If there’s a better Christmas cookie, I haven’t met it.
A caterer called Jane Bailey invented these Cappuccino Shortbread cookies, and gave the recipe to the Vancouver Sun for a story on gifts from the kitchen. She suggested packing them into coffee mugs as gifts.
It was one of the best recipes of the year, and shortly after was reprinted in Five-Star Food, the cookbook I wrote at the newspaper in 1993, where it’s gone on to earn an ever widening circle of admirers.
I’ve made Cappuccino Shortbread cookies many times, and found them infallible, so I’ve been surprised when other people report having problems with them.
As long as you follow the recipe, I think there are only two things that can go wrong.
- If the dough is too warm, the cookies may spread too much. You can avoid that problem by making sure that the butter is room temperature, and not on the verge of melting. That may mean letting it sit out, rather than speeding up the process in the microwave.
- If you cut too deep a line into the cookie with the back of your knife, they will also spread too much (like the cookie on the right in the photos below).
One other caution: don’t give in to the temptation to use good quality coffee beans instead of instant, not even if you have to go out and buy a jar of instant coffee to make the cookies. No matter how fine the grind, coffee beans will always stay gritty, and they won’t release their coffee flavor.
It’s worth risking the shocked question from guests – “You keep instant coffee?” – to make Cappuccino Shortbreads work as they should. Just buy a wide-mouthed jar, so the measuring spoon will fit in easily. Store it in the back of the cupboard from year to year. You may be surprised how often you find yourself replacing it.
Over the years, I’ve changed the original in two ways:
Jane Bailey called for dipping both ends, but this presents a problem. It’s hard enough to hold onto the cookie and dip one end without getting chocolate smudges on the shortbread. To dip two ends you’d have to dip them very shallowly, and that would mean a reduced chocolate to shortbread ratio. Who would want that?
The original recipe also called for squares of semi-sweet chocolate – supermarket chocolate in other words. Upgrading the quality and intensity of the chocolate is well worth it.
- 4 teaspoons instant coffee
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 6 ounces 70 per cent Belgian chocolate
- Finely crush the instant coffee in your coffee grinder. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Beat in instant coffee and vanilla.
- Sift flour and cornstarch together. Stir into butter mixture. The dough is dry. You will have to use your hands to mix it.
- Mould the dough into the shape of coffee beans, using one tablespoon of dough for each cookie.
- Using the back of a knife, press and indent about 1/8-inch deep, lengthwise, across the top of each cookie.
- Place on a parchment-paper covered baking sheet.
- Bake at 325 F for 15 minutes. Slide the parchment paper onto wire racks to cool the cookies.
- Melt the chocolate. Dip one end of the cookies in chocolate. Place on baking sheets lined with waxed paper or parchment paper and refrigerate.
Tomorrow, cookie night recipes continue with Kris Kringle’s Chocolate Krinkles.