Chocolate Christmas Cookies of Doom (and my favorite sugar cookies recipe)

My sisters and I had a cookie-baking session this weekend. These chocolate sables are pretty much perfect: small and rich and shiny on the edges. Heavy on the butter. Solid with chocolate. There’s even a hint of cinnamon in the dough to make them taste like Christmas. I discovered them in 2006 after the LA Times picked them in its Cookie of the Year competition. Hooray for newspapers. (Recipe below.) Serious chocoholics will swoon.

Chocolate sable cookies

Total time: 50 minutes, plus several hours chilling time

Servings: Makes about 6 1/2 dozen

Note: From pastry chef Michelle Myers of Boule and Sona. Coarse sugar crystals can be found at Surfas in Culver City.

1 cup (2 sticks) plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 pinches salt

3 cups flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups chopped top-quality chocolate such as Valrhona 70% cacao (Note from Jaimee: I use two four ounce bars of Ghirardelli 60 percent cacao.)

Grated zest of 1/3 lemon

1 egg white

1 egg

1/4 cup coarse sugar crystals (Note from Jaimee: I use Williams-Sonoma’s Sanding Sugar.)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar, vanilla and salt.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda. Add to the creamed mixture and mix until well combined. Mix in the chocolate and lemon zest. Add the egg white and mix just until blended.

3. Roll the dough into two 1 1/4 -inch diameter round logs and wrap in plastic film. Chill several hours or overnight. Cut the logs into rounds about three-eighths-inch thick.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the whole egg. Place the sugar crystals in another small dish. Dip the sides only of each cookie into the egg and then in the sugar crystals. Place the sables on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until slightly puffed in the center. Place the baking sheet on a rack and let cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing them from parchment paper.

My editor Diane makes these sugar cookies for people who have done exceptionally nice things for her. The recipe is one of my favorites. (How you know: cardstock covered in flour and food coloring.)  They are thick, soft and ruled by butter and vanilla. You don’t even need frosting. (Although cream cheese icing and sanding sugar come with compliments implied.)

Sugar Cookies

From Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies
3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
additional granulated sugar (for topping)

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. (Note from Jaimee: I use Martha Stewart’s cheater sifting method. Dump everything into a bowl and whisk it to break up clumps and lighten.) In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat well. Beat in eggs one at a time and then add milk. On low speed, gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula and beating only until thoroughly mixed.
Divide the dough in tow and wrap each half in wax paper or Saran Wrap. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for three hours or longer if you wish.
Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 400 degrees.
Place one piece of the dough on a lightly floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to desired thickness and cut into shapes.
Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with granulated sugar, if desired, and bake 8-9 minutes.
Let cool completely before frosting.

Notes from Jaimee: Do not overmix. Roll them out 1/2 inch thick. They can be hard to transfer to a baking sheet after they’re cut. Genius: my sister Kapri figured out that it’s much easier to roll the dough directly on a Silpat mat or parchment paper, cut out your cookie, and peel the excess dough off the mat. Also: underbake for the softest cookies. These snowflakes are the size of my outstretched hand and they baked for 8 minutes. You don’t actually want browned edges.