This chocolate cookie is a master of many disguises, all tucked into the guise of a quite specific purpose. It is a roll-out cookie that is made with a dough you will simply love to work with. It’s crazy forgiving, re-rollable, re-chillable, and re-freezable. What makes it so versatile and, yes, masterful is that it also tastes like cocoa without being bitter or insanely sweet and bakes up soft in the middle (orwith the most incredible crackly crisp with a little more oven time).
It’s great as a foil for holiday cookies decorated with sweet icing, frostings, sprinkles, and sugars galore or terrific as a crunchy ice cream sandwich base. It’s also sturdy enough to build a gingerbread-style haunted house.
Black Cocoa, Dutch Processed Cocoa, and Natural Cocoa
Dutch processed or “Dutched” cocoa changes the chemistry of the cocoa and takes down the bitter notes and darkens the color of the cocoa powder. Black cocoa is heavily Dutched cocoa; it’s usually labeled clearly and is available online and at large or specialty groceries.
If you don’t have black cocoa, you can use all Dutch processed cocoa. This cookie was tested two ways — with black and Dutch cocoa, and just Dutch — and the differences were pretty minor, really. The all-Dutch was a decidedly lighter color, made a slightly softer cookie (less crumbliness), and had a tad of the cocoa’s intense taste. Feel free to use whichever combo works for what you need.
Both ways made for delicious and easy-to-make cookies. What you can’t substitute is natural cocoa or even a natural and Dutch blend. Dutch processed cocoa is widely available at grocery stores and is a pantry staple worthy of space in your cabinet, if for this recipe alone.
Roll-Out Chocolate Cookies
Makes 3- to 3 1/2-dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cutters
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup black cocoa powder
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Place the flour, black cocoa, Dutch cocoa, espresso powder if using, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.
Place the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until very light in color and fluffy in texture. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to incorporate.
On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Remove from the mixer and knead a few times to bring the dough together completely. It should be firm but pliable (a little stiffer than Play-Doh).
Remove it from the bowl and divide into 2 pieces. Place each piece on a sheet of plastic wrap and gently press each into a flat 1/2-inch-thick disc. Wrap each disc up in the plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 days.
Meanwhile, prepare 2 large sheets of parchment paper and place one on your work surface. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. When the dough is chilled, remove one disc from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place it on the prepared work surface. Place the second sheet of parchment on top. Roll the dough between the parchment sheets 1/8-inch thick.
Remove the top sheet of parchment and, with cookie cutters, cut into a variety of shapes, but don’t lift the cookies off the parchment, even with a spatula. Instead, lift the surrounding dough away using the tip of a small knife, being careful to leave the cookie as neatly cut and tidy as possible right on the paper. Slide the paper and its contents onto a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes, until the cookies have crisped up a bit on the edges and are quite firm to the touch. For an extra-crisp cookie, bake up to 12 minutes. Note that these cookies are quite dark, and it is difficult to see or feel when they are done, so going by time is the easiest and most consistent method of judging for doneness. Using a flat or offset spatula, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely before decorating and storing.
While the cookies bake, gather up the scraps of dough, re-roll, wrap in plastic, and chill again. Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the second disc of dough and more parchment. When the scraps are chilled, repeat the process with them as well. (If you have more dough than you need to bake, you can wrap it well and freeze.) Bake as you did with the first batch.
Storage: These cookies will keep in a covered container for up to 5 days; to keep them very crisp and biscuit-like, do not cover.