The minute I saw these adorable cookies on Martha Stewart’s website I knew they would make a perfect Chocolate Monday recipe! Perfect little bites of pure joy, these cookies are sure to become a favorite – especially at the holidays. They add a wonderful visual contrast to a platter of assorted cookies.
Cookies are the perfect end to a meal. They offer automatic portion control if you want it, the ability to easily offer multiple flavors and textures, and they can be served stand-alone or as part of a larger dessert. Not to mention they are The Artist’s absolute favorite.
When we go out to dinner, he tends to go straight to the dessert list and work his way backwards. To him, a meal without a sweet ending just isn’t complete. If there are cookies on the menu, I don’t even have to ask – that is what he will always order. He loves an assortment of bite-sized cookies. He is like a little boy, trying each one and ooh’ing and aah’ing over each new flavor. Like a boy at Christmas, he has to choose his favorite every time.
If you are cookie devotee like The Artist, you can join Martha Stewart’s “Cookie of the Day” and receive emails with a new cookie each day. I get so many ideas for new recipes that it is hard to choose. I usually let The Artist pick which ones he wants me to try, LOL.
The easiest way to get perfectly shaped and uniformly sized cookies is to use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop. It also speeds up the process by at least half. I can load three trays of cookies in the time it used to take me to do one. If you bake a lot of cookies, do yourself a favor and buy extra baking sheets and silpats. I have 5 sheets so that I can bake continuously without having to wait for the sheets to cool down between batches. Using silpats or parchment sheets cuts way down on clean up as well.
Though this recipe doesn’t call for a specific type of cocoa powder, you will often see a distinction between Dutch-processed cocoa or natural cocoa. It can be a bit confusing, but the King of Baking, David Lebovitz has simplified it for us:
What is the Difference between Dutch-process and natural cocoa powder?
Dutch-process cocoa powder is made from cocoa (cacao) beans that have been washed with a potassium solution, to neutralize their acidity. Natural cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that are simply roasted, then pulverized into a fine powder.
What does Dutching do?
Aside from neutralizing the acidity, Dutching cocoa powder makes it darker (see photo above) and can help mellow the flavor of the beans. Some artisan companies in the United States don’t Dutch-process their cocoa as they claim their cocoa beans don’t need to be acid-neutralized. Most supermarket brands of cocoa powder in America, such as Hershey’s and Nestlé, are natural cocoa powders.
Can I use Dutch-process and natural cocoa powder interchangeably in recipes?
Because natural cocoa powder hasn’t had its acidity tempered, it’s generally paired with baking soda (which is alkali) in recipes. Dutch-process cocoa is frequently used in recipes with baking powder, as it doesn’t react to baking soda like natural cocoa does.
Many classic American recipes, like Devil’s Food Cake, use natural cocoa powder. (My recipe, which I linked to, can be made with either since many people outside the United States can’t get natural cocoa powder so I used both leavenings.) There is also a reaction between natural cocoa powder and baking soda that occurs in recipes, which creates a reddish crumb, like Devil’s Food Cake.
I always advise folks to follow what the recipe says. For sauces and ice creams, they can be swapped out. For cakes and cookies, I don’t recommend it, as your results may not be the same if you make substitutions.
There are a couple of ways you can ice these cookies, but be sure they are completely cool before you start. You can “paint” the icing on using a knife or offset spatula, nudging the icing together in the center to create a straight line. The second way, and my favorite, is to partially dip the cookies in one color of icing (carefully dipping only half of the top) and setting them on a wire rack to set. Then go back and dip the other half in the second color, again setting them on the rack to set. If you are making a lot of cookies, the first ones you dipped will be set by the time you are done dipping the first color. You can also dip the first side and then use an offset spatula to paint on the second color.
If you are making these cookies for a different occasion, say St. Patrick’s Day or Valentine’s Day, you can leave out the cocoa powder and use food coloring instead. For Halloween you could make half the icing chocolate and dye the other half orange.
Every time you see me posting about cookies, you can rest assured that The Artist is sitting at home, grinning from ear to ear, as he eats cookie after cookie. Happy Chocolate Monday everyone!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
For the cleanest lines coat half of each cookie with one color of icing, let set until completely dry and then coat the second half with the contrasting color.
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided
- 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp light corn syrup
- 2-1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
- Make Cookies: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add granulated sugar; mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Begin and end with the flour mixture.
- Roll tablespoons of dough into balls (or use a 1/2-oz ice-cream scoop). Place them 2 inches apart on lined sheets. Bake until bottoms turn golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.
- Make Icing: Whisk confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, remaining 1/4 tsp vanilla, and 1 tbsp water in a small bowl until smooth. If necessary, add more water (icing should be a bit thicker than honey).
- Transfer half to a small bowl. Stir in cocoa. If necessary, thin with a little water.
- Working on the flat side of cooled cookies, spread white icing on half of each cookie and cocoa icing on other half; let set 30 minutes.
- Yield: about 4 dozen