Chocolate cutout cookies for kids

I call these cutout cookies "chocolate sugar cookies" because to me, they are very much the chocolate version of the more common, plain vanilla, sugar cookies.  I have to tell you that taking out a rolling pin for cookies is not my favorite thing to do.  It involves more work and clean up but more importantly, the crisp texture of these types of cookies is not something I yearn for.  Don't get me wrong, I like them...but I don't crave them.  And something always seems to go a bit wrong in the process of making roll-out/cut-out cookies.  Either the dough keeps cracking or it's too sticky or I over or under-bake them a bit.  I've just learned to let go and realize that it doesn't need to be perfect and it won't be.  As long as it tastes good, it works.  So that being said, I do make roll out cookies on occasion - particularly during holidays like Christmas and Valentine's Day.  It's also really cute for kids since they like the fun shapes you can make.  My son likes them and it's fun to pack a few as a school snack.
This was my attempt at making the cookies more interesting by sticking them in this dish.  Didn't work too well...forgive me because it was a very hot day and I was pressed for time.

These cookies have a nice, dark flavor that comes from unsweetened cocoa-powder (there's no chocolate in the recipe so it's not overly rich).  I like this recipe since it's quite forgiving.  Unlike sugar cookies where you can only roll the dough out no more than twice, you can roll this one as many times as you need without losing the crisp texture.  Also, the baked cookies keep well for up to a week.

First, the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt) get sifted.

Then, beat butter and confectioners' sugar in a mixer until it's fluffy and very pale in color (almost white).  At that point, add an egg and vanilla extract.
Once the egg and vanilla are combined with the butter mixture, the dry ingredients are added slowly and it's ready to go.  Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten it into a disc.  Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour (so it firms up) or overnight. 

When you're ready to roll out the dough and bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prep two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take the cold dough out to sit on the counter for about 10 minutes so it softens slightly enough to roll out.  I made these on a very hot and humid day, over 90-degrees, and let's just say that made things a bit tricky.  Like I said earlier, I think that's the thing with rolling out cookies - something always seems to go wrong or there's an obstacle but that's OK since it'll generally work out in the end.  Anyway, start rolling the dough out into an ideal 1/8 of an inch.  This way, they are crisp without being too thick and hard. 
I had trouble getting my dough to soften just right that day.  Mine turned out closer to 1/4 inch thick.  Then problem #2 struck.  It was so hot that the dough softened too quickly and I had trouble lifting the dough onto the baking sheet.  About half broke on my first try.  (It's a good thing this dough can be rolled again as many times as you need.)  If you manage to lift it up onto the baking sheet, pop it into the freezer for about 15 minutes to harden. 
Out of the freezer, cut the cookies with cutters into whatever shape you like or have.  I make heart shapes for Valentine's Day, for instance. 
Today, I'm making some of our usual - the car, star, ice cream cone, and I'm trying a little cupcake/muffin cutter I recently bought.  Sometimes I make dogs and dog houses since my son is into that.  That bench scraper you see on the right hand side of the top photo was extremely helpful in lifting the cookies up and onto the sheets.  You can tell how hot it was by how soft and melty the cookies look.
Ideally, pop the decorated cutout cookies back into the freezer for another 15 minutes for them to harden up and set the shapes.  (See, I warned you these cookies involve more work.)  I popped them into the freezer for a bit since they were so soft today but I have to admit I often skip this step - I mean, I'm not looking for perfection here...far from it.

The cookies should bake for about 8 minutes.  For me, problem #3 occurred when I think I underbaked these a little.  I think the heat got to me since I've made these cookies several times in the past.  This time, I don't think I baked them long enough since my cookies were thicker than usual.  Also, I don't think the humidity helped either in crisping them up.  Luckily, it wasn't a huge problem since it just made the cookies a little bit softer.  The cookies should be crisp but it's hard to tell by looking at the cookies and they obviously don't fully firm up until they cool. 

But all in all, I managed to make a batch of these.  My son assured me that they tasted the same as they always do so I'm happy with that!


The recipe:

I think it's easier to make these cookies in the winter or just generally during cool weather.  The recipe for these cookies can be found here



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