One of my favorite holiday traditions is making cookies. In my family we make the same cookies every year, and visiting family brings the same cookies every year. It is wonderful and I love the variety of small delicious treats. One of my favorite cookies to make and eat this time of year is shortbread and brownie cookies are a great alternative to the regular chocolate crinkles that everyone else brings.
Growing up my mom always made shortbread for us to give to all of our teachers and for my parents to bring to their coworkers. It uses very few ingredients that you probably have on hand. The recipe is so easy and quick and makes great gifts for neighbors, hostesses, coworkers (or your office potluck) and, of course, is perfect for your cookie plate. You can give a whole round or package a few chocolate dipped cookies in little bags or boxes tied up with ribbon. Mix in some brownie cookies and your friends will love you.
While shortbread is a family staple, chocolate crinkles have never been a regular on our cookie plate. They are popular at lots of other holiday parties and cookie swaps, and sometimes one of my grandmothers will bring them, but I have never made them myself.
I have never loved chocolate crinkles. I think it stems from the fact that I always end up inhaling half of the powdered sugar coating as I try to eat the cookie, which makes for an unpleasant cookie-eating experience. I know, I need to get over that and learn to eat like an adult. But instead, I made brownie cookies, with no powdered sugar topping in sight :)
While your friends inhale powdered sugar at other parties (that can’t just be me), you can bring the unique chocolate brownie cookie. These brownie cookies are perfectly chewy with a rich chocolaty flavor. Dipped in chocolate and rolled in peppermint or sprinkles they look beautiful on the plate and taste like a dream.
I love the way the shortbread and brownie cookies look side by side. The sharp edges of the pale, smooth shortbread contrast with the round edges of the dark, crinkled brownie cookies and make for a wonderful cookie plate. When dipped in chocolate and rolled in chopped nuts, sprinkles or crushed peppermint the once-opposite cookies have a common denominator, tying the whole plate together with a cohesive look but still some variety. Because that’s what a holiday cookie plate is all about ;) Beautiful, delicious variety. I’ll have some of each please.
Chocolate Dipped Shortbread and Brownie Cookies
Shortbread (makes one baking sheet, cut into slices of your size preference)
4 cups flour
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups butter, softened (4 sticks)
Brownie Cookies (makes about 2 dozen 1-inch cookies)
12 oz. chocolate, chopped (or about 2 cups of chocolate chips)*
3 tablespoons butter
⅔ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Semisweet chocolate, melted
*These are great with dark or semisweet chocolate. Semisweet chocolate makes them a bit sweeter and dark chocolate gives you a deeper, more chocolaty flavor.
To make shortbread
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the softened butter to the bowl and use your hands to work it into the dry ingredients. It is important that your butter is soft for this step. The dough should come together as you continue to pull the flour mixture into the butter. Don’t be afraid to get messy :)
Once all of the ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough has come together, divide it in half and press each half in an 8 to 9-inch round pan. Alternately, if you don’t want rounds you can press all of the dough into one cookie/baking sheet. Make sure the dough is evenly spread out in the pan and prick all over with a fork. I like to make pretty patterns, like snowflakes, but the fork holes will disappear when the shortbread bakes so it doesn’t really matter where the fork holes are as long as you have made some. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until golden. You might find that they cook more quickly on the cookie sheet than they do in the round pans, check on them at about 20 minutes to make sure they are on the right track and aren’t already golden.
While the shortbread is still warm, use a sharp knife to cut it into 12-16 wedges (if using a round pan) or into lots of rectangles (if using a cookie sheet). Cut around the edge of the pan as well. When I make shortbread in a cookie sheet I start by cutting three rows then lots of columns to make shortbread rectangles of all sizes, so guests can have options. Cool the shortbread in the pan on a wire rack. Once it is cool remove it from the pan by inverting the round pan onto a plate or by using a knife or small cake server to remove the rectangles from the cookie/baking sheet.
To make brownie cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a double boiler or large pot, bring water to a simmer. Place 7 ounces of the chocolate (about ½ cup plus 1-2 tablespoons) and the butter in the top of the double boiler or in a small saucepan over the water and stir slowly, until melted and smooth. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla for 15 minutes or until pale and creamy. 15 minutes may seem like a long time, but it really needs to whip for that long, otherwise your batter will be soupy and your cookies will spread too much.
Add in the flour, baking powder, salt, and melted chocolate mixture and mix to combine. Fold in the remaining chocolate chunks or chocolate chips. Set the batter aside and let it rest for 10 minutes. This helps it become more stiff and easier to scoop. Scoop about 1 tablespoonful of the mixture onto your prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 8–10 minutes or until puffed and cracked. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the trays.
Place a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap under a wire rack. Pour melted chocolate, and toppings of choice into their own bowls.
Dip a shortbread or brownie cookie into the chocolate then roll it in one of the toppings. Set the cookie on a wire rack to allow the chocolate to harden. Repeat with the other cookies.
Both cookies can be stored in airtight containers. They stay fresh longer if they are kept in separate containers (shortbread in one, brownie cookies in another). This is a good rule of thumb for most cookies, especially those with strong flavors.
Brownie cookies slightly adapted from here. Shortbread cookies from a family recipe :)