Aversion: Chocolate Espresso Shortbread

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

-No aversion to these at all.-

Unlike my friend, Janelle, who has an intense aversion towards Peruvian flute bands and movies where large-breasted teenagers have their organs band sawed off by psychopaths, I find intense fascination in them. Should she hear either one in the background she will go out of her way to locate its source and then proceed to get 200 yards away from it and whip out her MP3 player in order to drown it all out. Don't even try to get her inside a Hot Topic store. It's like she's afraid the droves of hipsters will beat her to death with lead pipes decorated with Rainbow Bright decals.

On the other hand I do everything in my power to avoid various objects, people, places, and ideas. I'm no different from my friend, or in that matter anyone else.

Personally, I use every fiber of my being to avoid disappointment, hearing about astrology as a means of guiding your life, ironing my clothes, prolonged small talk, court TV, the state of boredom, and the state of Wyoming. I also have a tendency to steer clear of guys who wear too much Abercrombie & Fitch clothing. (This, though, is easily mitigated if they're wearing Abercrombie & Fitch's cologne, Fierce, which usually encourages bouts of heavy purring in me.)

The sources of aversion are numerous; they can be icky, painful, traumatic, unknown, or far too familiar. Other times it may be trivial such as my disinclination to check the mail, which I'm sure must piss off my mail carrier as he tries to cram yet another day's bills and fliers into a too tiny mailbox.

Of course, some sources of aversion are extreme and with proper grounds. When I graduated college I fell into a job at a local non-profit. The work had moral glitter and I enjoyed the fact that while it made me look selfless when people asked what I did at parties, really, it was a comfy job that paid well and had good benefits. The only downside of that job was my ex, Will, from my freshmen year of college, worked there.

-Nibby doughs are happy doughs. Plus, they make for a great Valentine's Day cookie.-

We had broken up years ago for many reasons. He was the first person I had ever dated and he pressed for marriage while I was still eighteen. I felt that I could be tied to a table and suffocated with pillow and still not be as smothered as when he called me six times a day. Saran wrap could take a lesson on cling from him. I in turn had only dated this one person. I wanted freedom, so, I cheated. I cheated a lot. The relationship was a velvet prison, too comfy and familiar to leave, so I found a way to ensure that he would break up with me.

That relationship, as a whole, was like a Melville novel. It started out with potential, but it was boring, tedious, and by the end left me wondering why I had stuck with it as long as I did. The breakup was efficient, though, not without crying, and I found myself pretty well over it by the month's end.

Still, the prospect of working with and seeing Will on a regular basis was about appealing as having a colonic preformed with industrial strength drain cleaner. I took great pains to avoid him at work; I took lunches late, I prowled around corners, and I sat on the other side of the room at staff meetings.

During times we had to interact we were cordial to each other for the sake of professionalism, an often under-appreciated savior. However, throughout the conversation we sprinkled in insults and snide comments that only the two of us would recognize. In fact, each public passing was like a coded game of the dozens for us. If we didn't dislike each other so much this game might have even been more fun than it already was (to me, at least).

-As tasty as these are they're a bitch to photograph.-

I realized that this intense aversion started to go too far when I actually hid in a broom closet to dodge him. Almost immediately after I hid myself, naturally, he was stopped by his supervisor and pulled into a conversation. I spent about twenty minutes trying to stay silent with a mop handle jabbed into my kidney. You may say I could have just walked out but after anything more than thirty seconds in a broom closet it's pretty safe to assume that there isn't any excuse you can make that won't cause people to question if they should invite you over to their next party.

I'm not sure why it was like this. I had faced him before on numerous occasions and had weathered it fine, even politely. Maybe after all this time I had begun to feel guilt? Maybe I simply was tired of the uncomfortable looks and false pleasantries? Maybe I just didn't want to see his stupid face? Either way, I simply didn't want to be around him.

Of course, not all aversions are as deeply personal. Some are simply based on intensely focused displeasure. Cooking is no different. There are some culinary tasks I just avoid at all costs.

I do my best to avoid cooking fish. This isn't because I don't know how, but because I never remember how to clean or cut them and I don't want people who think I'm a good cook to know otherwise (though with this confession I guess that's no longer a problem). I keep my distance from lima beans. My mother's cooking has ensured that they and I will never be on speaking terms.

