Christmas Cookie Palooza: Snowy chocolate sea salt shortbread.

When I was thinking about posting a chocolate shortbread Christmas cookie recipe, I had in mind something fancy, with a drizzle of melted chocolate and some crushed peppermint candies. But when I sampled a smidge of this chocolate shortbread dough [you do that too, right?] I decided that it wanted nothing more than a dusting of snowy flake sea salt.

Salt and chocolate isn’t a new thing, of course. But the sweet-salty combination never fails to land me hook, line and sinker. You’ll want a very flaky sea salt for this cookie, to give the impression of freshly fallen snow.

I’ve had this recipe forever and recently rediscovered it in my recipe box as I was scouting ideas for Christmas Cookie Palooza. It was handwritten by a long-ago colleague whose script I don’t recognize on a page of Story magazine stationery (Story being a now-defunct literary magazine published by my former employer).

Like all good shortbread, these cookies are intensely buttery, and they keep well at room temperature for several days. To make them last through the holidays, freeze them in a plastic container.

Sure, you could gussie them up with a drizzle of melted semisweet chocolate and some crushed peppermints. But they’re great under a little snowy white salt.

sea-salt chocolate shortbread cookie recipe

makes about 4 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Coarse sea salt flakes, for finishing

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt into a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer) cream the butter until it's very soft, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and cream together until the mixture is light, about 1 minute. Spoon 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and stir to completely blend. Continue adding the dry ingredients, 1/4 cup at a time (unless you want your kitchen to be enveloped in a cloud of flour and cocoa), until the dough is completely blended. In a small bowl, whisk together a couple of tablespoons each of flour and cocoa for dusting the dough and rolling pin (this will prevent unsightly white flour residue on the cookies). Divide the dough in half; roll one half of dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter (I used a 2-inch fluted square) to cut shapes; reroll scraps. Place the cookies on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with second half of dough. Cover the cookie sheets and refrigerate 3–4 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350°. Just before baking, sprinkle the cookies with flaky sea salt. Bake cookies for 12–15 minutes, or until cookies are dry and set. Cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

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