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midnight in the garden of good and chocolate

Recipe: midnight chocolate shortbread cookies

I gave myself last week off from the blog and the computer. My hope is that you didn’t notice because you were offline spending time with loved ones and/or doing the things that you enjoy doing! We aren’t much for holiday traditions other than New Year’s Chinese dumplings and the soup full of yummy ingredients that represent health, wealth, good fortune, opportunity, and all that good stuff. I guess for us, the “tradition” is to ski. And ski. And ski.

jeremy seeks out a secret stash of powder on the mountain

christmas day nordic ski

enjoying the powder, bumps, and views from the mountain

jeremy skate skiing in 2°f

We’ve made a point of skiing every day since we got to Crested Butte – because why wouldn’t you? The snow has been fantastic and this town offers great downhill terrain and incredible nordic trails. It’s also a great way to fend off holiday weight creep and to see some of the local wildlife. Several ermine sightings have fascinated us on the mountain (you should see these little dudes run in powder), in our backyard, and on the nordic trails. We even witnessed one ermine carrying a little furry brown vole (presumably dead) across a big snowy expanse. Cute as they are (and they are DAMN cute!), don’t be fooled – these guys are skilled and ferocious hunters. I’ve also been getting my puppy fix, greeting all of the sweet mountain dogs in the neighborhood, around town, and on the trails.

curious little ermine checking us out

christmas parties are best with gentle, giant mountain dogs

All of the holiday cookies are now gone. Once the deliveries were made, Jeremy was allowed to dig into the leftovers. I added a new recipe to the rotation this year – a shortbread. I know I tend to bake a lot of shortbreads for gifts, but the reason is because they don’t get squirrely at high altitude and they keep longer. There have been times (in the early years) Jeremy has left a gift bag of cookies on a staff member’s desk only to find out they were out of town for a week or two. So I thought it was time to try a new shortbread cookie – a chocolatey cookie.

chocolate chips, vanilla, butter, salt, onyx cocoa powder, powdered sugar, flour

cream the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder

add a pinch of sea salt


There are some combinations that you know cannot go wrong – like chocolate and chocolate. Dark chocolate cookies with bittersweet chocolate chips sounded good, even to me. Cocoa powder is responsible for the chocolate cookie base. I’ve baked a couple of cookie iterations with different cocoa powders: Dutch-process cocoa and onyx (or black) cocoa (pictured). [Read about the difference between natural cocoa, Dutch-process cocoa, and onyx (black) cocoa.] Both Jeremy and I tend to prefer the Dutch-process cocoa over the onyx cocoa for flavor, but the onyx certainly makes for a beautiful dark chocolate cookie (and it’s not bad, we just like the other one better). I also tried chocolate chips and chocolate chunks. The chunks make slicing the cookie dough easier because the chips tend to get yanked out of the dough. Most importantly, the quality of your ingredients – particularly the cocoa and chocolate – will impact the resulting flavor of your cookie.

mix the flour until just combined

fold in the chocolate chips (or chunks)

roll the dough into an 8-inch long cylinder

wrap in plastic or wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour

It takes a few minutes to mix the dough, then you shape it and refrigerate it for an hour or more. The dough is pretty sticky, so shaping it with plastic wrap or wax paper allows you to manipulate the dough without wearing the dough. Once chilled, the dough behaves nicely and slices easily. Cut the cookies into 1/3-inch thick slices to yield 2 dozen cookies. They don’t spread too much during baking, but it’s still a good idea to leave a little space (about an inch) between each one. The cookies are done when the center is just slightly soft when you press on it. Let the shortbreads rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes after taking them out of the oven, otherwise they will fall apart when you remove them (or even look at them). I tested this myself and determined that the structural integrity of the cookie matrix is far stronger when slightly cooled.

slice the cookie dough

arrange the cookies on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet

cooling on the rack

If you are a fan of super sweet chocolate cookies, you might be disappointed. These cookies are not overly sweet, but they are quite chocolatey. The crumbly texture of the shortbread mingles nicely with the creaminess that comes from the chocolate chips (or chunks) – particularly when eaten warm. I think the onyx cocoa version (pictured) has a less pronounced chocolate flavor compared to the Dutch-process cocoa version because onyx cocoa is even more alkalized than Dutch-process cocoa resulting in a mellower chocolate flavor. They’re both great, we just like the Dutch-process cocoa cookie better. Feedback from some of my cookie recipients has been 100% positive and while Jeremy likes these cookies with coffee and with milk, he thinks they pair better with milk.

dark as midnight

great with milk

chocolate on chocolate

Midnight Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
[print recipe]
modified from this recipe

4 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-process (or onyx for super dark cookies)
generous pinch of sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chocolate chunks (I prefer chunks)

Cream the butter, sugar, and cocoa together until smooth. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Mix in the flour until just incorporated. Fold the chocolate chips or chocolate chunks into the dough. Turn the cookie dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper. Press the dough together and form an 8-inch long cylinder. Wrap the log of dough in the plastic or wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Cut the log into 1/3-inch thick slices. Arrange the slices on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet with at least an inch between cookies. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the center is slightly soft (take care not to overbake). Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 4-5 minutes (or else they will fall apart if you try to move them too soon). Transfer to a cooling rack. Makes 2 dozen.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

espresso chocolate chip shortbread pailin’s ginger lemon cookies macadamia shortbread cookies matcha green tea shortbread cookies

18 nibbles at “midnight in the garden of good and chocolate”

  1. Kristin says:

    They look a lot like Dorie’s World Peace Cookies, which my family loves, though those use brown sugar. A friend gave me some of the very dark cocoa, and I always forget to use it. I guess I need to search specifically for recipes that use it. Love your ermine photo and the beautiful mountain dog! Happy New Year to you & Jeremy…I hope it includes lots of skiing!

