Minty Fresh...

After all the hasty, last-minute additions that I wedged into my Cookie Bonanza line-up at the last minute, I've been dedicating the weekend to the items that have been firmly ensconced on my agenda since the very beginning. Every year, I try to have something peppermint-flavored, particularly something chocolate and peppermint, because the flavor pairing is a Christmas classic. In fact, at last year's cookie exchange, virtually everyone made a chocolate-peppermint flavored dessert in some sort of minty zeitgeist moment.

Ages and ages ago, I spotted these chocolate thumbprint cookies from Baked Explorations, the second book by the duo behind the New York bakery, Baked. I think it was last Christmas, actually. The only reason I didn't make them then was because I already had a thumbprint cookie in my line-up with a lemon poppy seed twist. So I held off making them all year, but never got around to workshopping them in advance of my holiday giveaway, mostly because I kept forgetting to buy the Andes Mints called for in the recipe. It's just as well -- those things are dangerous to have around the house!

I’ve made a few recipes from the first Baked book, which was a Valentine’s Day gift from Justin earlier this year, and once again, the boys from Baked have proven they really know their stuff -- the dough was a delight to work with. So many doughs for thumbprint cookies crack when  you go to make the indentations, but this dough was smooth and pliable. Not a single cracked cookie going into the oven! 

To save time, I made and shaped the dough earlier this week and froze it, pulling it out this weekend just to bake and fill them. They baked up perfectly, even though they had been frozen, and the white chocolate peppermint ganache went together quickly. I was struck by the attractiveness of the finished cookies as well; they may have been the prettiest cookie in my line-up this year. 

Aside from being exceptionally pretty, with their lovely contrast between dark chocolate cookie and creamy white filling, the cookies also tasted fantastic. Although my lemon poppy seed thumbprints were very well-received last year by the lemon aficionados in my life, and I enjoyed the double chocolate thumbprints I also made last year with their unique honey and vanilla bean ganache centers, I think these chocolate peppermint thumbprints may just be the ones I’ll return to in the future. 

Give these a try if you’re looking for a stand-out Christmas cookie this year, whether to wow your friends and family, or just to stand in front of the fridge shoveling them directly from the container into your mouth. These are perfect either way.

Chocolate Mint Thumbprints
adapted from Baked Explorations

For cookies:
2 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
2 oz. Andes mints, chopped
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 c. sanding sugar, for rolling
For filling:
3 oz. good-quality white chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1. Melt the dark chocolate and mint chocolate together in a microwave or over a double boiler. Whisk until smooth, then set aside to cool.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat again until combined. Scrape the chocolate into the mixer and beat just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the flour mixture all at once. Beat on low speed, scraping the side of the bowl occasionally, until the dough is smooth. Transfer it to a sheet of plastic wrap and pat it into a disk; wrap and refrigerate it until it is chilled and firm, at least 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour the coarse sugar into a shallow bowl.
5. With clean hands, form tablespoon-size dough balls, taking care that they have no lumps or cracks. Roll each ball in the coarse sugar and place it on a prepared baking sheet. Use your thumb or a small dowel to make an indentation in the center of the cookie. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the sheet from the oven, and use your thumb or the dowel to make the indentation more visible. Return the sheets to the oven and bake for another 4 to 5 minutes. (These are the type of cookies that can overbake very quickly—pull them out at the first signs of cracking.) Set the baking sheets on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely before filling them.
6. Place the white chocolate in a glass measuring cup with a pour spout. Put the cream in a microwave-safe bowl or cup and microwave it on high power until it boils, about 30 seconds. Pour the hot cream over the white chocolate and let stand for 30 seconds, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the peppermint extract. Fill the thumbprint cookies with the white chocolate ganache and refrigerate them until set, about 30 minutes.

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