Friday, February 14, 2014

Spiced Dark Chocolate Shortbread Hearts

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is typically pretty low-key in our house.  We usually stay in and have a nice dinner at home instead of battling the crowds at nice restaurants.  One year we went to The Pasta Tree in Milwaukee, and while typically it would have a romantic kind of vibe, it was so packed and the tables were so close together you could hear everyone's conversations other than your own.  I think we have stayed home every year since.

For dessert this year, I decided to spice things up a bit.  Literally.  I made chocolate shortbread hearts - tender yet crisp, rich and buttery, with deep chocolate flavor, plus a little something extra.  I added cinnamon, chili powder and cayenne to give the cookies a little kick.  Don’t be scared, you can adjust the spices to your taste.  As written, the spice is very subtle in the rich chocolate cookie.  In fact, I don’t even notice it until just after I have inhaled finished it. If you really want these babies to go “KA-BLAM!” on your tastebuds, then I would suggest doubling, maybe even tripling the spices if you are feeling adventurous.

I have to admit, this is another recipe that originates from Two Peas & Their Pod (Chocolate Shortbread Heart Cookies).  There is something about their photos that draws me in like the Millenium Falcon to the Death Star.  Chocolate on chocolate, covered in sprinkles…the cookies were so cute, my resistance was futile (yes nerds, I know that one reference is Star Wars and the other Star Trek).  I knew I wanted to make the recipe my own though.  When baking, I am usually one to follow the recipe to a “T” the first time, and then make modifications if I choose to make it again.  This recipe seemed to lend itself well to modification from the get-go.  I love chocolate with a little heat, so I knew adding a blend of cinnamon, chili powder and cayenne was the answer.  I also decided to dip these cookies in dark chocolate as opposed to semi-sweet to make them even more rich and decadent.  I was running low on Dutch process cocoa, and after trips to multiple grocery stores, I came home empty handed.  Is it because it is Valentine’s Day or is there some kind of world cocoa shortage that I don’t know about?  I don’t think I want to live in a world without chocolate!  Luckily, I ended up having JUST enough Dutch process cocoa to make these beauties.  Whew!

These spiced chocolate shortbread hearts came together so easily.  I sifted together flour, cocoa, salt and my “secret” spices in a small bowl, then creamed sugar and butter together with my mixer and added a little vanilla.  Am I the only one tempted to just eat the butter/sugar/vanilla mixture?  I love it in all of its pale yellow, beautifully fluffy glory.  I added the flour mixture to the butter, then rolled the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper.  The dough was soft, so I popped it in the fridge for about 20 minutes, then cut it into heart shapes.

I popped them in a 350 degree oven for 12 minutes, or until the cookies were firm and starting to crisp up.  I let them cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely.  Once they were cool, I dipped them partially in dark chocolate, and added some sprinkles.  Who can resist sprinkles?

The possibilities for this cookie are endless, you could save the dipping for after dinner and serve them with chocolate fondue or caramel sauce (or both!) for a dessert experience, or instead of topping with sprinkles, top them with chopped hazelnuts, pistachios, smoked almonds, crushed pretzels, a little bit of sea salt or an extra sprinkle of cayenne pepper.  You could even sandwich them with some vanilla, chocolate, or mocha buttercream…and THEN dip them chocolate.  You get the idea.  I think I might have to make another batch just to try different combinations!

As I was planning to make these, I realized I didn’t have a heart-shaped cookie cutter (gasp!), so I asked my mom if she had any I could borrow.  She pulled out some awesome “vintage” cookie cutters.  My favorite was the metal cutter with scalloped edges, so that is what I used.  Now I am in love with it and don’t plan on giving it back.  Sorry mom.  I am also in love with these cookies.

I tried to roll the cookies out to about 1/4 inch thick, but when I roll out dough, the edges always seem to be thinner than the middle.  I know there are tricks to getting the dough to be even all the way through, but I haven’t mastered it.  It worked out well in the end, because I liked the thicker ones, and Aaron preferred the thinner ones that got a little more crisp when baked.

He loved them and said the recipe was a definite keeper.  When Olivia woke from her nap to find me making cookies, her first exclamation was “CHOCOLATE!!!” and then she proceeded to grab a handful of dough and run away so she could shove it in her mouth before I took it from her.  Okay, I let her have some.  Luckily there aren’t any raw eggs in the dough.  I guess you could say these cookies are approved by all ages!

Now, go forth.  Bake cookies.  Show your Valentines how much you love them! 

Spiced Dark Chocolate Shortbread Hearts
Printable Recipe

2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. dark chocolate chips (for dipping)
Sprinkles (for decorating)

Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, cinnamon, chili powder and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter.  Add the vanilla and mix until combined.  Slowly add in the flour/cocoa/spice mixture, mixing until combined.  At first it will seem crumbly, but it will come together.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Chill the dough for 20-30 minutes or until it has slightly hardened.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut out the cookies with a 2 inch heart-shaped cutter and place them on the prepared baking sheet.  They can be placed pretty close together because they don’t spread much.  Just give them about 1/4 inch around.   Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, or until they are firm and starting to crisp around the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Place dark chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 1 minute.  Stir the chips until completely melted.  If they will not melt, put the chocolate back in the microwave and cook at 20 second  bursts until you can stir it into a melted pool of deliciousness.

Dip 1/3 to 1/2 of each cookie in the melted chocolate and sprinkle the dipped portion with sprinkles or topping(s) of your choice.  Place the cookies on wax paper and let the chocolate set up - if you can wait that long ;-)



  1. We need to be friends!! This recipes has been in my head since I saw it on Two Peas for V-day too! I might just have to make a shamrock version for St. Patty's day because they look amazing!

    1. Agreed. It had me at chocolate and then had me again at sprinkles ;-). I bet shamrocks would be so cute!