Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Before Thanksgiving arrived, I was already anticipating Christmas. I had a queue of holiday movies prepared and had ordered my first gingerbread mocha of the season at the local coffee shop. Each day was meticulously checked off the calendar, the 25th circled with a black sharpie as the prize. However, what I didn't anticipate was that after Thanksgiving passed, so would my excitement for Christmas.

I fell back into the everyday routines, and the holiday faded from the forefront into the back of my mind.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Though I set up a tiny tree in my apartment, the holiday feeling didn't hold. I spent the next few weeks bundled up in my small town, doing all of my Christmas shopping online instead of venturing out to the packed malls. Even the car radio didn't get me in the spirit, refusing to pick up any stations playing holiday music. It was that "special time of year," but it didn't feel like it yet, as least not to me.

So, with a week before Christmas, I gave myself an intervention.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

After the fiasco with baking last weekend, it felt right to give sugar cookies a try again. For the last few years, I've set aside a day just for myself, to bake and decorate while watching an endless stream of cheesy holiday movies. With a pastry bag in hand, the tales of holidays gone awry, of single mothers finding love, of corporate employees realizing family is most important, of women falling in love (with Santa), of Christmas wishes coming true, feel like the holiday season to me. 

Yesterday I set aside this time for myself. After heading to bed, with a kitchen counter full of drying cookies and a heart full of holiday buzz, I want to say mission accomplished.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Sugar Cookies are a delicious alternative to the traditional sugar cookie. The base is a standard sugar cookie with cocoa powder to give it a deep chocolate flavor. Use a high quality cocoa powder for the best character. As with my classic recipe, these cookies bake up flat, providing a smooth surface for decorating, and stay soft for several days. The cookies also freeze well so they can be prepared days or several weeks in advance.

One Year Ago: Peppermint Marshmallows and Christmas Sugar Cookies
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Pomegranate Tart, Almond Cardamom Rolls, Red Wine Chocolate Truffles, and Gingerbread Cookies
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Chocolate Granola Bars, Pumpkin Panna Cotta, Honey Cookies, and Chocolate Clementine Cupcakes
Four Years Ago: Pear Chips, Candy Striped Meringues, Chocolate Truffles, and Gingerbread Cheesecake

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Yields 2-3 dozen, depending on size of the cookie

3/4 cup (170 grams) butter
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups (285 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (43 grams) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Mix in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour to firm up the dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat for best cookie removal.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness and cut out the cookies using cookie cutters (follow these tips for the best cookies). The dough that is not being handled should be kept refrigerated. Bake cookies for 6-8 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. Cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting.

Holiday Recipe Round-Up

Christmas Sugar Cookies

With the holidays just around the corner, I have been spending time in the kitchen making treats for you. Chocolate sugar cookie snowflakes, peppermint bark, and even macarons have all been boxed up and frozen for the Christmas parties to come. Unfortunately, due to a series of strange and unfortunate circumstances, I cannot share these recipes with you today. 

It started with the wind. Living in the Upper Midwest, I often use the "freezer" outside my window to chill sugar cookie dough before baking (one of my cookie tips). After playing around with my tried-and-true recipe, I rolled out a dozen cookies, and set the baking sheet outdoors to chill. Ten minutes later, ready to pop them in the hot oven, I realized the prairie wind had literally blown them away. With a quickly setting sun, I made plans to make them again the next weekend so I would have time to snap a few photographs too. 

As the next weekend approached, with all of my baking plans on deck, there was a freak heat wave and all of the snow melted. Normally I would be quite cheery about such a thing, but the warmth brought in a great fog that settled over the region. Since I could hardly see the cars on the street outside my window, taking any type of photography was out of the question. There simply was no light to be found.

So now I have a kitchen full of treats, but no real way to share them with you. I'm crossing my fingers that next weekend brings more light and time to spend in the kitchen so that all is not for naught. In the meanwhile, I've compiled a list of some of my favorite holiday recipes in hopes that they will inspire you. Enjoy, dear friends!

Red Wine Chocolate Truffles

Gingerbread Cookies

Candy Cane Popcorn

Gingerbread Muffins

Nutella Espresso Rolls
Peppermint Marshmallows

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Pomegranate White Wine Panna Cotta

Almond Espresso Cookies

Almond Espresso Cookies

I bottle up my emotionsfrustration, irritation, worries, and fears. I push them down into the well of my mind, bury them beneath responsibilities and tasks, and wish for them never to surface. At times, I have hidden them so well that they stay below my radar, leaving me with a consistently calm demeanor to put forth to the world. If I pretend I am fine, perhaps I will be fine. It may be flawed logic, but the idea of "faking it until you make it" is not a novel theory. While it may not always be healthy, it is my coping mechanism.

Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed over the length of my to-do list. Overwhelmed at the new projects I have recently taken on. Overwhelmed at how unprepared I am for the holiday season. Overwhelmed at the idea of feeling overwhelmed. So I do as I have always done. I push these emotions down and bury them beneath other work and chores, knowing they will not disappear, but hoping I can cover them up long enough to let the feelings pass. For the most part, it works. I keep my calm at work, and I keep my calm at home.Yet, the feelings must find their way out somehow. 

The can opener, of all things, has become my form of therapeutic release. 

Almond Espresso Cookies

Less than a year ago, I picked up a cheap can opener at the store to replace the other cheap (but broken) can opener at home. It is, for all purposes, a piece of junk and fails to work more often than succeeds. I battle with the defective can opener often, cursing its rusted gears and inability to cut through metal. I throw tantrums when I struggle with it, describing to the inanimate object exactly how worthless it is and how I will replace it as soon as I get to the store. In the moment, I allow all pretenses to fade away and deal with my emotions directly. Ultimately, I realize the battle is not about canned corn, but about allowing myself to let out the feelings I have been holding in so long.

I am learning, as we all do, how to move through life. Some days (like today) I feel like I do a little more learning than on other days. Maybe, after a bit of practice, I will be able to manage with a bit more elegance and grace and a little less cursing at the canned tomatoes. 

Almond Espresso Cookies

Baking is another form of therapeutic release, one that I find both calming and serene. These Almond Espresso Cookies are one of the favorites in my cookie repertoire to both eat and prepare. Almonds are roasted and then ground finely to form the base of the cookies. Chocolate is drizzled over the top, with a little espresso powder mixed in the cookie to complement the flavor. It is a simple cookie, but the flavors are addicting enough to keep me coming back for more. As the holiday season grows closer, these are a simple enough treat to create, but still unique enough to leave an impression at your holiday table.

One Year Ago: Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Two Years Ago: Maple Roasted Chickpeas, Gingerbread Muffins, Persimmon Cake, and Lemon Cranberry Scones
Three Years Ago: Banana Espresso Chocolate Muffins, Cranberry Orange Brioche Rolls, Cranberry Sauce, and Cranberry White Chocolate Tarts
Four Years Ago: Chocolate Espresso Pots de Creme, Sugar-Coated Daydreams, Blueberry Brownies, and White Chocolate Saffron Truffles

Almond Espresso Cookies with Chocolate Glaze

Yields about 12-18 cookies

Almond Espresso Cookies
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (187 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (85 grams) almonds, roasted and finely ground*
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add the flour, finely ground roasted almonds, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring until batter is uniform.

Drop by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup (85 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter

In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate chips and butter over low heat until smooth. Transfer to a pastry bag (or small plastic bag with the corner snipped off) and drizzle the warm chocolate over the cookies. Allow to set for 30 minutes to harden the chocolate before serving. 

*To roast almonds, spread into a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) until tan and fragrant.