“There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Chocolate Butter Cookies
slightly adapted from Holiday Baking 2009 by Cook’s Illustrated
makes about 4 dozen 2½-inch cookies
For these cookies, I used Dutch-process cocoa powder (such as Droste or Valrhona) for a more intense chocolate flavor and darker color. But natural cocoa powder (such as Scharffen Berger, Hershey’s, or Nestle) will also work. However after reading Alice Medrich and David Lebovitz, I’ve learned that, in most recipes, Dutch-process and natural cocoa power can’t be used interchangeably. Natural cocoa powder is acidic and works with baking soda. Dutch-process cocoa has been neutralized and works with baking powder. But, as there’s no leavening in these cookies, use whatever cocoa powder you have on hand.
On a less scientific note, I made the dough a day ahead and chilled it overnight. If you like to plan even farther in advance, it can been made and chilled, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Defrost frozen dough in the chill chest overnight.
- 20 tablespoons unsalted butter (10 ounces), softened
- ½ cup (2 oz) cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2¼ cups (11¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Glaze
- 1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons milk, divided
- 1½ cups (6 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
- pinch of salt
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add cocoa powder and espresso powder; stir until mixture forms smooth paste. Let cool for 15-20 minutes.
In stand mixer, beat remaining 16 tablespoons butter, sugar, salt, and cooled cocoa mixture on high speed until well combined and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping sides of mixing bowl once or twice. Add yolks and vanilla and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl. Turn mixer to low and add flour in three additions. Wait until flour is incorporated before adding more and scrape bowl after each addition. Continue mixing until dough forms cohesive ball, about 5 seconds. Turn dough onto counter; divide into three 4-inch disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is firm yet malleable, 45-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Roll out 1 dough disk between 2 large sheets parchment paper to even thickness of ¼ inch. (If dough becomes soft and sticky, rechill until firm, about 10 minutes.) Peel parchment from one side of dough and cut with cookie cutters. Space cookies about 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Gather dough scraps and chill.
Bake until cookies show slight resistance when gently pressed in the center, about 10-12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. If cookies begin to darken on edges, they have overbaked and will be bitter (as will you). Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough disks and scraps, rerolling scraps just once. Decorate as desired with glazes and sprinkles or lightly dust with powdered sugar.
For Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze:
Melt bittersweet chocolate with butter and whisk until smooth. Add corn syrup and vanilla extract and mix until smooth and shiny. Use back of spoon to spread on each cookie. If glaze cools and thicken too much, gently reheat.
For Cream Cheese Glaze:
Whisk cream cheese and 2 tablespoons milk until it’s lump free. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar and salt until smooth, adding remaining milk as needed until glaze is thin enough to spread easily.