Cookie Tour 2017 – Santa’s Buttons Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the 13th Annual Currier & Ives Cookie Tour held on December 9th. This year, our cookie was a peanut butter-filled chocolate sandwich cookie we called “Santa’s Buttons”… because, well, it was made to look like a button! (If you are just looking for the recipe, you’ll find it here as a pdf: Santa’s Buttons Chocolate Sandwich Cookies.)

This recipe came together pretty easily and I had some fun with it (see references to The Snowman and Peterborough’s Holiday Cookie Contest below).  Granted, it is a little bit time consuming, as most roll-out cookies with decorations can be, but the good news is that it can be broken down into smaller steps so that it can be fit into a busy holiday schedule if needed.  So as I delve into some of the cookie details, let me first introduce you to my special helper… The Snowman! Over the years, he has been our unofficial mascot for the Cookie Tour… showing up in pictures and bringing smiles to faces. This year, he took on a more active role in the cookie recipe development. (If you are interested in seeing more, his full adventures are chronicled on the Little River Bed & Breakfast Facebook page!)

Meet The Snowman… ready to make cookies!

The Chocolate Cookie:

I am not a big fan of plain sugar cookies and have always wanted to find a chocolate roll-out cookie recipe that really tasted good. So when I came across the Brownie Roll-out Cookie in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman I thought… brownie… cookie… great!… and gave it a try. The results were yummy… just the right amount of texture (not too soft, not too crisp), a rich, chocolatey flavor and a dough that was fairly easy to work with.  I tried a few variations with the recipe and decided on the following:

  • You can increase the amount of cocoa in the recipe (and reduce the flour by the same amount), but I didn’t think it was necessary.
  • The Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa has the best color and flavor in these cookies. (I tried a couple of different batches, one with all Dutch Process Cocoa and another with half Dutch Process Cocoa and half Hershey’s Natural Cocoa, and while they were good, the Hershey’s Special Dark was still the best.) Bonus: The Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa is not a specialty item and can be found in standard grocery stores at the same price as the traditional Hershey’s Natural Cocoa.
  • If you want to make these cookies gluten-free, the Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour with the red label makes a pretty good cookie. You have to keep the dough cold when rolling it out (and I used some potato starch to make it less sticky when rolling), but the end result was pretty good. (In contrast, I also tried a rice-based flour mix, but the cookies came out too dry and gritty.)
  • If you are trying to add more whole wheat flour in your baking, you can also make these cookies with half all-purpose flour and half white whole wheat flour! I tried this variation in order to enter to enter these cookies into Peterborough’s Holiday Cookie Contest, sponsored by King Arthur Flour, which had a requirement that the recipe include whole wheat flour. I can confidently say that this variation is an excellent option… because these cookies won a blue ribbon in the contest!
  • If you are short on time, you can freeze the cookie dough, then defrost it in the refrigerator and roll and bake the cookies later. Or… you can roll and bake the cookies, freeze them when cooled, then add the filling at a later date. Or… you can make the cookies in their entirety and freeze them… it all works just fine!

The Peanut Butter Filling:

I started with a standard Buckeye candy filling, but at room temperature, it was too soft and squeezed out when you tried to bite into the cookies. So, drawing on last year’s Inside-Out Eggnog Snickerdoodle recipe work, I decided to try mixing the peanut butter with melted white chocolate and with just a little bit of adjustment in the ratio of the two, I got a filling that was just the right balance… yummy peanut butter taste, soft enough to bite into and firm enough to stay in place between the cookies.

For those who have an allergy or don’t eat peanut butter, I also developed an alternate recipe for a vanilla filling. In this case, it is basically a vanilla frosting mixed with melted white chocolate, and it works great in these cookies.  For these, we use blue decorations and call them “Snowman Buttons”!

Snowman Buttons

So here are some helpful photos and the recipe to follow:

After the dough is chilled roll it out in smaller portions that fit on your work surface.
Feel free to use plenty of flour to keep it from sticking.

 

I really like rolling pin guides like these to help get an even thickness on my dough.

