Chocolate Gingerdead Men

I’m not a big fan of Halloween, but when I saw these skeleton cookies in the October 2011 issue of Cooking Light magazine, they were too cute not to try. What a fun and clever use of the traditional Christmas gingerbread man cookie cutter!

And it offered me the perfect excuse to finally try the chocolate sugar cookie recipe I’ve had bookmarked for several months, for the dark color contrasts with the white of the skeleton, creating the perfect dark and “spooky” Halloween backdrop.

As I thought about how I wanted to design my gingerdead men, I thought I might share the process I’ve developed with the handful of decorated sugar cookies I’ve attempted thus far. It’s really quite simple. So simple I’m almost embarrassed to type this for fear you might be thinking, “Duh! How dumb does she think I am!” But I share because, honestly, it took me awhile to develop this process.

First, I grab several sheets of blank paper and trace my cookie cutter shape a few times, creating blank templates.

Next, I turn to the computer to forage some designs, for I desperately need inspiration. Problem is, I have to really fight to not feel intimidated by the skill and talent I see out there. If I don’t try, though, how will I ever improve? Besides, even when designs turn out lame, the cookies are still edible!

Okay, back to design foraging: Google.com images is my favorite source (in case you’ve never played with this feature, once you type an item to search and the list comes up, go to the menu bar in the upper left and click “images”). As I find designs I like, I save them into my photo organizing program, then I can view them full screen and not have to squint or put on my glasses.

Other sources of inspiration:

Cookiecuttershop.com — once you click a cookie cutter, it takes you to a page with some designs

foodgawker.com — just type “sugar cookies” or “decorated sugar cookies” into the search bar and you’ll have an array of designs

From this point, I begin sketching out some designs to get the feel of it.

Really, that’s about it for the process. Told you it was simple. Some people actually pipe the designs onto parchment paper for practice, but I just go for it and within 2-3 cookies, the design begins to develop a pattern that I’m satisfied with.

Remember, this should all be fun and play. For me, it’s a creative outlet with a delicious outcome no matter how the design looks!

Now for this dough: argh! It was really really hard to work with: very sticky, had to freeze it, got sticky quickly when rolling/cutting, hard to peel dough off cookie cutter…

What worked, though, was to roll the dough between saran wrap (I just folded a long piece in half and put dough in between). I rolled it first, then froze it, then cut the dough with cookie cutters. A lot of work.

Was it worth it? Well, yes and no. The taste didn’t blow me away, but it was one of those that grew on me. Not as sweet as I anticipated considering the amount of powdered sugar in the recipe, but it is offset by the cocoa. It was better once I got them iced as it intensified the sweet factor…and I like sweet!

The dough also spread a bit while baking, even when I put it in the oven straight from the freezer, for I even froze the cut out dough. My other two sugar cookie recipes I use don’t spread and aren’t such a pain to work with. I will experiment with other chocolate roll-out cookie doughs because though I liked this one, it offered too many challenges. However, I might still try it again because many bloggers had success although a few had the same issues I found.

I gave some cookies to my friends’ kids, and one five-year old girl said, “It tastes like a brownie.” Her ten-year-old sister chimed in with “It tastes like a bite of heaven.” So there you have it!

Oh, I almost forgot–super cute packaging idea and super simple. I found clip art for Halloween on google.com and set up a template: 2 columns then I copied/pasted the clip art every few inches. Print, cut, fold, staple onto the clear treats bags I always keep on hand (I get them at Micheals). Voila! Ready for gift giving.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter (that’s 1 1/2 sticks or 6 oz.)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; whisk to blend and set aside. (I sift my cocoa to get rid of lumps.)
  2. With an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar, beating on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
  3. Blend in the eggs and vanilla.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated and no streaks remain.
  5. Form the dough into a disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until form, 1-2 hours. (At this point, you can try placing the dough between saran wrap and rolling it out to desired thickness, then refrigerate.)
  6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  7. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters and place cut outs on baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, just until set.
  8. Let cool on baking sheet about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Decorate as desired.

SOURCE: adapted from Annie’s Eats via Martha Stewart

See my other posts for info about cookie cutters & vanilla beans and for links to how to decorate:

Sugar Cooking Decorating — links to get you started

School Spirit Cookies — dough-rolling tip

Cookie Cutter and Vanilla Bean sources

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