Every year I try to find a new treat to put out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, and these Chocolate Sugar Cookies are this year’s winner. They are also a featured cookie this week at SarahBakes, and I am delighted to share the recipe for all my fellow home bakers to enjoy.

These chocolate cookies are rich and buttery with a classic sugar cookie texture — slightly soft in the center and crispy on the edges. The addition of cocoa gives them a wonderful chocolate flavor and dramatically dark appearance, which you can enhance with decorative sugars and icings.

Sugar cookies are easy to make but the process can be rather putzy as it involves rolling, refrigerating and cutting the dough into shapes before baking. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to shorten the process and make it more user-friendly to help you master the dough.

Most recipes for cutout cookies recommend chilling the dough right after making it, and then rolling it out and cutting it into shapes. But I find that rolling the dough immediately after making it, and then refrigerating it works much better.

Chilling the dough after it has been rolled out makes it much easier to cut out firm figures that will hold their shape while baking. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Chilling the dough after it has been rolled out makes it much easier to cut out firm figures that will hold their shape while baking. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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Refrigerated dough can be difficult to roll flat and often must sit out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before it’s workable. However, the soft and pliable nature of sugar cookie dough makes it ideal for rolling out as soon as it’s made, thus eliminating the time required for chilled dough to soften.

Another great trick is to place the dough between two large sheets of plastic wrap and then roll the dough into a smooth disk between 1/8 to ¼-inch thick.

To simplify the process, place the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to roll it out before refrigerating it. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
To simplify the process, place the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to roll it out before refrigerating it. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

The plastic makes it easy to turn the dough as you roll it and prevents the need to use flour on your work surface, which can toughen the dough and create a mess. It also keeps the cookies firm when cutting them into shapes. Parchment or wax paper may also be used, but I’ve had the best results with plastic wrap.

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Once the dough has reached your desired level of thickness, it goes into the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours, plastic wrap and all. Chilling the dough is a must for cutout cookies, as it solidifies the fats and allows time for the sugars to absorb the liquids so that the dough retains its shape as it bakes. The dough may be refrigerated for up to three days, or frozen for several months.

The dough should be rolled to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The dough should be rolled to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

All that is left to do is cut the dough into shapes and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Because there is no flour used to roll out the dough, the scraps can be combined and re-rolled again and again without affecting the texture of the cookies. Once cooled, the cookies can be decorated with royal icing or simply dusted with powdered sugar before serving.

Easy to make, delicious and festive, these Chocolate Sugar Cookies will make a welcome addition to our Santa selection and I hope you enjoy them, too. For more great holiday recipes, be sure to check out this week’s Recipe Time Capsule — it is filled with some of my all-time favorites.

Place cutout cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Place cutout cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Makes: About 3 dozen 2 ½- to 3-inch cookies

Ingredients:

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ¾ cups sugar

2 large or extra large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until combined; set aside.

In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you may also use a large bowl and hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and beat on medium speed for 1 minute after each addition, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed for 15 seconds, then increase to medium-low and mix until a smooth dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and the bottom and mix again for 15 seconds.

Divide the dough in half and place each half between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to roll each half into a thin disk approximately 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Keep each flattened disk between the plastic sheets and transfer to a baking sheet or large cutting board, with disks on top of the other. Refrigerate the disks until cold and firm, at least 2 hours or even overnight.

To bake the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove a chilled dough disk from the refrigerator. Gently peel off the plastic wrap from each side (keep the wrap to roll out the scraps) and then place the disk on a piece of parchment or wax paper.

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet 1 ½ to 2 inches apart. Collect the dough scraps and form into a ball. Place the ball between the 2 sheets of plastic wrap and re-roll the dough to the same thickness as the first round. Refrigerate for 5 minutes before cutting out the cookies.

Once the baking sheet is full of cookies, place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to help the cookies retain their shape while baking.

Bake the cookies until they are firm to the touch around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes, less for thinner cookies. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating. Use royal icing or buttercream to frost the cookies, or dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

To store: For best results, store cookies in a tin or other airtight container. They will keep for 5 to 7 days at room temperature, or for several months in the freezer.

Recipe Time Capsule:

This week in...

Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.