Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread CookiesFor my 40th birthday (a long time ago) I decided to celebrate by taking my husband and 2 children on their first trip to Europe. Inspired by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (an historic fiction/romance which begins in the United Kingdom), I chose Scotland as our destination. It is a beautiful, magical country.

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread CookiesAs my children learned how to be travelers, I learned about prepping for and planning family focused trips. It is truly amazing to me what kinds of interests can be sparked in children with just a little preparation. Before our trip, we read fairy tales of the Highlands, discussed Nessie at length, and even read a children’s version of Macbeth.  With a ten year old and five year old in tow, our itinerary spent less time in museums and more time enjoying trains and boats, exploring castles and gardens, and searching for prehistoric beasties.

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread CookiesI had some unrealistic expectations on that trip. My children did not mysteriously turn into little adults. They continued to act like the children they were and had the same number of melt downs and grumpy moments as they would have had at home.  On a longer travel day, when they had been cooped up too long together in the back seat of the rental car, they squabbled just like they would have at home. I am not sure why I was surprised. However, what I also didn’t expect was the long lasting, positive impact those 3 short weeks in Scotland would have on our family, my daughter in particular.

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

It was on this trip, at the Oban Highland Games, that my daughter first saw and fell in love with competitive Highland dance. She watched the groups of girls (and a few boys) dance the same three dances over and over as they competed for the highest individual performance score. The music of the pipers flowed into her soul and she desperately wanted to know how to dance to its beat.

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

When we got back to St. Louis, a series of amazing coincidences led us to Sandra Brown, a woman who we believe (with a certain amount of bias) is the world best Scottish dance teacher. My daughter has now been involved in Scottish Highland dance and a part of Sandra’s Dance Caledonia for 14 years! Though we have no Scots in our background, from time to time we consider ourselves to be honorary Scots.

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

As honorary Scots my daughter performs in Pride of Scotland tartan. As honorary Scots we are aware that Robert Burns is the national poet of Scotland and we attend the annual Burns Dinner held in his honor here in St. Louis (and all over the world). As honorary Scots we are supposed to savor haggis, but don’t.  We do, however, savor shortbread, Scotland’s gift to the world of cookies.

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

I wish that I had thought of posting a shortbread recipe this winter. Shortbread is a wonderful care package cookie. Kept in an airtight container at room temperature it will stay fresh for 3-6 weeks. The flavor improves over time. However, the key here is room temperature. This is NOT a hot weather cookie. These are butter cookies and can easily go rancid if you ship these during the summer. If it is already too hot at your care package destination, enjoy shortbread at home now and bake them for mailing when its cool again.

This recipe is originally from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. It is not a traditional shortbread because of the added chocolate and espresso, but it is delicious. The dough can be cut with a knife into squares/fingers/wedges or can be cut with cookie cutters. I cut one batch into squares and used a 1 ½” cookie cutter on another batch.

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread

Adapted minimally from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

(Printable recipe)

Makes about 42 cookies

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

1 tablespoon boiling water

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar plus extra for dusting

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 toffee chocolate bar or plain semisweet chocolate bar (3.5-4 ounces), finely chopped (something like Ghiradelli’s Toffee Interlude or Green&Black’s Toffee Milk Chocolate)

(3/4 cup of mini chocolate chips can be used instead of the chopped chocolate bar)

  • In a very small bowl, dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the confectioner’s sugar and butter for 3 minutes at medium speed.
  • Add the vanilla and espresso, beating until incorporated.
  • Add the flour and mix at low speed until just combined.
  • Fold in the chopped chocolate.
  • Transfer the dough into a gallon sized zip lock bag but do not close the bag.
  • Roll the dough into rectangle the width of the bag and ¼” thick (approximately 9”x 11”x ¼”). While rolling, make sure no creases are formed in the dough from wrinkles in the plastic.
  • Zip the bag closed removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate for 2 hours- 2 days.

When ready to bake:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Cut open the zip lock bag and place the dough rectangle on a cutting board.
  • Using a sharp knife or cookie cutter, cut the dough into desired shapes and transfer to the baking sheet.
  • Use a fork to poke holes in each cookie.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  • Dust with confectioner’s sugar while the cookies are still hot.
  • Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Store at room temperature in an airtight container for at least 3 weeks.

Packing tips: Wrap  small piles of cookies in plastic wrap then place in an air tight container or zip lock bag for mailing.

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34 thoughts on “Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

  1. these are so lovely! You’re so right; Scotland may have missed it a bit with haggis, but they totally got it right with shortbread; it’s one of my favorites (and so much fun to mess with/add things to). What a great story about your trip to scotland; i’ve only ever made it as far as florida with a little one in tow, and i am aware of the pitfalls as well as the fun. Certainly even though there are meltdowns, every trip has the potential to really affect kids in a positive way, even if they don’t act like it at the time. :)

  2. I am completly in love with those shortbead cookies !! I don’t really like the espresso flavour generally and I am always wondering what can I add instead of it !
    Your little story really touched me and I loved to read about you and your little family !
    I hope you spent good Passover holidays !

