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Christmas Cookies: Chocolate Mint Thumbprint Christmas Cookies

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Some of the best memories from Christmas vacations past center around the kitchen table – not eating, but rather preparing a variety of Christmas cookies and candies with different generations of my family.

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As a child, I was able to participate in the process from two very different perspectives: with very definitive recipes from my mother’s side of the family; with no recipe when with my paternal grandmother. Nevertheless, they were always good, no matter who made them.

As an adult, I have to admit to being my mother’s daughter, thus, I am recipe-dependent. Even so, my daughter and granddaughter still enjoy the process. Soon, I plan to make these Chocolate Mint Thumbprint Christmas Cookies with my granddaughter.

Ingredients for the Cookie:

5 ¼ (1 cup + 2 ½ tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour

¾ ounce (1/4 cup) Dutch-processed cocoa

6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 ounce (1/2 cup) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon table salt

Tip: For the best results, measure your flour by weight instead of volume. (1 cup of all-purpose flour equals 4-1/2 oz.) If you don’t have a scale, be sure to use the proper technique when filling your measuring cups.

Ingredients for the Mint Filling:

4 ounces (3/4 cup) chopped semisweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)

1 ½ (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

¼ tsp. pure peppermint extract

Directions for the cookies:

  1. Sift the flour and cocoa together into a medium bowl. With a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the vanilla and salt; continue beating until blended and smooth, about 1 minute more. Add the flour-cocoa mixture and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms, about 1 minute. Chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm enough to roll into balls, 40 to 60 minutes.
  3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners. Using your palms, roll heaping teaspoonfuls of the dough into 1-inch balls. Arrange them 2 inches apart on the lined sheets. With a lightly floured thumb or index fingertip, press straight down into the middle of each ball almost to the cookie sheet to make a deep well. (Or use the end of a thick-handled wooden spoon.)
  4. Bake one sheet at a time until the tops of the cookies look dry, 8 to 9 minutes. Gently redefine the indentations with the end of a wooden spoon. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then let them cool completely on racks.

Directions for the filling:

  1. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of almost simmering water. Stir with a heatproof spatula until almost melted, 2 to 4 minutes.
  2. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir until melted and smooth, about 30 seconds more. Stir in the mint extract.
  3. Let the filling cool, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and a bit warmer than room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes.
  4. Spoon the filling into a small pastry bag with a small plain tip. (Or use a small plastic bag and cut a tiny bit off a bottom corner of the bag.) Pipe the filling into the center of each cookie.
  5. Cool completely before serving or storing. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 to 5 days.
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