk as needed if the mixture gets too thick.
Pair up the cooled cookies: Match them by size and shape. Pipe the filling, using a star-tip, or spread it, using an offset spatula, on the bottoms of half of the paired cookies and then sandwich them together with the other halves. Let the filling set (cover and refrigerate the cookies to speed this up) and serve. Store the cookies in the fridge or a cool spot in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Editor’s note: This recipe is a variation of one published in 500 Cookies.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.
Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.