It’s been a blur of flour, butter, and chocolate around here lately, and honestly, you’d think I’d be sick of it. But I’m not.
For the last month, I’ve been embracing holiday baking with arms wide open – and have the freezer full of cookies to prove it. There were the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, yes. Then the crumbly brown butter cookies. Next, Earl Grey.
I made biscotti, four kinds of slice-and-bakes and, on a whim, triangle-shaped brown butter shortbread.
Right now, even as I type this, my sore throat aching and six blankets on top of me (thank you, winter), I’m dreaming of no-bake butter balls and peppermint marshmallows, and deciding I’ll have time to make those, too.
Priorities, you know?
There’s something wonderful, food-wise, about this time of year.
As the holidays approach, even non-cooks, the ones who say they aren’t very interested in the kitchen, have been known to pull out a sheet pan and frost some sugary Christmas trees or snowman cookies.
It’s just what you do during the holidays.
What I’m baking next is a dessert inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s original recipe – a new take on traditional cut-outs.
Use them and decorate them however your holiday heart wishes!
These soft chocolate cookies taste like brownies, and are the perfect holiday update to your usual sugar cut-outs!
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus extra for rolling)
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each one is fully incorporated. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Mix until a dough forms, but don’t overmix.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Press gently into a flat disc shape. Cover the disc in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
- When ready to roll and cut, preheat the oven to 350°F. Take out the chilled dough from the refrigerator.
- Dust a clean countertop or table with flour. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and place on the prepared surface. Roll it from 1/8-inch thickness to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into your desired shapes. Transfer the cookies to sheet pans lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, being sure to leave about 1/2 inch between each cookie.
- Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness. The edges will be slightly firm, and the center slightly soft and puffed. Remove from the oven. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes of the baking sheet before carefully transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Decorate and serve!
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
Keywords: chocolate, Christmas, roll-outs, cut-outs, cookies, brownies, royal icing
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Whisk the Dry Ingredients
Step 2 – Cream
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the unsalted butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each one is fully incorporated. Add the vanilla.
Step 3 – Add the Dry Mixture
Gradually add the dry mixture until a soft, uniform dough forms. Don’t overmix.
Step 4 – Chill
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Press gently into a flat disc shape.
Cover the disc in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for about one hour.
Step 5 – Roll and Cut
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Take the chilled dough out of the refrigerator. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
Dust a clean countertop or table with flour. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and roll it on the prepared surface, using more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Roll it to about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick, depending on your own preferences.
Cut into your desired shapes (snowflakes are perfect!), brushing off any extra deposits of flour from the top. If there is still some flour, no worries! It will disappear when baked.
But I actually like a bit of flour on them, to make them look even more like snow-dusted delights!
Step 6 – Bake
Place cut shapes on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness. The edges will be firm, and the center slightly soft and puffed.
Step 7 – Cool and Decorate
Remove from the oven. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes of the baking sheet before carefully transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Decorate however you wish!
To learn how to use royal icing for decorating, like in these photos, follow our tutorial to get our recipe, royal icing guidelines, and some fun decorating ideas.
A New Kind of Dessert for the Holidays
While I package up these fudgy, sugary chocolate snowflakes in square, red tins – a gift for my coworkers – it’s with the knowledge that I am not alone.
I know there are kitchens throughout Chicagoland, throughout the country, throughout the world, serving as backdrops for powdered sugar and creamed butter activities. And I’ll admit that’s part of why I like it.
There’s a unity, a sense of us all being in this together.
This time of year, we’re all part of a large community that watches the same White Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life on television, that checks off names on the same kinds of gift lists, that travels to see people we love, wherever they may be.
I like to think that at Christmastime especially, we reflect a little better on the essence of something we all desire and for which we were made:
Share the holiday spirit with me – post your favorite feel-good holiday treats in the comment section below.
And if cookies are your thing, check out some of these tasty recipes:
Don’t forget to Pin It!
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published December 18th, 2008 by Shanna Mallon. Revised and updated November 8th, 2018, with additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.