Two weeks ago, Alex and I took advantage of the then-awesome weather and went out for dinner at a place with outdoor seating. One cocktail led to another and then Alex put his hand on my knee! No, just kidding. He actually suggested that we order dessert, and in particular, the homemade ice cream sandwiches on the menu. Who was I to argue?
The two tiniest, most precious ice cream sandwiches arrived a few minutes later and, you know, the ice cream, it was pretty good. But the sandwich? The two chocolate cookies? Forgive me for using this over-tired metaphor, but they were an almost Proustian experience.
You see, we made chocolate cookies exactly like that for Hanukah each year growing up. Why for Hanukah? Honestly, I have no idea. It might be that the only cookie cutters I remember were our Hanukah ones (a dreydel, menorah and Jewish star, the nuisance-y stamp type that it was impossible to get the dough out of) or that it was the only time my mother found the nuisance of rolling out dough worth it, but man, did I love those cookies, and I had to make them again, immediately.
I know what you’re thinking: chocolate roll-out cookies? How dull! But, well, I’m sorry–you’re wrong. What’s notable about these cookies is not what they are–which is, if you must know, intensely awesome–but what they’re not. There’s no sea salt in them, no melted 70 percent chocolate. There’s no brown butter or vanilla bean pulp or pinch of espresso powder. There is not a single thing in them we’d probably jazz them up with today, and instead of fighting this simplicity, I encourage you to revel in it.
They will not disappoint. The slight amount of baking powder gives them a softness not usually found in roll-out cookies, which are typically sandier and snappish. These are tender, like a pressed brownie and they particularly excel at a quarter-inch height, slightly thicker than a standard cookie cutter cookie. The cocoa is not an afterthought (like recipes that suggest you swap a couple tablespoons of flour for cocoa to make an chocolate cookie) but has a significant presence that blooms in the oven, leaving you with something that people won’t believe doesn’t have a single bit of melted chocolate in it.
I should also tell you that because of their shatter-free bite, they also make excellent lids and bases for ice cream sandwiches. But I won’t, because that would be dangerous. Okay?
One year ago: Chicken Empanadas with Chorizo and Olives
Brownie Roll-Out Cookies*
Recipe from Deb’s mom
3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (225 grams) lightly salted butter, softened (Deb note: I don’t really see “lightly salted” much these days, so I used one stick salted, one stick unsalted)
1 1/2 (300 grams) cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (approximately 60 grams — weights can vary a bit depending on brand. I use the “good” stuff–Droste, Galler or Valrhona –but I can assure you that my mother only used Hershey’s growing up, so your choice)
Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
Roll out cookie dough on floured counter. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. (It does disappear once baked, though, so don’t overly fret if they go into the oven looking white.) Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies) until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
* According to my mother’s recipe, they’re called chocolate sugar cookies but I do not feel that it does them justice.