I was just about to write "It's finally my favourite time of year!" but then I had to think twice about that. Is it really my favourite time of year? I mean, I do love love love the snow and even the cold brisk air but I don't know if it really compares to blissful summer days or romantic fall evenings. But one thing for sure is there's no other time of year that brings festivities and excitement to our hearts! I'm really not into crazy Christmas shopping, but I do love that the holidays lead me to think of each and every special one around me, whether it's for gift-giving or not. And just as the cold winter air is invigorating, it is truly refreshing to sometimes "be still" in the midst of the holiday craziness and think about the really valuable things in life. Of course - the warm embrace of holiday spirit is just as wonderful!! (Oh and how could I forget CHRISTMAS MUSIC?)
In light of this, and in celebration of all the abundant and delectable food we are fortunate to enjoy during this time, I thought I'd do a series on Holiday Treat this year! I did a Christmas-Bake-A-Thon a few years back (Oh dear, has it been that long ago? I did this in 2008!) and made a variety of cookies: Madelines, Traditional Shortbread, Pecan Bars, Lemon Squares. So there's just ten days until Christmas but I'm going to try to make as many festive treats as I can!
The first cookie is a cookie that I baked for my husband's work christmas cookie exchange. When they announced it at work, Andrew automatically signed up right away. He kindly "command-asked" me, as if I had any other option! But really, it's quite cute how he lights up for any chance he gets to show off his wife's baking. I also received a beautiful hunk of Callebaut dark chocolate from a close friend of mine as a housewarming gift. I've been waiting and waiting for the right chance to use it and this was perfect. I looked for a recipe that would best showcase the quality chocolate and so I found these rich chocolate toffee cookies from smitten kitchen.
These cookies are very rich and fudgy but the sharp sweetness of the toffee and nutty flavour of the walnut really balance it out nicely. Also, the instructions call for an almost meringue stage for the egg and sugar so you can really feel some of that lightness coincided with the super rich chocolate butter mixture. Another key thing about making these cookies right is the baking time. Please please don't over bake it!! It's all about slightly underbaking it (ever-so slightly) and letting it cook as it cools. These cookies taste better when completely cooled so remember your patience will be rewarded while you stare down these beauties on the cooling rack. Well, let's just say that I got a report from my husband that these cookies were the first to be gone – they were the most popular! It probably helped that I made them bite-sized; it's a lot of flavour so I figured a smaller cookie will entice, not overwhelm. I hope this is a nice introduction to our delicious holiday to come! I hope all of you a sweet Holiday filled with joy and peace!
Chocolate Toffee Cookies
makes 5 dozen small cookies
recipe adapted from smitten kitchen
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Skor or Heath), coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
1. In a small bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool mixture to lukewarm.
2. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.
3. Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and nuts. Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes. Slice and bake option: I used the slice and bake option for easier handling and even sizes. After chilling until firm, roll the dough into a log 1-inch in diameter and chill again for 20 minutes. When ready to bake the cookies, cut it into 1/2-inch slices. You can store the dough log in the freezer, wrapped in waxed paper and then two layers of plastic wrap for up to a month, just baking the cookies off as you need. Cookies baked straight from the freezer may need an additional minute or two in the oven, depending on their thickness.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Drop batter by half-tablespoon onto sheets, or place slices of cookie dough, about 1-inch apart. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt, if you’re using it. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely on sheets.
These cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.