Chocolate Espresso Wafer Cookies

chocolate espresso wafers

So, January.  Getting the new year off to a good start and all that.

Except I really didn’t.

Instead, I tried making an icebox cake. Okay, a couple of icebox cakes.  

If you’ve never made one, an icebox cake usually consists of whipped cream and wafer cookies, although some recipes add in pudding and/or fruit.  I attempted a few slightly different versions of the cookies and cream variety, and was surprised when I was completely underwhelmed.  I had expected that I’d absolutely love it, mostly due to the copious amounts of whipped cream, but it was just okay.  Nothing special.  I mean, if I’m going to use approximately three cups of heavy cream (yes, I really said three cups!) in a dessert, it’s got to knock my socks off. 

While the cake(s) were definitely not a hit, these Chocolate Espresso Wafer Cookies were.  Most of the icebox cakes called for packages of store-bought chocolate wafers, but this gem, from smitten kitchen, is the the homemade version of the cookie, and so much better than the supermarket kind.  They are delicious on their own, and great for making a crumb crust.  I can easily imagine them in all sorts of other fabulous scenarios, like this beauty of a Classic Ice Cream Cake, via Kinfolk.

Making a double batch of cookies is highly recommended, especially if you plan to use a portion for another dessert.

Chocolate Espresso Wafer Cookies

Makes about 50-60 cookies.  Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, here.

1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into 12 pieces
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

Mix together the milk, vanilla paste and espresso in a bowl or cup with a pouring spout and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda and pulse several times to incorporate.  Add butter and pulse until just mixed through. With the processor running, add in the reserved milk mixture and continue to process until it is fully incorporated, about one minute, or until the mixture begins to clump around the blade or sides of the bowl.  Transfer the dough to a cutting board and knead through a few times to make sure it is evenly blended.  Form the dough into a log about one and three-quarter inches in diameter.  Wrap the log in waxed paper and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350℉, with racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds.  Cut the log of dough into scant 1/4-inch thick slices and place them one inch apart on the reserved baking sheets (they will spread a bit).  Bake, rotating the baking sheet from top to bottom and back to front halfway through the baking time, for a total of twelve to fifteen minutes.  The cookies will puff up and then deflate – they will be done about 90 seconds after they deflate.

Slide the parchment from the baking sheets onto racks to cool completely.  Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks or frozen for up to two months.

Bourbon Butterscotch Pudding

bourbon butterscotch pudding

I recently learned that quite a fair amount of people consider butterscotch and caramel to taste the same.  I suppose this could be true, because I’ve got friends who claim they can’t tell the difference between butter and margarine (seriously?) and others who say that whipped topping tastes like real whipped cream to them.  I don’t see how this is remotely possible, but there it is.  The first time I had the whipped topping stuff I was not even in grade school yet – I took one bite and instantly knew it was so definitely not whipped cream.  I mean, the two don’t even contain anything close to the same ingredients, and I’m not certain that some of the gunk that is in the whipped topping could really be considered edible.  Chemical wax? Um, no thanks.

At least butterscotch and caramel share mostly the same stuff, the main difference being that butterscotch contains brown sugar, while caramel contains granulated sugar.  Both are delicious, but while you can find caramel just about everywhere, and seemingly on everything, butterscotch is much more elusive.  There should be more butterscotch in the world. Much more. So, in an attempt to even things out a bit, there is this bourbon butterscotch pudding.

Just slightly sweet, this is a very creamy, light, summer-weight pudding.  It sets nicely, but doesn’t form much of the pudding “skin” on the top that delights some but horrifies others. If you want to cook off the small amount of alcohol in the tablespoon of bourbon, just whisk it in at the beginning with the milk instead of adding it in at the end with the vanilla extract.

Here, I’ve topped the puddings with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of grated dark chocolate, but they are equally good with, say, a drizzle of butterscotch sauce and a crumbled chocolate wafer cookie (or really, whatever your heart desires).

Except whipped topping.

bourbon butterscotch pudding

Bourbon Butterscotch Pudding
Makes four servings.  Adapted from Gourmet, here.

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split down the center and scraped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon

In a heavy medium saucepan, mix together sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Whisk in milk, cream and vanilla bean and bits, and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently.  Once mixture has begum to boil, reduce heat to medium low and whisk constantly for one minute.  Remove from heat and add in butter, vanilla extract and bourbon – whisk until fully incorporated (about one minute.)  Strain the pudding through a fine mesh sieve and discard vanilla bean pod.  Transfer pudding to four serving containers, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours to chill and set.

Pudding will keep for up to five days, refrigerated.

Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

I love making these dark chocolate dipped strawberries – they always look so elegant, as if you spent loads and loads of time on them.  In reality, they are such a cinch to make, it seems almost criminal.

When selecting your fruit, choose medium-sized berries for the best strawberry-to-chocolate ratio.  If you can find some with the long stems attached, so much the better, as they are the easiest to dip.  Pick the freshest berries you can find, fully ripened but without any bruising, and make sure they are completely dry before dipping, or your chocolate will not adhere properly.

Use your favorite, highest-quality semisweet chocolate bar.  Here, I’ve used Guittard (61% semisweet), which yields great results every time.

This recipe serves two to three people.  Plan on a serving size of about five berries per person if served alone, or two to three berries per person if served as part of a dessert course.

Note:  If you are making these for a crowd, instead of doubling (or quadrupling!) the recipe, I’ve found it is simplest to make them in batches, as an abundance of chocolate can be difficult to keep at the correct consistency at one time.  Prep all the strawberries in one pass, and leave your water simmering the entire time, adding the portions of chocolate and butter together in stages to coincide with the strawberry groups (and don’t forget to prep a few baking trays or platters instead of one).

Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Makes approximately 15 dipped strawberries, dependent upon size.

14 -16 ounces fresh whole strawberries, caps intact
4 – 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Rinse strawberries and pat completely dry. Gently gather stems and pull upward, so that each stem is facing away from the body of the strawberry.  Set aside.

Line a baking tray or platter with parchment.  Set aside.

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 dipping consistency (chocolate should be smooth and shiny).  Remove from heat.

Grasp a strawberry by the cap or stem and dip into the chocolate, turning to coat evenly. Let excess chocolate drip off for a few seconds, then place on prepared tray.  Repeat with remaining strawberries until all are fully coated, stirring and reheating chocolate mixture as necessary.  Refrigerate tray, uncovered, for about two hours or until chocolate is set.

Strawberries can be stored in an airtight container lined with parchment and refrigerated. They are best eaten within 24 hours.