Toasted Coconut Shortbread Owls

Things are getting spooky.

This month, which celebrates all things creepy, crawly and downright scary, you may find yourself eating and drinking some weird-looking stuff.  Halloween revelry can go a little looney that way.  Along with all the dry ice cauldrons of witches’ brew, there will be party fare that, visually speaking, veers on the morbid side – bugs and mold, blood and guts, severed limbs and spiderwebs. And, sometimes, eyeballs free-floating in your glass. Suddenly, black and orange and gross all over is in. Deliciously fiendish.

For the most gloriously macabre confections you’ve ever seen, check out Lou Lou P’s Delights.   While the Halloween Lovers fruitcake and the Classic Horror red velvet cupcakes are eerie, the Women in Horror cake pops (via Laughing Squid) are truly frightening.  Plus, they are heads impaled on sticks… how very Vlad!

Dialing down the terror and turning toward the whimsical are these toasted coconut shortbread owls.  Light, buttery and crisp, with a lovely coconut accent – and without the overly chewy texture often associated with coconut. Toasting and grinding the coconut enhances the flavor, while eliminating the “grit”.  If you don’t have pure coconut extract on hand, you can double down on the vanilla in its place.      

With shortbread,  it is fair to say that butter is the star, so use the very best you can.  For this recipe, I used Straus Family Creamery European-Style Organic Unsalted Butter.  The high butterfat content (85%) is just perfect for this cookie, yielding an excellent, crumbly composition and uniform light golden brown color.

These are very good plain, but here I’ve topped the cookies with a little melted chocolate drizzle for some extra sweetness.  Just because I give a hoot.   

     

Toasted Coconut Shortbread Owls
Makes about 36 cookies.  Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, here.  Original recipe from Bon Appetit, here.

Cookies:
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure coconut extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/3 cup flour

Chocolate Drizzle:
4 – 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the cookies:  Preheat oven to 325℉.  Line a rimmed baking tray with parchment and spread coconut on top.  Bake about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until coconut is light golden throughout. Allow to cool completely, then pulse in a food processor or blender until coarsely ground. Set aside.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Mix in extracts and salt.  Stop mixer, add in half of the flour, and beat on low speed until incorporated.  Repeat with remaining flour.  Add reserved toasted coconut, mixing until just incorporated.  Remove dough from bowl, flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour*.

Preheat oven to 325℉.  Line two rimmed baking trays with parchment and set aside. Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin, and roll out dough disc to a scant 1/4-inch thickness.  Using cookie cutter (the owl I used was about 3 inches tall by 1 1/4 inches wide), cut dough into owl shapes.  Transfer cookies to reserved baking trays, spacing about an inch apart.  Gather dough scraps, roll out dough again, and cut out remaining cookies.

Once all cookies have been cut, place trays in the oven and bake until light golden, about 15-17 minutes, rotating trays halfway through the baking process.  Cool on baking trays 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate drizzle:  On the stovetop, heat a small saucepan of water to simmering.  Place chopped chocolate and one tablespoon of the butter in a small, heatproof bowl.  Set the bowl on top of the simmering water and heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is completely melted, adding more butter as necessary (up to 2 tablespoons) to achieve piping consistency (chocolate should be smooth and shiny). Remove from heat.

Spoon chocolate mixture into an icing bag fitted with a small tip, and pipe over cooled cookies immediately.  Allow chocolate to set completely, about 30 minutes.

Cookies will keep for up to one week, stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature.

*  Refrigerated dough can be prepared up to two days in advance.  Allow to soften slightly, for a few minutes, at room temperature before rolling out.

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