A hint of coffee perks up chocolatey shortbread

Coffee consumed the back page of this week’s Savvy Living with a somewhat surprising report. People who are more sensitive to bitter flavors actually drink more coffee, according to studies at Northwestern University, as opposed to people who are less sensitive or profess to actually enjoy bitterness on the tongue.

I count myself in that latter camp, particularly when it’s a question of contrasting bitter and sweet. Like Chicago Tribune writer JeanMarie Brownson, I’m almost incapable of enjoying dessert without coffee. Sweetness simply holds very little sway over me unless there’s a bitter note to counter it.

That’s why adding just a bit of bitterness to an otherwise sweet food culminates in a more compelling flavor, overall. Hostess with the most-ess Ina Garten invariably adds a tablespoon or so of brewed coffee to her chocolate desserts. Brownson essentially does the same, only with espresso powder, which has plenty of applications in the kitchen, even one that lacks an espresso machine.

Consider perking up your holiday baking with these shortbread cookies, a favorite of Brownson’s sister, who finishes them off with chopped pecans. A dunk in chocolate, then a dunk in strong, unsweetened coffee. That’s my idea of a treat.

Tribune News Service photo

Mocha Shortbread Logs


1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons espresso powder, to taste

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch salt


1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon espresso powder

Put all the dough ingredients into large bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until a smooth dough forms. Gather into a ball; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pinch off a small nugget of dough and roll in your hands to make a 2-inch log about ½ inch in diameter. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat to form all cookies placing them on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake in preheated oven until bottoms are barely golden, for 10 to 13 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks.

To glaze, put the chocolate chips in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium (50 percent power) just until barely melted, for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in the espresso powder until smooth.

Dunk 1 end of each shortbread log into melted chocolate. Set dunked cookies on a wire rack over a piece of paper toweling, and let chocolate firm. (They can be refrigerated if kitchen is warm.) Store in a cookie tin for up to a week.

Makes 28 cookies.

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