If I can avoid it I won't bake anything in a waterbath, as a combination of poor coordination and boiling hot water never seems to work well for me. (This fact alone means every baking instructor I have ever had insists on making me get over this fear of mine. The result usually being an accident and the aversion increasing.)

-Perfect with a glass of milk which will help dilute the sheer amount of caffeine you'll inject into your bloodstream.-

Lastly, and maybe most surprisingly, I tend to shy away from cooking with chocolate. Don't confuse this with me saying I dislike chocolate. I enjoy it quite a bit. However, if I'm given the choice to make chocolate chip cookies or prepare a simple jam or fruit tart I'll go with the latter. In addition, when it comes to messiness, fruit is generally the cleaner of the two and, yes, that does factor into the decision for me.

This is all much to BF's lament as he prefers chocolate to fruit, even to cigarettes, which is really saying something assuming he could hear me when he smokes outside on the patio.

Going through the last few posts I noticed an exceptional focus on citrus and cheese and as much as I love that I need a break from it myself once in a while. I actually craved something musky and bitter, something crunchy, and chocolate seemed the way to go.

Chocolate shortbread with espresso powder seemed the right way to go. To say these cookies have only a shot of espresso is misleading. It's more like a buckshot of espresso in the torso. The right amount of chocolate and espresso give these a nice bang. Crushed cocoa nibs add a little more crunch to the sandy texture of the shortbread and make a simple, but intense cookie.

This isn't to say I won't still avoid chocolate when it comes to baking. It's a given that I will, but it's always nice to have something rich and reliable to fall back on when I'm feeling forward for cocoa.

Chocolate Espresso Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Elizabeth Falkner's recipe in The Essence of Chocolate

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 heaping tablespoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa nibs, crushed with a rolling pin
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Combine flour, espresso powder, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed for 5 minutes, being sure to scrape down the sides and bottom as needed. Add the vanilla and mix for 30 seconds. Add about half the flour mixture and mix on low speed. Scrape down the bottom and sides and add the rest of the flour mixture. Once incorporated mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Mix in cocoa nibs.

4. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and place the dough on it. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness with a rolling pin. (You can also lightly flour a work space, but I find my method far easier, cleaner, and the shortbread keeps a sandy texture by not picking up the flour.) You may find the dough getting too soft. If it does, place it in the freezer for ten minutes to firm it up before you continue rolling. Cut into desired shapes and place on baking sheets about 1 inch apart.

5. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Remove the pans and allow to cool for a minute or two before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 3 dozen.


  1. I feel like I always say this, but I love your writing style. And with your great recipes, I'm hooked.

    I laughed out loud when you were explaining how clingy this guy was, and my coworkers scowled at me. It was worth it though.

    These are gorgeous for Valentine's Day. I think I'd dip mine in a little ganache? Just in case the deal wasn't already sealed.

  2. Kudos to you Garret. You are really funny. You just had me laughing out loud about the broom closet incident. You are a talented writer. I just love laughing, so I know where to go next time I need a good laugh.

  3. These are awesome short bread. I liked your writeup. I will try this one.

  4. Oh, yes please! Topped with some whipped cream, I think. Your pictures are so stunning I can't resist.

    And leave poor Melville alone, he was brilliant! ( sorry; guess who wrote her thesis on Moby Dick?)

  5. As always, delicious! i can´t wait to make it. Thanks, I love your blog

  6. I love reading your blog....
    These shortbread cookies sound delicious!!!

  7. Wonderfully shot, Garrett! Can't wait to make these :)

  8. Made them and they are DARK chocolate, maybe alittle too (No, not possible). I used a mix of DP cocoa and black cocoa. A valuable addition to my recipes. And I suspect if you wanted revenge on anyone with toddlers, send over a batch!!

  9. Beautiful. After years of snottily ignoring people who tell me I have to make macarons, you may have just accidentally convinced me. Because I want to put some cocoa nibs in them. And aren't extra egg yolks just a perfect excuse to make key lime pie?

  10. Very good recipe, looks very rich and easy to make, perfect for children's birthday because they love chocolate and be happy.


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