Monday, December 5, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies / Vivaldi's "Winter"

The holidays bring all kinds of sweet temptations to our neighborhood Trader Joe's. One of my favorites is their Peppermint Bark. While grocery shopping last week, I wondered what the creamy, minty stuff would do when added to my favorite chocolate cookie recipe.

My husband's response to these cookies - and I humbly quote - was this:


{Pre-baked balls of amazement, indeed}
These cookies are truly dangerous fresh out of the oven. I made 18 last night, and by my last count, I believe only 5 are left.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) room-temperature unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 pouch Trader Joe's peppermint bark, bashed into large and crumbly chunks (should yield 1 cup)
Maldon sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (If you have a convection oven, these turn out beautifully: preheat to 325 degrees instead.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugars. Mix in the egg until smooth. Add in the vanilla extract, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add in the cocoa powder on low speed until fully incorporated. Do the same for the flour. When all traces of flour are gone, add in the peppermint bark. 

Spoon the dough onto a prepared cookie sheet. Press a few more chunks of peppermint bark into the tops of the cookies. Sprinkle with Maldon salt if desired (YES). 

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until set. Allow to cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks for further cooling. 

Note: due to the obscene proportion of peppermint bark to cookie, these will need to cool for several minutes before you can eat them all in one piece. But best not to wait too long: they are absurdly good when the chunks are still somewhat melted.

{Warm and gooey with a cold glass of milk, even Poochini can't resist}

For a musical pairing, enjoy a part of "Winter" from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." The poem that accompanies this movement reads:

Before the fire to pass peaceful
Contented days while the rain outside pours down. 

Most violinists agree that the orchestra plucking their strings represents raindrops falling, and the solo violin represents the individual staying cozy indoors. I love Giardino Armonico's interpretation because the orchestra sounds so gently percussive and rain-like, while the solo line sounds so sweet and warm. 

Here in Los Angeles this past weekend, we were subjected to not rain but rather severely strong winds that left many friends and family members without power or hot water for several days. Amazingly, my neighborhood was unaffected. Hoping that you all are able to enjoy the comforts and flavors of home despite any inclement weather!