    • Sarah, I know that these shortbread cookies would also be good without the espresso. You would taste the traditional butter flavor. One teaspoon of vanilla extract or scrape the seeds from half of a vanilla bean plus some delicious French butter then enjoy! I also hope you had a joyous Passover!

  3. These shortbread cookies sound delicious and it’s just the type of change-up you expect from Dorie Greenspan. I love your story about traveling with your kids and the impact this particular trip had on your daughter. We took our 7 yr-old to Paris last Spring and though I’m not sure how much of it he’ll eventually retain, it was wonderful to share the experience with him and watch him absorb it all. : )

    • I think, Monica, that what kids retain from trips abroad, isn’t necessarily images and facts. What they do learn and retain is that the world is a big place with many cultures, languages, religions, foods, histories. They learn that there are many ways to live and view the rest of the world. I believe there is the potential for children to begin becoming world citizens. :) How exciting to share Paris as a family!

    • Thanks, Jocelyn! Travel is often an adventure and with kids (my kids, any way) its a big adventure! :) Trips are extended indefinitely when you can bring home a taste for new things. Shortbread is one of those things for us. :)

    • These are cookies for espresso lovers, Suzie. The flavor isn’t hidden at all. The chocolate just adds a creamy touch. They really do hold up well to a cup of coffee or a glass of milk. Too bad you can’t invite come over for coffee and cookies! :)

    • Thank you, Tricia! I really do appreciate your kind words. The recipe is the main point of my posts and I don’t want to bore anyone with the back story. :) Some times though, the back story is the reason for the recipe. A trip to Scotland is well worth dreaming about and planning for!

  4. Wendy these sound amazing… I always love shortbread to begin with but with espresso and chocolate??? Right up my alley. Although your story is making me wish I was going on a fun trip soon! haha

    • Thanks, Ashley! You can always bake the shortbread and munch on them with your eyes closed and pretend you are in Scotland. :) Not quite the same but you’d still have the cookies. :)

    • :) So very true, Dorothy! I don’t know why it took a 3 week trip to Europe for that simple truth to register. It didn’t keep me from planning further trips, I was just more prepared. This shortbread has a wonderful flavor. I hope you’ll try and let me know what you think.

    • Thanks, Erin! Shortbread is generally flexible in terms of thickness. Some like it thick (bake longer) and some like it thin (bake less time). As for haggis…..the less said the better. :)

  5. Traveling with kids can definitely be tough but it sounds like you guys had a great trip! I love shortbread and the espresso chocolate flavor sounds super tasty!

    • Thanks, Joanne! I learned that travel with kids is like life with kids; a ton of work but ultimately you can’t imagine it any other way. :) I hope you’ll try the cookies. The espresso flavor is delicious!

  6. I am completely jealous of your trip! Such lasting memories you must of created! It’s been too long since I’ve made or even eaten shortbread. These look melt-in-your-mouth irresistibly delicious!

    • Thanks, Reeni! I only recently developed a love of shortbread. Luckily, its a great care package cookie so I have an excuse to bake a variety. :) Research, research, research! :) Travel does create lasting memories. That is why I try to celebrate “big” birthdays in my family with a trip present rather than an object.

  7. All of your recipes look amazing! Can’t wait to try these expresso chocolate short bread cookies. It’ll be my first time attempting a short bread cookie recipe :0)

    • You are so sweet! I used this recipe for my first attempt at shortbread, Beth. I was amazed at how easy it was (not sure what I had expected) and went on from there to try recipes for traditional just butter flavored (several) and other flavors. Easy, long lasting, delicious. What’s not to love? Let me know what you think! :)

  8. Love your mention of Dianna Gabeldon. She is one of my favorite authors…I have read all of the Outlander series as well as her Lord John books. My love of shortbread stems from the books as well as my Scottish ancestry, and I look forward to making these for my husband, the coffee and espresso friend. I am more of a purist. Although I do love Rosemary Shortbread too. Haggis, not at all!!
    Thank you for your story and for sharing this recipe.

    • Thank you, Lizzy! Though I enjoyed the Outlander series more than the Lord John books, I love reading anything by Dianna Gabeldon. Once someone starts reading Outlander, they are hooked! :) I bake a lot of things with chocolate and espresso flavor, because that flavor combo is my son’s favorite. BUT, I have a plain shortbread (perfect for your purist preference) that I think is WONDERFUL. I will be posting the recipe in the fall. (Butter doesn’t do well in care packages in the summer, so I am waiting to share the recipe in cooler weather.) Please let me know how your husband likes these and I hope you will keep reading and let me know what you think of the “pure” shortbread when I post it! :)

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