 

Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut the cookie, then use a smaller cutter with a rolled edge or a glass to press an indent into the cookies. Be careful not to press to hard!

 

Use a toothpick, a small straw, or a frosting tip to poke holes in the center.

 

Cookies do not expand much on baking so they can be placed very close together on the cookie sheet. If you are having trouble transferring the cookies to the baking sheet without their shapes distorting, you can move the plain rounds to the baking sheet, then add the button pattern before baking them.

 

Peanut butter filling: melt white chocolate, mix in peanut butter. It is that easy.

 

I found it easiest to use a scoop to add the filling to the cookies…

 

… then spread it out with a spatula…

 

… and add the sprinkles before placing the top on the cookie!

 

Whether you use frosting or melted chocolate to add the “threads” on top, a pastry bag and tip is the best tool for the job.  A ziplock bag with a tiny corner cut out will also work, but you won’t have as much control as with the decorating tip.

Here’s the recipe:

(A pdf of the recipe can be found HERE.)

Santa’s Buttons – Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate Cookies:

1 cup butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups all purpose flour or a combination with up to half white whole wheat

2/3 cups Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

Peanut Butter Filling:

2 cups white chocolate chips or other white chocolate

1 ½  cups creamy peanut butter

Vanilla Filling:

2 cups white chocolate chips or other white chocolate

1 cup butter, at room temperature

2 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pinch salt

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Decorations (optional):  holiday sprinkles, colored chocolate (candy melts), and/or frosting/icing

Chocolate Cookies: Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until incorporated. Add flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder. Beat on low until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour. (Dough may seem dry, but will come together as it chills. Dough can be refrigerated for a couple of days or stored in the freezer for a couple of weeka.)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Roll out cookie dough to a thickness of about 1/8-inch on a floured surface. Turn dough over and re-flour surface as needed to keep dough from sticking. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut cookies. On half of the cookie rounds, create a button-look by using a smaller cookie cutter to press and indent into the top of the dough (be careful not to press all the way through), then use a toothpick or small straw to create holes in the center of the cookie (these should go all the way through). Carefully transfer cookie rounds to prepared baking sheets (cookies can be placed quite close as they do not spread much on baking). Scraps of dough can be gathered up and rerolled as needed until all of the dough has been used up.

Bake at 350 F for about 8 to 10 minutes or until they are set. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes or until firm, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Note: These cookies are almost impossible to tell if they are done just by looking. The exact timing of the bake depends on how warm the dough is, the type of cookie sheet, true oven temperature, etc. When the cookies are baked less, they can be quite soft; when baked longer, they turn out more crunchy. If the exact texture of the finished cookie is important to you, I suggest you do a test bake and let the cookie(s) cool before testing for doneness, then adjusting baking time as needed.

Make the desired filling (Peanut Butter or Vanilla… or a half-batch of each as follows:

Peanut Butter Filling: Melt white chocolate chips in microwave or using a double-boiler. Remove from heat, add peanut butter, and mix until thoroughly combined.

Vanilla Filling: Melt white chocolate chips and set aside to cool a little bit. Beat butter until soft, then add milk, vanilla, salt and 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Beat in melted white chocolate and the remaining 1 cup of sugar.

Assemble Sandwich Cookies: Spread filling* on bottom cookie (plain round), add sprinkles if desired, and top with button-patterned cookie, squeezing to distribute filling evenly.  *Note: If filling is too runny, allow it to cool slightly before adding to cookies.  If filling gets too firm to spread, heat on low power in the microwave very briefly to soften.

Optional: Create the “threads” on the top of the cookie using melted colored chocolate (candy melts) or frosting/icing. Let “thread” decorations harden before stacking or storing cookies.

Enjoy!

If you are interested in recipes from past years, here are the links to our blog posts:

2010 – Mint-Filled Chocolate Fudge Cookies

2011 – Granola Cookies

2012 – S’mores Cookies

2013 – Chocolate-Caramel Pretzel Cookies

2014 – Peppermint Swirl Sugar Cookies

2015 – Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies

2016 – Inside-Out Eggnog Snickerdoodles

The Snowman says “See you next year!”