Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What's Baking: Thin Mint Cookies



Let's keep the blog's cookie theme going this week, shall we? Today's post features the cookies I baked for the 2013 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. This event, which is in its third year, brings together food bloggers from around the world with one mission -- to swap delicious cookies. This year, the swap again partnered with Cookies for Kids' Cancer to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

Each participant was matched with the names and addresses of three other food bloggers. Our instructions were to send each of our matches a dozen cookies; in return we'd receive a dozen cookies from three different bloggers too. I received delicious billionaire cookie dough bars from Christina of Stracciatella, chocolate chunk eggnog cookies from Erin at The Spiffy Cookie, and chocolate mint cookies from Meagan at A Zesty Bite. They were all delicious and I have to admit, none of them lasted very long in our house. I may or may not have had to hide the last billionaire bar from D.

My three batches of cookies went to Mindy of Home-Baked Happiness, Ellen of In My Red Kitchen, and Nicole from The Marvelous Misadventures of a Foodie. I had a tough time deciding what cookies to bake for this year's swap. The only "rule" was that we were to bake a cookie that we hadn't featured on our blog before. One of the first food blogs I ever read was Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks, and I'm still an avid follower today. Back in 2007, Heidi published her first cookbook, and it's still one of my favorites. I've been meaning to try her thin mint cookie recipe for a long time; this cookie swap provided the perfect occasion to finally give the recipe a try. I followed Heidi's recipe almost to a T, except I used dark chocolate melting wafers in place of the semi-sweet chocolate the original recipe calls for. 

Long story short, these cookies are amazing. (I hope my recipients agree!) And they are just as good -- nay, better! -- than the Girl Scout version. I was a little nervous about my chocolate-dipping skills (it's kind of hard, y'all!), but luckily I think they turned out okay. And, bonus, the slightly catty-wampus chocolate coating does assure everyone that the cookies were in fact homemade! Personally, I like to store these cookies in the freezer -- in my book, there's nothing better than a chilled thin mint cookie. I think these cookies also get better with time; after a few days, there is definitely some additional depth to the mint and chocolate flavors. So if you can, let the flavors meld away before digging in. (If you can wait that long!)

Thin Mint Cookies (printer-friendly version)
makes about 3 dozen cookies

For the cookie wafers:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white
1 cup unsweetened (and non-alkalized) cocoa powder (I used Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa powder)
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

For the chocolate-peppermint coating:
16 ounces dark chocolate melting wafers (I used Ghiradelli brand)
1 1/2 teaspoons organic peppermint extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attached, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar and cream until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir in the vanilla, egg white, salt, and cocoa powder.
3. Mix in the flour until it is just incorporated -- the dough should be smooth and not grainy or powdery in appearance.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough a few times to form a ball.
5. Place the dough in the center of a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with the plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.
6. After the dough has chilled, use a rolling pin to roll it out into about 1/4" thickness. To prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin, it helps to sandwich the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap.
7. Use a round or fluted 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheet. (I baked my cookies in three separate batches.)
8. Bake the cookies in the oven for about 10 minutes. Heidi suggests baking them until "they smell of deep warm chocolate, with toasty overtones" -- you'll understand what she means when you bake them.
9. Remove the baked cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
10. While the cookies are cooling, prep the chocolate coating.
11. Melt the chocolate, either in the microwave in 30 second increments (stirring in between), with a double boiler, or with this simple method). Stir in the peppermint extract.
12. Cover a clean baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. Carefully dip each cookie into the melted chocolate (I used a fork) and gently turn the cookie to cover it entirely in chocolate. Gently shake the cookie to allow any excess chocolate to drizzle off before placing the coated cookie on the prepped baking sheet.
13. After all the cookies have been dipped in the chocolate, place the baking sheet with the cookies into the fridge or freezer to set the chocolate.
14. The thin mint cookies can be stored in an airtight container kept at room temperature or in the freezer.

(lightly adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson, also online here)
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