Back in the day, I used to have a favorite restaurant I frequented quite a bit. This particular restaurant also had a fabulous in house bakery and espresso bar. I don't want to admit how often I stopped in after dropping a child or two off at preschool, chatted with the barrista (who knew me!!), and would get a pastry. Usually, I would get their cinnamon buns or bear claws (almond rolls…warm almond paste). I knew how to time it just right, so the bear claws would be fresh out of the oven and still warm.
I would also stop in the mid morning or mid afternoon for some gelato or a cookie. One of my favorite cookies was the chocolate dipped espresso shortbread. This restaurant still sells this cookie, but it is not open in the mornings for coffee any more, they've discontinued my favorite pastries and taken some of my favorite meal/sandwich items off the menu. Needless to say, I don't go there much at all any more. It's now reserved as the stop after a kid gets a shot at the doctor (for the gelato….).
However, that doesn't stop my love of the chocolate dipped espresso shortbread. A few years ago, I found a similar recipe in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. I tried it, wrote copious notes in the margins, and put it my list of favorite cookies. Since that first time, the recipe has only gotten better as I have changed a few things and I finally have a recipe that rivals the Chocolate Dipped Espresso Shortbread.
Chocolate Dipped Espresso Shortbread
inspired by Mandola's Restaurant and adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe
1 T instant espresso powder
1 T boiling water
1 c (16 T or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c confectioners sugar
1/2 t vanilla
2 c flour
4 oz bittersweet (60% cocao) chocolate, finely chopped
4 - 6 oz chocolate chips for coating (this is just a guess…)
Dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water. Set aside and allow to cool.
Using a mixer (I prefer a hand mixer over a stand mixer for this. It helps prevent me from over mixing my dough--which is the bain of shortbread), beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is very smooth. (Don't go for light and fluffy like most cookies. You don't want extra air in the batter.) Beat in the vanilla and espresso, then add the flour, mixing only until the flour is incorporated into the dough (again, don't over mix so you keep the typical sandy texture of shortbread). Fold in the chopped chocolate by hand.
Divide the soft dough in half and roll into two long longs, about 1 1/2 - 2" in diameter. Roll in plastic wrap and put in a zip bag. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days. You can also freeze the doth for a longer period of time before baking).
Remove dough from refrigerator and cut into slices 1/2 - 1/2" thick. Place on two baking sheets and bake at 325 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes. For best results, rotate pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking time. Let cool on a rack.
To dip cookies: Melt chocolate. I prefer to just do this in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat chocolate on half power for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir and heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between until chocolate is melted (at half power as well). Dip the cooled cookies in the chocolate and place on a piece of parchment paper. Refrigerate until the chocolate sets. Bring to room temperature to eat.