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There’s more than one way to make cutout cookies… and who says they have to be crisp, anyway? A thin layer of cake-like batter is poured into a pan, baked, then cut into any fanciful shapes you like. Frost with a complementary icing--we suggest chocolate, of course. Children love these baby-soft cookies.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten lightly
2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces) milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) chocolate chips
Dark Chocolate Icing
5 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
3 cups (12 ounces) confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar
3 tablespoons (2 ounces) light corn syrup
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) hot water
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Cake: Make sure the butter, eggs and milk are at cool room temperature, 68°F to 72°F depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Plan on removing them from the refrigerator 45 minutes to 2 1/2 hours before you want to begin preparing the cookies.
Preheat the oven to 350°F; lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 18 by 13-inch half sheet pan; line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the butter (at medium speed, of an electric stand mixer, or high speed of an electric hand mixer) for 1 minute. Add the sugar and continue to beat for 5 minutes. Dribble in the eggs very gradually, beating all the while, and beat till light colored. This will take a total of 5 minutes. Be sure to stop once to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Whisk together the milk, vanilla, and almond extract in a cup; set aside.
Using a spatula or large spoon (or an electric mixer on low speed), stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture in the bowl alternately with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir only until the batter is completely mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center.
Remove the cake from the oven, and allow it to cool. Carefully turn the cake out onto a large, rectangular rack by placing the rack atop the baked cake, then flipping the whole thing over, so the cake is upside-down on the rack. Use the cookie cutters of your choice to cut cookies, leaving them in place on the rack after you’ve cut them. When all the cookies are cut, pick out the scraps; you can simply nibble on them, or layer them with instant pudding to make an easy trifle.
Drizzle icing over the cookies, or spread each with icing individually.
Yield: 3 to 4 dozen cookies, depending on how big you make them.
Icing: In a saucepan set over low heat, or in the microwave, melt the chocolate, stirring till smooth. Sift the confectioners' or glazing sugar into a large bowl, and add the corn syrup and hot water, stirring till smooth. If you're using a mixer, set it on low speed so the icing doesn't become too aerated.
Add the melted chocolate to the sugar mixture, then add the vanilla. If the mixture is too thick to pour, reheat it briefly over low heat, and stir in 2 to 4 teaspoons additional water.
January 20, 2004