  2. says:

    Gorgeous photos! Pinned!

  3. Ann says:

    Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful recipes this year!

  4. Magda says:

    They look beautiful. I love that dark color. I hope I can find this type of cocoa powder.
    Have a Happy New Year Jennifer!

  5. JaneM says:

    The look of joy in your face in the photo with the mountain pup is priceless (and tugs at my heartstrings). Happy New Year to you and your family. Thank you for another great year of gorgeous photos and wonderful recipes.

  6. jill says:

    I think these are the ones that TPH squirreled away, and he ate them all! He always comments about how “perfect” your cookies are.., in shape, presentation, taste, and packaging! Your cookies are loved, as you two are! Thanks again and happy skiing! xo, the Hydes

  7. Claudia @ HomeMade with love says:

    Wow.. thats what I am talking about!! seems like the right kind of cookies for me :) thanks for the recipe

  8. Maryw says:

    You can get black cocoa at king Arthur’s website.

  9. Chani says:

    Excellent! Gorgeous pictures as always, love chocolate cookies without being overly sweet!

  10. Jeanne says:

    All my Christmas cookies this year came from your site and everybody raved about them! This looks like another winner. Thanks!

  11. Anne V. says:

    Hmm. Is 4 oz. of butter correct? I could not get this dough to come together…. trying with another 4 oz. thinking that it should have been 8 oz.

  12. Anne V. says:

    Ugh. My bad. Misread 4 oz. as 4 Tbsp. Not the same thing…. So yes, 4 oz. is correct = 8 Tbsp.

  13. jenyu says:

    Kristin – Oh, I haven’t tried those yet (although it is dog-eared in the book). I wonder if they have the same texture? I think the black cocoa is for a specific visual effect because the flavor isn’t as “chocolatey” as Dutch-process cocoa. And yes, we had lots of skiing! :)

    Tori – thanks!

    Ann – you’re so welcome! And thank you for reading!

    Magda – I believe King Arthur carries it and there are others available on Amazon. Happy New Year!

    JaneM – Trust me, I have been petting just about every dog I see these days :) Thank you for reading! xoxo

    jill – ha ha!! So sweet! Let’s get together soon! xoxo

    Claudia – me too!

    Jeanne – you are such a dear. I’m sure people raved because YOU made them! :)

    Anne V – yes, 4 oz. of butter (or 8 tbsps). Hope they turned out!

  14. micah mcdaniel says:

    I am currently in tahlequah oklahoma. Oklahoma is my native state and i keep returning to it for some reason. But your pictures make me really miss my time in Ouray, Co. I loved it there. The people were great, and the surroundings were breathtaking. There was an abandoned mine there where we panned for gold, and whenever we were undecided about something, we took it to the mountain, and let the “mind of the mountain” make the decision for us. It always worked out. The mine of that mountain was indeed very wise. It gave us wisdom, money, clean water, and hope. I miss that place. It was beautiful, and hard. Staying alive was hard. Winter was cold. Really cold. But I miss it.
    Happy New Year, and thank you so much for all your input.

  15. janice says:

    So I’m making these tonight for the second time (double batch this time, with half of the cookies getting peanut butter chips and the other half getting chocolate chunks). They are absolutely delicious. But I had two issues both times I made them. First, I had a dust hurricane when I beat the butter into the sugar/cocoa. Any thoughts how to get around that? (I don’t have a stand mixer, but used a pretty good-sized bowl the second time and it didn’t help.) I was thinking that maybe next time I’d start with all the butter and just half the sugar, then add more sugar once the butter “took over”. Then I could do the same thing with adding the cocoa. Second, the batter is really soft and hard to get out of the bowl to make the log. Was it too warm? Any thoughts would be most welcome. And I’m pretty sure that, even if I don’t solve these issues, I’m still going to be making these for years to come! Thank you for a wonderful recipe.

  16. jenyu says:

    micah – come back to Colorado!

    janice – Definitely cream the butter first to make it soft and creamy. Then, when I add flour or cocoa (anything dusty) to creamed butter, I stir it together by hand for the first few strokes so that the flour gets incorporated. That seems to reduce the amount of *poof* I get out of my stand mixer. Also, I start the mixer on low until more is incorporated. If the batter was super soft, you might have too much butter? I scrape it out of the bowl with a silicone spatula (spoonula) and dump the dough out onto plastic wrap. I don’t actually handle the dough with my bare hands as the heat from my hands makes it extra sticky and impossible to deal with. I’ll use the plastic wrap to manipulate the dough into a log shape. Hope that helps!

  17. ambrosia @ figandpie says:

    Yes please! These look divine!

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