Yesterday, on the shortest day of the year, I was thinking about darkness, and about light. These past few weeks the dark has been so noticeable, dragging out the hours between when Trevor leaves for the restaurant and when it is reasonable to collapse into bed. I’m beginning to think that darkness, and not the cold and slush as I’ve always thought, is what makes this season so difficult, what pulls me close to apathy and lethargy and general lowness. The reason that, after that apocalyptic winter two years ago hit me so hard, I escape January as often as I can.
But darkness also makes room for us to celebrate light. Light is part of what makes Christmas feel magical. Standing in the cold, breath freezing in the air, watching the twinkling lights draped around the outside of homes. The stillness of a church full of candles, flames moving slowly, illuminating the faces of the people holding them. Sitting by the Christmas tree after the house is quiet, breathing in the sharp fragrance of pine, gazing at the reflection of the tiny lights on delicate glass ornaments. Light at Christmastime brings stillness and quiet and a certain sense of wonder. And it helps us get through the darkness, to remind us that, from today forward, the darkest day is behind us, that we are now spinning towards another summer.
Christmas is practically here, and I’m of two minds about it. Of course, I relish the chance to take a few days to relax with my family, and I love our traditions. On the other hand, I worry that a four day weekend of rushing between houses is not really the relaxation I need, and the need to “be ready for Christmas” (the presents! The baking! The decorations! We didn’t watch Elf yet!) feels like it’s coming from the wrong place, at times. I can say that I’m ready on at least one front and that’s the cookie front: we started baking early and we’ve been flush all month. I even ordered Dorie Greenspan’s new book, finding myself without a cookbook dedicated to cookies (hard to imagine, given the size of my cookbook collection).
The base of these Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Sandwiches is a chocolate cookie from Dorie’s book called a Melody. The Melody cookies on their own are delicious – crisp, buttery, and chocolaty. But I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I decided to fill them with a simple peppermint-mascarpone buttercream and dip them in chocolate. This treatment makes them seriously decadent – definitely don’t have more than one! But really delicious, and beautiful to boot.
Have the most wonderful Christmas if you’re celebrating, and a relaxing long weekend if you’re not. As one of my lovely Colombian coworkers told me today, “I wish you not just presents, but love and health for the new year.” I thought that was the nicest sentiment, and I wanted to pass it on to you.
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Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies
Makes 13-15 large sandwich cookies
- 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup mascarpone
- 2 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp peppermint oil
- 1 batch Melody Cookies, recipe below
- 9 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
- Beat butter and mascarpone together until smooth. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the remaining powdered sugar and continue beating until the consistency is light and smooth. Stir in the peppermint oil. Taste and add additional peppermint oil if desired.
- Spread a large spoonful of frosting on the flat side of one of the Melody cookies, spreading it evenly out to the edges of the cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Place on a plate. Repeat until you have used all the cookies. Chill the cookies in the fridge for 30 minutes before dipping in chocolate.
- Place the chocolate chips in a metal bowl. Bring a small pot of water to a gentle simmer. Place the bowl with the chocolate chips on top of the pot. As the chips melt, stir them with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides of the bowl. When the chips are just melted and smooth, remove them from the heat. Dip the cookies halfway into the melted chocolate one at a time, using a spatula to smooth the chocolate up the edges of the cookie as needed. Place the cookies on wax paper to dry. Place the chocolate back over the simmering water as needed for a few seconds to keep it melty. Once the chocolate is dry, serve the cookies or refrigerate them until ready to serve.
Recipe from Dorie’s Cookies. Makes about 30 large cookies.
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg white
- turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
- Whisk the flour, sifted cocoa, and baking soda together in a medium bowl until evenly combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and salt together until smooth and light, which should take a few minutes. Beat in the vanilla, followed by the egg white. Beat until smooth again and the egg white is fully blended into the butter. Add half the cocoa-flour mixture and stir just until there are no dry spots left. Add the remaining half of the cocoa-flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together.
- Split the dough in half and pat into two round disks. Working with one disk at a time, place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll out into a large rectangle with a thickness of ~1/8 inch. Stack the two slabs of dough (with the parchment paper separating the layers) on a large baking sheet and chill until firm, at least two hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the cookie dough from the fridge and place on a work surface. Use a round cookie or biscuit cutter with a scalloped edge to cut circles out of the chilled dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle turbinado sugar generously on top of the cookies. Bake the cookies until firm to the touch, about 15-17 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Reroll and chill any dough scraps before cutting out additional cookies.