Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chocolate Bats

I made some gingerbread bats that I thought were pretty cool, using a recipe from Good Cook, but then I thought, hey, wouldn't those bats be better if they were darker. Like, CHOCOLATE?

Um, did I just scream at you?


So, anyway, I knew I needed a recipe for chocolate cookies that wouldn't spread out much as they baked (like, for example, chocolate chip cookies) because that spreading would ruin the design.

Sugar cookies work well, but I wanted chocolate, and I wasn't in the mood to reinvent the wheel. Because as much as I like fiddling around with baking, sometimes it takes quite a few tries to get what I want.

Which is fine, if I've got the time. Right now, no time. But I still wanted chocolate bats. So, I went through my file of cookie recipes and found one that I'd copied from Epicurious that was credited to Dorie Greenspan. Unfortunately, it didn't note where the Dorie Greenspan recipe came from. She has a few books, so it could have been any one of them.

I've made a lot of Dorie Greenspan's recipes, and I've always had good luck with them. So I figured I'd give it a go.

I made a few changes to the recipe, because I wanted the bats as dark as possible. The Black Onyx cocoa I used is sold under a few different names - I think I've also seen it as Black Cocoa. It's usually used in combination with regular cocoa, so that's what I did here.

The espresso powder is not ground coffee beans, it's espresso that has been evaporated, leaving the powder. You can find it at King Arthur Flour (or other places, I'm sure) or you could use instant espresso or even instant coffee.

The flavor of these cookies is reminiscent of Oreo cookies, but these are sweeter than the cookie part of an Oreo. Which is fine, since these don't have that creamy sugary filling.

I did decorate some with an espresso sugar, though, and a bit of royal icing and some orange sugar decorations for the eyes.

Chocolate Bats

Adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe via Epicurious

2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup Black Onyx cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, cocoa powders, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it's smooth, then add the sugar and beat until mixture is light and fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla, and beat until they are well incorporated. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until it is well incorporated. You don't want to see any powdery streaks, but you also don't need to beat the heck out of it.

Gather the dough into a ball, place it in a plastic bag, and flatten it. Refrigerate until well-chilled - figure about 4 hours, or you can do this the day before.

When you're ready to bake, pull the dough out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

The dough needs to warm up a bit to make it easy to work with. Right out of the fridge, it's pretty solid. But you also don't want it super-soft. You might think the refrigeration step is silly, but it helps hydrate the flour and gives you a better cookie. I tend to refrigerate most of my cookie doughs, even if the instructions don't call for it.

Lightly flour your work surface. Working with 1/2 or 1/3 or 1/4 of the dough at a time - whatever is easiest for you, roll the dough to about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (depending on the cookie and your particular taste and measuring skills).

Use whatever cookie cutter you like, cut shapes from the dough and place them on your prepared baking sheets. These won't spread a lot, but they will expand a little bit, so leave a bit of space between them.

You can add decoration before baking if you like - the espresso sugar was added before baking. For the bat's eyes, I added the sugar decorations ahead of time, then after they were baked, I put another decoration on top of the first. The first ones helped form a hole in the dough for the fresh decorations added later. You can simply add the decorations after baking, but I find that it doesn't work as well. But do it any way you like.

If the dough gets too soft and mushy, refrigerate again until it firms up. It chills a lot faster if you flatten it.

Continue rolling and cutting until you've used all the dough. You can reroll the scraps as many times as you need, but keep in mind that you're adding more flour when you roll the dough - try to keep that flour to a minimum so your subsequent cookies won't suffer as much.

 Bake at 350 degrees until the cookies are just barely browning on the edges. It's kind of hard to tell with dark cookies like this, but you will see a slight color change. The cookies should also be firm on top, not soft and mushy. It took about 15 minutes for the bats, so figure 10-18 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of your cookies.

Remove the cookies from the baking sheets and let them cool completely on racks. They'll be soft when warm, but will become firm and crisp as they cool.

If you like, decorate with royal icing (recipe here), colored sugars, or whatever madness strikes you. After the haunted house I decorated, I was satisfied with just the colored eyes.