You guys… it’s ALMOST Christmas!
And depending on what your Christmas traditions are, you may already have a hefty number of holiday cookies and candies all boxed up, stockpiled and ready to go in T minus TWO DAYS (this is equal parts exciting and stressful, you guys… because “YAY, Christmas!” But also, “Ahhhh, all the presents still need wrapping!!”).
To any holiday cookie bakers out there who are still going strong and looking for a last-minute add-on to your cookie lists, I come to you today – on Christmas Eve Eve – bearing a gift…. because I’m thoughtful like that 😉
Today I’m sharing the recipe for a cookie that basically screams Christmas — Peppermint Bark Shortbread Squares. When I hear “Christmas,” I immediately think of chocolate + peppermint, and these cookies were built around that classic holiday flavor combo. And these are also super simple to make. Seriously, I’m talking minimal effort here but with some pretty standout results, and with the craziness and chaos that comes with the holidays, I think that’s something we can all appreciate.
The cookie base is a really simple shortbread cookie that I adapted from A Simple Pantry’s Raspberry Shortbread Bars (those are also pretty fabulous and I strongly encourage you all to either add those to your holiday baking agendas or bake them up post-holidays). I added a large dose of cocoa powder to the dough to get a really dark, chocolatey cookie, reminiscent of the dark chocolate base that acts as the foundation of a classic peppermint bark. Once you whip up the dough, you just roll it out, cut into squares, and then bake ’em off — see, super easy!
And then – this is the best part about these cookies, you guys – you go ahead and place A WHOLE GHIRADELLI PEPPERMINT BARK SQUARE onto the tops of the cookies while they’re still warm from the oven. Eating one of these is basically a magical experience, which makes them all the more perfect for Christmas (because Christmas is the most magical time of the year, in case you didn’t already know).
So just a few small, last-minute notes about this recipe before I wrap it up and bid you all a very merry Christmas —
(1.) when cutting out the squares, I actually found that using an unwrapped Ghiradelli chocolate square as a guide was a really easy and accurate way to go about it — feel free to pull out a ruler and measure/mark to get uniform squares, though!
(2.) In the recipe below, you’ll notice I twice-bake the shortbread cookies; this ensures the cookie is good and crisp to counter that thick layer of silky smooth chocolate (so good, you guys. SO. GOOD.).
(3.) These cookies aren’t going to be beauts right out of the oven — so don’t freak when you pull them out and don’t see perfectly straight-edged squares with perfectly smooth surfaces. The giant squares of chocolate will beautify them up real good though, I promise.
(4.) When these cookies come out of the oven for the final time, please promise me you’ll reign in your excitement for a solid 5-10 minutes before plopping chocolate squares all over them. If you don’t, the super hot cookies will do more than just meld themselves to the squares of chocolate — they’ll straight up MELT them. You don’t want this. So let them cool off a bit so that they’re warm, and not piping hot, then you’ll be good to go!
(5.) Don’t feel like you can *only* use the peppermint bark squares to top off these shortbread cookies. These were also really tasty with Ghiradelli’s Peppermint Brownie squares… just sayin’.
Ok, that was more than just “a few” last minute notes (sorry). But I think they were worth making note of. Now I’m ready to say so long til my next post.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! I’ll try to make my first recipe I share in the new year a good one 😉
[*This recipe/post was not written in sponsorship with Ghiradelli — I just really love their chocolate…]
Peppermint Bark Shortbread Squares
Yield: 45 cookies
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used a combo of Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder and their standard cocoa powder to get a really dark cookie)
45 Ghiradelli peppermint bark squares (or any of their others chocolate squares should work, too!)
Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla, followed by the flour and cocoa powder until well-combined (the dough should have a somewhat crumbly texture). Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, or up to 2 days before continuing.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Using either a cookie cutter or a knife, cut the dough into squares the same size as the Ghiradelli chocolate squares you’ll be placing on top of them later. (l just used an unwrapped chocolate square as a guide during this part.)
Place the unbaked shortbread squares onto a parchment-lined baking sheet about half an inch apart. Freeze for 10 minutes and then bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cookies feel set and firm to the touch in the centers. Let cool for about 25-30 minutes (at this point, you can actually straighten up the edges of the cookies a bit with either a spatula or the blade of a knife, if you want), and then return to the oven for another 5-7 minutes to crisp them up.
Allow the cookies to cool (on the baking sheet) about 5-10 minutes before placing the unwrapped chocolate squares on top of them (you don’t want the cookies to be hot, but warm, or else the chocolate squares will melt way too much!). Allow to cool so the chocolate can set before eating.
Shortbread recipe adapted from A Simple Pantry.