In a week’s time, I’ll be flying home to Canada to attend the wedding of a very dear friend. I’ve known Margaux since we were 14 years old, and not only is she talented, sweet and beautiful, but she’s extremely organised, and I’ve no doubts that she’ll throw a damned good party. For obvious reasons, I’m incredibly excited about this trip- I get to see my friends from high school, watch one of them get hitched, hang out with my parents and generally soak up the hometown love. Usually, these trips home offer me a brief respite from cooking, but not this one. At least, not entirely.
When she heard that Margaux was planning to have a dessert table at her wedding, and planning on doing the entire thing herself, my Mum (bless her) suggested that I offer up my culinary skills to my friend. I figured that the gesture would be gently but firmly rebuffed by a woman hell-bent on controlling every last detail of her special day. But Margaux, to her immense credit, isn’t a Bridezilla, and my offer was warmly accepted. She requested I bring some bars or cookies with me on the day.
Immediately, the exhibitionist baker in me took over. Should I do my Homemade Oreos for some retro charm? What about those New York Times chocolate chip cookies, they always go down well. Maybe I’ll attempt macarons? Eventually, I returned to Earth and faced the facts. First of all- it’s a wedding. After a delicious meal, plentiful alcohol and wedding cake, not everyone is going to want (or notice) a confectionary masterpiece. Secondly, I’m only flying in the evening before; is late at night in a jet-lagged stupor really the time to be messing about with beating egg whites, chilling doughs or assembling icings? And finally- calm yourself Ele, people will be looking at the gorgeous girl in the wedding dress, not your stupid cookies.
Enter these biscuits, otherwise known as The Easiest Cookies Anyone Has Ever Made, Ever. From Nigella Lawson‘s How to be a Domestic Goddess, they only contain four ingredients: butter, sugar, self-raising flour and cocoa. That might sound like a recipe for bland and boring, but trust me, these are almost unbelievably good. Crumbly and dry like a proper shortbread, they’re neither too sweet nor too rich, but instead have wonderfully grown-up smokiness, which then melts on your tongue in a pool of awesome. Still, I felt they needed to be tweaked for this occasion. I knew the addition of peppermint extract would take these to another level, turning them into a fancy After Eight of sorts. How exactly to do that is where the battle comes in.
I figured there were two options: add the mint flavour directly to the dough, or create a mint chocolate ganache and use it to fill some simple “thumbprint cookies”. I couldn’t decide which of these options sounded best, so I got mixin’ and dough dividin’ and made both. The victor? Perhaps surprisingly, the simple minted cookie won my heart here. Despite the extreme deliciousness of the mint ganache, I could foresee too many worries about what transport, stacking and rearranging would do to their lovely smooth tops. I’m including both recipe versions below, but if I was making these for a crowd (as I might be), I’d go for the plain one.
While the Battle of the Biscuits might be over, but the war is just beginning. I’m not quite done with my recipe testing and have a few more quick-yet-tasty cookie recipes up my sleeve. Hopefully, we’ll have a winner by this time next week, with enough time to spare for me to actually make them.
Mint Chocolate Cookies with Optional Ganache
adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
makes 36 cookies
For the dough:
- 300g self-raising flour
- 40g cocoa
- 250g unsalted butter softened
- 125g sugar
- 3/4 tsp. peppermint extract (if making the plain cookies)
For the ganache (if making the filled cookies):
- 100g dark chocolate, chopped
- 1/4 cup double cream
- 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F and prepare 2 large baking trays with parchment or silicone paper. Sift together the flour and cocoa in a small bowl and set aside.
- Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. If making a plain minted cookie, add the peppermint extract and beat until just combined. Finally, add the flour/cocoa mixture and continue beating until the mixture comes together into a heavy dough.
- Break off pieces of the dough and roll into walnut-sized balls between your palms. Place 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets. For plain cookies, press down lightly on each cookie with the tines of a wet fork; for filled ones, use the knuckle of your thumb or index finger to make a deep indent in each ball of dough.
- Bake cookies for 5 minutes before turning down the oven to 150°C/300°F and continuing for another 10-12 minutes. Cookies will feel dry and firm but not hard when ready. Allow cooling completely on a wire rack.
- To make the mint ganache, simply melt the chocolate and cream together in a small saucepan over very low heat. Stir in the peppermint extract and spoon the mixture, while still warm, into the wells of the cooled thumbprint cookies. Allow ganache to set completely (about 2 hours) before serving.
Note: I suggest to only include the peppermint extract in the dough of the unfilled cookie, and to include it in the ganache of the filled one to avoid overpowering the cookie. If you prefer a very minty taste, feel free to use the minted dough and the ganache together.