Chocolate-Candy Crunch Cookies
Makes 36 2 1/2-inch cookies.
About 4 ounces broken-up peppermint candy canes (or substitute peppermint pinwheel candies) or cherry- or raspberry-flavored hard candies
12 ounces broken-up semisweet or bittersweet chocolate or 2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate morsels
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
6 1/2 tablespoons Dutch process (European-style) cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Generous1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose white flour
Place a rack in the middle third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line several large baking sheets with baking parchment.
Place the unwrapped candies in a triple thickness of plastic baggies. Close the bags tightly. Using a kitchen mallet, rolling pin, or back of a heavy spoon, pound the candy into scant 1/4 inch or finer pieces. Prepare enough to fill 1/2 cup; set aside. By hand or in a processor, chop the chocolate or chocolate morsels into 1/8-inch or finer bits; set aside.
In a large mixer bowl with the mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter, sugar, and half the crushed candy pieces until well blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and yolk, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, peppermint or almond extract (if using), and vanilla and chopped chocolate and continue beating on low, then medium speed until very well blended, about 1 minute longer. Working on low speed, beat in half the flour until incorporated Stir in the remaining flour until thoroughly incorporated. If the dough seems too sticky to handle, let stand to firm up about 5 minutes.
Divide the dough into thirds; on wax paper shape each portion into a 6-inch, evenly-thick log. Cut each log into 12 equal 1/2-inch portions. With lightly greased hands, shape the portions into balls, spacing about 2 inches apart on baking sheets. With the heel of the hand, pat down the balls until just flattened.
Bake, one sheet at a time, for 8 to 11 minutes, just until the cookies are beginning to feel firm when pressed at the edges; be very careful not to overbake. Sprinkle each cookie with a little of the reserved candy bits. Return the pan to the oven for about 40 to 50 seconds, or until the candy bits just begin to melt. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies are cooled completely. These are best fresh, but will keep, airtight and at room temperature for up to 3 days. Or freeze, airtight, for longer storage.
These are gratifying, deeply chocolaty cookies enlivened inside and out with bits of crushed hard candy. Either red and white peppermint swirl candies or canes, or red, cherry- or raspberry-flavored hard candies work well. For Christmas, peppermint candy is the obvious choice. For Valentine's Day, go with cherry, raspberry, or other fruit-flavored hard candies for a festive look and taste. With the peppermint candy, it's nice, though not essential, to enhance the dough with a little peppermint extract. For the fruit-flavored candy, use almond extract instead.
Tip: Note that you'll need enough candies to yield 1/2 cup of 1/4 inch or finer pieces. While small bits add a pleasant crunch, larger candy bits tend to be very hard on the teeth and make the cookies tricky to eat. Also, keep in mind that the shards used to garnish the cookie tops go on at the very end of baking so they don't overheat and run. And don't skip the baking parchment; the candy in the cookies makes them prone to sticking.