Thin Mints (Oh yeah, chocolate-covered just like the Girl Scout kind, only kinda healthy and probably way cheaper. And easily veganized--looks like all we need to do is sub in marge for butter. It's that time of year again, anyway, and I know I'm craving the old favorites.)
1 cup organic powdered sugar
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
Chocolate Peppermint Coating:
1 pound good quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon plus a couple drops of natural peppermint extract
Preheat your oven to 350. Racks in the middle zone.
Make the cookie dough: In a mixer cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and cream some more, scraping the sides of the bowl a couple times if necessary. Stir in the vanilla extract and then the salt and cocoa powder. Mix until the cocoa powder is integrated and the batter is smooth and creamy, sort of like a thick frosting. Add the whole wheat pastry flour and mix just until the batter is no longer dusty looking, it might still be a bit crumbly, and that's o.k. You don't want to over mix and end up with tough cookies.
Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and kneed it just once or twice to bring it together into once nice, smooth mass. Place the ball of dough into a large plastic bag and flatten it into a disk roughly 3/4-inch thick. Place the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes to chill.
Rollout and bake: Remove the dough from the freezer and roll it out really thin, remember how thin Thin Mints are? That's how thin you need your dough, about 1/8-inch. You can either roll it out between two sheets of plastic, or dust your counter and rolling pin with a bit of flour and do it that way. Stamp out cookies using a 1 1/2-inch cutter (this time I used one with a fluted edge, I've done hearts and other shapes in the past). Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool completely on a baking rack if you've got one.
Make the peppermint coating:
While the cookies are in the oven you can get the coating ready. I use a makeshift double boiler to melt chocolate (a metal pan over a saucepan of gently simmering water), but I know many people who swear by melting chocolate in the microwave. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally until it is glossy and smooth. Stir in the peppermint extract. If you think the chocolate needs a bit more peppermint kick, add more extract a drop or two at a time - but don't go overboard.
Finishing the cookies: You are going to coat the cookies one at a time and then gently set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set. Drop one cookie into the chocolate and (using a fork) carefully make sure it gets fully coated. Lift the cookie out of the chocolate with the fork and bang the fork on the side of the pan to drain any extra chocolate off the cookie. You are after a thin, even coating of chocolate. Place on the aforementioned prepared baking sheet, and repeat for the rest of the cookies. Place the cookies in the refrigerator or freezer to set. They will set at room temperature, it just takes much longer, and I prefer them straight out of the freezer anyways ;)
Make 3 or 4 dozen cookies.
Reese's Cup Remix with Brazil Nut Butter (This one is pretty much vegan as-is. The nut butter recipe included in this entry results in a "prominent marzipan-ish flavor". Oooohhhh.)
Brazil Nut Butter Cups
1 1/2 cups Brazil nuts, loosely chopped
1 teaspoon macadamia nut oil (optional)
2/3 cup organic powdered sugar
~1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
a couple pinches of chile powder (opt)
1 9.7-ounce bar of Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Special equipment: chocolate molds, piping bag.
Prep for your chocolate molds: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Place a cooling rack on top of the parchment. Make sure your chocolate molds are clean and dry.
Make the Brazil nut butter: In large (dry) skillet over medium heat, toast the chopped brazil nuts until they are fragrant - 6 minutes or so. Like pine nuts, these nuts are high in natural fat, and they will burn and go to black in a heartbeat if you don't keep an eye on them. let the nuts cool for a few minutes and transfer them to a food processor (hand blender doesn't do a good job here, I tried). Add the macadamia nut oil and puree the nuts for a minute or so. The nuts will turn to a paste and then into a nice spreadable butter. Add the sugar and blend. Now add the salt a few generous pinches at a time, to taste. You need the salty aftertaste to highlight the subtleness of the Brazil nut flavor. This is where I put a few pinched of smoked serrano chile powder in as well. Transfer to a piping bag, or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off and set aside.
Temper the chocolate: (this is how you get that nice shine on your chocolate)
Place 3/4 of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler to melt. I stir once every few minutes, but try not to dote on it. When the chocolate is nearly melted, remove it from the heat and add the rest of the chocolate a bit at a time, gently stirring in each addition until completely melted. Smear a bit of the chocolate on your parchment paper, if it sets in a couple minutes, you are in business.
Fill your molds: Partially fill each individual cup with chocolate, pick up the mold and tilt it around so the chocolate coats the sides of each cup from top to bottom. Turn the entire mold upside down and place it on the cooling rack to let any excess chocolate drip down onto the parchment (you can reuse this later). Let the chocolate set 20 minutes or so before flipping and piping the brazil nut butter into each cup (3/4 full), don't fill all the way to the top or you won't be able to seal the cup closed. After filling with the nut butter, pour another layer of chocolate across each cup to seal in the filling. Gently rap the mold on the counter once or twice to release any air bubbles. I pulled a straight edge across the molds to level out the chocolate, but it sort of messed up the temper on the bottoms a bit when I turned them out (maybe there is a better way of doing this?). Let the cups set in the refrigerator for at least an hour.