Chocolate Hearts

chocolate-heart-cookieI inherited some vintage cookie cutters from my grandma Zella, among them a scallop-edged heart with a red wooden peg handle. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it seemed appropriate to make chocolate hearts to send to my nephew Roman, who now lives in North Carolina.

Cookie cutters come in nearly every shape and size, for every occasion and holiday. My cookie cutters, of which there are dozens, live in a wonderful set of stackable drawer containers in one of my kitchen cabinets. I have all the basics, plus cutters for nearly every holiday, with some animals, dinosaurs, and other fun shapes like an umbrella and a teapot mixed in. Zella’s vintage heart is among my favorites, though.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation 

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating until well-combined.

Slowly add flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl often and beating until a very well-combined, soft dough forms.

Gently knead the dough a few times to make sure it comes together; roll dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees; line three baking sheets with parchment or foil.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter; if using different sizes of hearts, be sure to bake all of the same size on one cookie sheet. Baking different-sized or differently-shaped cookies on the same sheet can lead to uneven results; some of your cookies might be underdone while others will be overdone.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheets for 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen, depending on the size of your cookie cutter.

Reindeer Cookies

reindeer-cookiesMy goddaughter Maureen and her little sister Margo went absolutely insane for the chocolate bat cookies I sent them for Halloween. According to their mom, they practically licked the crumbs off the table. So what did I bake them for Christmas? Another batch of chocolate sugar cookies, this time in the shape of trees, stockings…and reindeer.

To make these adorable treats, I used a gingerbread man cookie cutter, then flipped the cookies upside down to make reindeer heads. This is another popular item on Pinterest this year, and I admit that I looked at several cookie designs before settling on this one. You could certainly give them Rudolph-esque red noses if you like, but I went with a standard brown, as well as chocolate chip eyes.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation 

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating until well-combined.

Slowly add flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl often and beating until a very well-combined, soft dough forms.

Gently knead the dough a few times to make sure it comes together; roll dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees; line three baking sheets with parchment or foil.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with a bat-shaped cookie cutter; if using different shapes, be sure to bake the same shape on one cookie sheet. Baking different-sized or differently-shaped cookies on the same sheet can lead to uneven results; some of your cookies might be underdone while others will be overdone.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheets for 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Zella’s Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons water, if necessary
  • Brown food coloring
  • Miniature chocolate chips, for eyes

Preparation

Combine egg white, shortening, salt, and one cup powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium, then high, and beat for one minute.

Add additional cup powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed for one minute.

Add vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat on high speed for one or two minutes, until very well combined.

Check the frosting’s texture; it should be like very, very soft peanut butter and very easily spreadable.  If necessary, add one to two teaspoons of water to thin the frosting and beat well to combine.

To frost your cookies:

Turn gingerbread men upside down so the feet act as the antlers.

Reserve a small portion of white frosting for the eyes, then tint the remaining frosting light brown for the faces.

Frost the faces using a small offset spatula, then tint the remaining frosting darker brown. Fit a piping bag with a small plain tip and pipe on antlers, the insides of the ears, and the noses.

Use white frosting to pipe two eyes, then place a miniature chocolate chip in the center of each.

Let frosting set for about 30 minutes; store in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper for us to 3 days.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Chocolate Bats

chocolate batsIt’s Halloween Eve, also known as Devil’s Night. As a big fan of the city of Detroit, I was disheartened to learn that this term is primarily associated with major vandalism and arson in the Motor City. I’m hoping that Detroit is peaceful tonight, for many reasons.

Anyway…it’s also National Bat Week, and I dig bats. I’ve been wanting to make bat-themed sugar cookies for a while, and I found this very easy recipe on Betty Crocker’s website. As usual, Betty knows her stuff.

This dough is incredibly easy to work with, not too soft and not too firm, just the right texture for rolling and cutting. I usually don’t enjoy making sugar cookies because they’re quite labor-intensive, but this recipe was really simple. I used two different bat cutters and intended to pipe on some icing eyes and fangs, but once these treats were done I decided I liked them better just as they were. Happy Halloween!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation 

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating until well-combined.

Slowly add flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl often and beating until a very well-combined, soft dough forms.

Gently knead the dough a few times to make sure it comes together; roll dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees; line three baking sheets with parchment or foil.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with a bat-shaped cookie cutter; if using different shapes, be sure to bake the same shape on one cookie sheet. Baking different-sized or differently-shaped cookies on the same sheet can lead to uneven results; some of your cookies might be underdone while others will be overdone.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheets for 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

 

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Veteran’s Day! As I baked these treats, which taste like an amazing combination of a sugar cookie and a dark chocolate brownie, I thought about the care packages that members of the US military receive from their families. Then, I thought about all of the veterans I’ve known—men, mostly, in my family and among my friends—and how profoundly grateful I am to have known them.

One of my favorite veterans was Francis Kruhm, our landlord in Sunshine, MD. Mike and I lived there before our move into DC while he was on active duty with the Maryland Army National Guard. Mr. Kruhm served in the Army during World War II, and was part of the invasion at Anzio, Italy in 1944.  The Kruhms were friends of my Aunt Liz’s in-laws, the Brighams, and they had a tiny apartment on the side of their house that they rented to us for an extraordinarily low rate.

About a week after we moved in, Mr. Kruhm gave me a service banner to hang in the front window. He had a full-sized flagpole in the front yard and raised the stars and stripes every single day. Mr. Kruhm was an active member of the VFW and an impressive gardener; I would often come home to find bags of corn, tomatoes, and zucchini on my porch. Even after we moved to DC and later, back to Pittsburgh, I sent Mr. Kruhm a Christmas card every year, and he sent us one in return. He passed away not long ago, another member of the Greatest Generation who surely made it into heaven.

I wish to sincerely thank all of the member of the US military, as well as their families, for their bravery and sacrifice. I am truly grateful to be a citizen of this amazing nation, and to the men and women who fought for our freedoms.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter; beat until fluffy.

Add shortening and beat well.

Add egg and vanilla and beat until creamy.

Add flour mixture in two batches, beating until combined after each.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop onto baking sheets about two inches apart.

Bake for 18 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.