I'm on somewhat of a role for Valentine themed baking. I'm usually lucky if I get just one up the day before. What are you guys baking for Valentine's Day?
These chocolate butter cookies come from America's Test Kitchen. What makes them different is the method of preparation, mostly blooming the cocoa powder with butter and instant espresso powder. This brings out the depth of flavor from the cocoa, which the espresso powder boosts. You then proceed by mixing the remaining butter with the sugar, salt (which I increased by 1/4 teaspoon) and chilled cocoa mixture. As the recipe only has egg yolks, the cookies are a bit denser than a typical butter cookies, especially since there is no leavening. The texture is mealy, almost like a shortbread-brownie hybrid.
The dough is really a dream to work with. I rolled it out between two sheets of wax paper (lightly dusting the bottom and top with confectioners' sugar), then freezing until firm before cutting shapes out. This helps make transferring shapes to the baking sheet easier and also keeps the form of the cookies while its being baked. Scraps are then rerolled and the process is repeated. I did separate the dough in half before refrigerating. (If you refrigerated the dough overnight, let stand at room temperature until somewhat softened but still firm.)
Part of the reason I hesitate to make decorated cookies is because they're time intensive. Most of it is that I hate eating such a beautifully designed piece of work.
In this case, I simply dipped the tops of the cookies in royal icing (the best kind of icing for decorating sugar cookies, in my opinion) and sprinkled with sanding sugar after 3 minutes. I waited so that the sugar wouldn't seep into the icing, but would stand out more once it had dried a little.
You can also use a small offset spatula to spread the icing on top, as I did with these cookies. The royal icing dries into a thin, crisp candy-like shell, and the sugar provides a nice crunch. The contrast between the topping and the cookie balances nicely, and the cocoa in the cookie keeps the icing from being overly sweet.
I highly suggest trying this recipe out, even if you've had trouble with rolled cookies in the past. You'll be glad you did and you'll end up with dozens of tasty cookies!
chocolate butter cookies
Recipe from Cooks Illustrated
20 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to cool room temperature (about 65 degrees)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Your favorite icing or frosting
Various sugars or sprinkles, for decorating
- Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375°. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and espresso powder; stir until mixture forms smooth paste. Set aside to cool, 15 to 20 minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix remaining 16 tablespoons butter, sugar, salt, and cooled cocoa mixture on high speed with a electric mixer until well combined and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping sides of mixing bowl once or twice with rubber spatula. Add yolks and vanilla and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl. With mixer running on low, add flour in three additions, waiting until each addition is incorporated before adding next and scraping bowl after each addition. Continue to mix until dough forms cohesive ball, about 5 seconds. Turn dough onto counter; divide in half and press into a square. Wrap each square in plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is firm yet malleable, 45 to 60 minutes.
- Roll out 1 dough disk between 2 large sheets wax paper (sprinkled with confectioners' sugar, or parchment paper) to even thickness of 3/16 inch. Chill in freezer until firm. Peel wax paper from one side of dough and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutter(s); place shapes on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Gather dough scraps and chill.
- Bake until cookies show slight resistance to touch, 9 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time; if cookies begin to darken on edges, they have overbaked. Cool for 5 minutes, then, using spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack; cool completely. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with remaining dough disks and scraps, rerolling scraps. Decorate as desired.
Makes about 4 dozen 2 1/2-inch cookies.