a few weeks ago, i got the random urge to find my ideal chocolate buttercream frosting recipe. it came out of nowhere and wouldn't be settled until i had a bowl of the perfect frosting in front of me. thankfully, my life now allows me to drop everything and make frosting when the urge sneaks up! i landed on the recipe below after adding a hefty pour of whipping cream to a more classic buttercream recipe. the cream allows for extra aeration of the frosting - so even though the ingredients read like a list of the world's heaviest whole foods, the frosting is silky and surprisingly light. the perfect texture for accidentally eating WAY too much frosting in one sitting.
about half a sleeve of graham crackers later, each slathered lovingly with frosting, i knew i needed a project for the frosting - stat. thankfully, i had my first round of indiegogo supporters to make treats for, and so was born these simple shortbread sandwich cookies! along with a slew of other goodies, i packed each person a half-pint ball jar stacked full of cookies. keep this one in mind next time you want to give away small bundles of cookies, because not only are they delicious - they look absolutely beautiful packed up this way!
as for the shortbread cookies, this dough is a classic i've had in my toolkit for years. you'll likely be seeing more of it as time goes on as it offers great flexibility for flavors. simple buttery sweetness shines through in this basic application, but i'm known to fill it with lavender or rosemary, dip it in chocolate, make a tart crust, the list goes on. but best of all, this dough is a dream to work with, an absolute dream. so if you roll a lot of cookie dough and have had your fair share of frustrating high-butter doughs like i have, you're in for a real treat! lightly flour your counter and rolling pin, and you'll likely not experience a single sticking spot!
scrolling through this recipe might seem a little intimidating - but i promise, none of the steps take very long, and you'll be happily surprised at how easily these come together. plus, they're a crowd-pleaser with children and adults alike!
the shortbread cookies
2 cups white flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
using a stand mixer, electric hand mixer with the paddle attachment, or a strong arm, cream together butter and powdered sugar until it reaches a nice fluffy texture. if my butter is fully softened, i usually run the stand mixer for a minute or so. longer if i'm starting with butter that is still a little cold.
add the flour and salt, and mix until fully combined.
using your hands, reach into the bowl and clump your dough together, dividing it in half and form two discs. wrap your discs in plastic and refrigerate for an hour. if you prefer, you can keep this dough in the refrigerator for a few days, just let it warm up a bit before trying to roll it out or it will crack. use your senses, you'll know when it's ready because it'll be easy to roll!
when you're ready to bake the cookies - roll the dough out to about a quarter inch thick on a lightly floured surface. using a ribbed edge cookie cutter, or even just a glass for simple circles, cut as many cookies as you can. continue rolling and cutting the scraps until you're down to the last bits, refrigerating the dough if it gets too warm to work with. when i get down to the bitter end, i just put the scraps from between my cookies right on the sheet to bake. no one will turn down cookie scraps!
bake the cookies on parchment or silpat lined cookie sheets at 360 for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to turn a golden brown.
let cookies cool completely on a wire rack.
dreamy chocolate frosting
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
heaping 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
first, melt the chocolate. i like to do this in a double boiler (or simply a heat-proof glass bowl over an inch or two of water in a pot), but you can also do it in the microwave. once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
next (or while the chocolate is melting), whip the butter using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer. it will get nice and fluffy if you give it enough time - the key to the light texture of this decadent frosting.
add the vanilla and powdered sugar, whipping until fully combined. lastly, pour in the cooled chocolate and heavy whipping cream. continue to whip frosting for a few minutes longer. it will take in a lot of air during this final stage, adding to that light fluffy texture!
if you won't be assembling the cookies right away, store the frosting in the fridge. before assembling, set it on the counter for about 20 minutes to let it soften. you can re-whip if it's lost any of the lightness!
assembling your finished cookies
once you have your two parts prepared, it's time to assemble your cookies! this is pretty simple, but it is important to keep in mind the temperature of your ingredients.
make sure your cookies have cooled fully (as in, not a hint of warmth left!) or the frosting will melt the second it touches them. believe me, i tried to rush this. it was a finger-lickingly delicious mess, but a mess none the less! also make sure your frosting is at about room temperature, so you can dollop it on the cookies easily.
now, you're ready! grab a cookie, and place a dollop of frosting in the middle of the bottom side (about a tablespoon, but you can stuff these with as much or as little frosting as you like!). take another cookie and press the bottom side of it onto the frosting, gently pressing the two cookies together until the frosting reaches the edges.
set each assembled cookie on a tray or cookie sheet in one layer, and refrigerate for about an hour until the frosting is solidified and each cookie is sturdily held together. at this point, you can stack them in a container without worry of them falling apart. these cookies should be stored in the refrigerator, but taste best when they're taken out a half hour or so before you plan to eat them. lets be real though, you'll probably eat plenty of them without waiting that half hour... and there is no shame in that!
if you fill your cookies lightly and have leftover frosting, i highly recommend spreading it on graham crackers. just don't taste it this way before you start assembling the cookies. if you're anything like me, you'll end up eating way too much and having to whip up a second batch. yum!