Monday, February 13, 2012

Water horses need love too! and sprinkles.

Most people, when making cut-out cookies for Valentine's Day, would choose a shape that is more easily associated with the holiday, like hearts, or cupids.  I, on the other hand, would like to challenge that a little.  Yes, those cookies are shaped like hippos.  What do hippos have to do with a holiday that is about love?  Well, I say they do, so there you go.  And they have pink icing, and some of them have heart sprinkles, so they are festive.

The cookies themselves are chocolate sugar cookies.  So good.  And easy to make! I used the recipe from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, and I would definitely use it again.  I added about a teaspoon of instant espresso, because I usually do when I make chocolate things.  It's tasty and it accentuates the chocolate flavor.  But, if you don't already have, don't feel like you have to run out and buy it just for this.

The royal icing recipe is the same that I used for my gingerbread men from Christmas.  I like it because it doesn't use meringue powder, or any other ingredient that I don't already have in the house. If you feel squicky about the raw egg whites, then you should find another recipe that you like better.  As you can see, my icing technique leaves a lot to be desired.  There are lots of tutorials on the interwebz that will teach you how to do it really well, so I'm not even going to try.  For me, getting the cookie covered, and adding some sprinkles was enough.

Let's talk about the sprinkles.  I have a lot of them.  It's slightly ridiculous.  I know I show you three different kinds of sprinkles in the photo, but I actually used 5 kinds.  My faves are the ones in the photo.  And yes, the silver stars are edible.  Those sprinkles, like the hippo cookie-cutter itself, were a gift from a friend, and they were both so fun to use! 

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Makes a good amount. I don't remember how many it made.

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, also room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso (optional)

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking powder (fp note: i find i get the best results from sifting everything together.  removes any lumps and mixes everything, in one step.).  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt on medium until creamy, about 1 minute.  With the mixer running, gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is fully combined before adding the next.  Add the vanilla and instant espresso.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater as needed. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined, with no pockets of flour.  Divide dough into two portions and shape each portion into a 1-inch thick disk, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly flour a sheet of wax paper.  Transfer the chilled dough to the wax paper and top with another sheet of paper.  Roll the dough out to1/8" thickness, using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the paper.  Cut out your shapes and place on the baking sheet.  Re-roll the scraps as much as you want.  (fp note: at this point, when i have a full sheet of cut outs, i put the sheet in the fridge for about 15 minutes.  i feel like this reduces spreading.) Bake cookies just until the tops look dry, but are still soft, about 8 minutes.  Let cool on the sheet for a couple of minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

After the cookies are completely cooled, frost to your hearts' content!  (fp note: hearts'? hearts? heart's? i don't know.)

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