The other morning I woke up with these bittersweet chocolate glazed, espresso-flavored marshmallow puffs on my mind. I know. It sounds silly but it’s true. This isn’t the first time (and I hope not the last time) that I’ve started my day with a vision (of sorts) and on a mission. Maybe I had been dreaming of one of my childhood fave cookies Mallomars® or maybe hot chocolate with billows of marshmallow topping. All I can say for certain is that I had a serious sneaker (my expression for a hankering) for this cookie combo.
In my experience, some recipes-in-development come together quickly and easily with very few tests and tweaks while others, well, not so much. Luckily, this cookie’s birth fell into the former camp. Tackling the cookie first, I wanted a very lightly sweetened wafer cookie that was more flaky and tender than my usual sable style cookie. Adding a touch of leavening and reducing the sugar in one of my fave choco cut-out cookies did the trick. For the marshmallow center, I cut down my go-to recipe and flavored it with a heaping dose of instant espresso powder and a good splash of Kahlua®. It took a few test runs to infuse just the right about of coffee flavor – too much was unpleasantly bitter and too little was invisible when paired with the other components. The glaze recipe was easy – I’ve used variations of this recipe for years – but the how-to took a bit of trial and error. At first, I tried coating the whole shebang with the glaze just like Mallomars® but the end result wasn’t lovely to look at and the cookie was too messy to eat. A bit flummoxed with how to proceed, I set the project aside and pledged to take it up again in the morning. Some projects need to ‘ferment’ or ‘bubble up’ before they come into fruition and this one is a good example. Early the next morning, I began anew with a fresh batch of marshmallow-topped cookies and a warm batch of glaze. With my morning tea in hand, I stared at the project spread out in front of me and after a few minutes, I started dipping. Each glaze covered cookie looked so beautiful and wonderfully imperfect that it made me giggle. This simple process reminded me that recipes need not be complex or perfect to be worthy. (Perfection is unattainable so let’s agree to let that goal go.) It also reminded me of how silly-amazing my work day can be. My morning mission was to dip 44 ‘mallow puffs into a pond of warm, bittersweet chocolate glory. Proof, once again, that every day is a great day for baking.
Variation Alert: Skip the cookies and the glaze and make the marshmallows as a stand alone treat. Forget the pastry bag and grab a 9-inch square pan (one with straight sides is best for a distinctive edge). Whisk 2/3 cup (2 5/8 oz.) confectioners’ sugar and 1/2 cup (2 oz.) cornstarch in a small bowl until blended. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the pan and coat with about one third of the sugar-cornstarch mixture, tapping out any excess. Make the marshmallow as directed. (At this point, you can fold in 2/3 cup (4 oz.) finely chopped chocolate or mini chips, if you like.) Scrape the warm mixture into the pan and, using a small offset spatula with the bottom side of the blade lightly greased, spread evenly. Set on a rack to cool until firm and no longer tacky, 3 to 4 hours. Starting in one corner, use your fingers to peel the marshmallow away from the edges of the pan. The marshmallow will fall back into the pan but it will no longer be stuck. Lift and move the marshmallow to a cutting board and sprinkle the top with about a third of the remaining sugar-cornstarch mixture. Using a lightly greased, sharp knife, cut the marshmallow lengthwise into 6 equal strips and then cut each strip into 10 pieces. Toss the marshmallows, in batches, in the remaining sugar-cornstarch mixture until lightly but thoroughly coated. The marshmallows will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.
My son Alex likes these wafer-like cookies unadorned. Tender and flaky, they are lightly sweetened and balance beautiful with the marshmallow filling and topping. The cookies can be baked and frozen for up to three months before assembling.
Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Marshmallow Cookies
Makes about 44 cookies.
For the chocolate cookies
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (3/4 oz.) natural cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. table salt
12 Tbs. (6 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz.) granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the espresso marshmallow
1 cup water, divided
2 packages (1/4 oz. each) unflavored powdered gelatin
1 Tbs. coffee flavored liqueur
5 tsp. instant espresso powder
Pinch of table salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup Lyle’s golden cane syrup or light corn syrup
For the chocolate glaze
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 Tbs. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, cut up
2 Tbs. neutral oil
To make the cookies
- Put the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until well blended. Put the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric handheld mixer fitted with wire beaters). Beat on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy and lighter in color, 2 minutes. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough forms moist clumps.
- Arrange a piece of parchment on the work surface and lightly dust with flour. Scrape the dough onto the parchment and press into a flat rectangle. Lightly dust the dough with flour, cover with another piece of parchment, and press down on the dough to flatten. Using a rolling pin (with bands if you prefer), roll the dough between the parchment to a 1/4-inch thickness, turning, lifting, and repositioning the plastic or parchment and flouring throughout the rolling. Slide the dough and parchment onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm, 30 to 60 minutes.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick liners.
- Arrange the sheet of dough on the work surface and remove the top piece of parchment. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out shapes. Arrange about 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Stack the scraps and gently press together, reroll, chill, and cut up to two more times.
- As the sheets are filled, bake one at a time refrigerating the remaining sheet as needed. Bake the cookies until the tops are dry looking, 11 to 13 minutes. Move the sheet to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a rack and let cool completely.
To make the marshmallow
- Line two half sheet pans with parchment. Arrange the cooled cookies about 1 inch apart with the bottom side down. Lightly grease a extra piece of parchment or a large plate. Fit a large (1/2 to 2/3 inch plain or fluted) tip into a pastry bag .
- Pour 1/2 cup water into bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let sit until the gelatin is moist and plump, about 5 minutes. Add the coffee liqueur, espresso powder and salt. (They’ll stay on top of the gelatin for now.)
- Put the remaining 1/2 cup water, the sugar, and cane or corn syrup in a small heavy saucepan. Cook, stirring, over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Boil, without stirring, until the hot syrup is 255°F.
- Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture in a thin stream down the side of the bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto the whisk, as it will splash against the sides of the bowl). Gradually increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is very thick, 7 to 8 minutes. The outside of the bowl will still feel quite warm. It’s important to work with the marshmallow while it’s still warm—it’s impossible to pipe when it’s cold.
- Fill the prepared pastry bag with some of the marshmallow. Pipe the marshmallow onto the center of each cookie in a dome shape about 3/4-inches high in the center leaving about a 1/4-inch cookie border. As you reach the top of the dome, release the pressure on the bag and in one continuous motion, lift the pastry tip up and swirl around to form a small peak. The peaks can be left as is or tamped down with a damp fingertip just after piping. Reload the pastry bag with marshmallow as needed. Any extra marshmallow can be piped into mounds on the extra lightly greased parchment or plate. Set aside until the marshmallows are completely cool but still a bit tacky, 30 to 60 minutes.
To make the chocolate glaze
- Combine the chocolate, butter and oil in a small heatproof bowl. Melt over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave and whisk until well blended and smooth. Set aside to cool until warm, not hot, to the touch.
- Working with one cookie at a time, dip the marshmallow into the chocolate to coat, lift up and let the excess drip off. Return the cookie to the sheet pans, marshmallow side up. Set aside until the chocolate is set, 45 to 90 minutes. Stow in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 3 days.