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Baking back to school cookies

The summer is already coming to an end... so soon. Time truly flies when you're drenched in golden sunshine every day!

To sweeten up the back to school vibe, we baked up some fun end-of-summer chocolate sugar cookies... enough to pass on to friends and teachers... but by the time school actually rolled around, there weren't too many left! We'll have to whip up another batch or two!

Cookie cutters for baking treats

The ingredients and recipe are pretty simple and so delicious once put together. In all the years I've made these delights, I've had maybe a couple of disasters. And that's baking with three exuberant little boys, who all want to be involved. One lesson I've learnt along the way, is that ingredients matter. Source good quality ingredients for better results. I've tried a variety of alternatives, and although these chocolate gems still taste amazing, the cookies baked with better ingredients have a distinctive advantage.

THREE & ME Sugar cookie ingredients

In general I'm not too fussy about getting my bits and pieces to room temperature, but with this recipe, it really makes a huge difference. Butter and eggs should be at room temp to make your experience a whole lot more pleasurable.

For the cookies you will need:

1 cup butter (at room temperature) 1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs (at room temperature)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Find the printable recipe here.

Cream the butter and the sugar until smooth. I used a food processor, because I find it easier to blend the heavy dough with blades, rather than in a stand-up mixer. But either will work. If you use a regular beater, you may have to start kneading the dough sooner, than with the food processor. I also find that the food processor prevents over-beating. Add the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time and pulse until smooth after each addition.

In a separate bowl mix together all of your dry ingredients.

If your flour is clumpy in moist weather conditions, you may have to sieve it.

Add the unsweetened coca powder to the flour and salt.

Whisk until uniform in color. I find it a lot easier to add the blended dry ingredients, than to add them individually. This gives a more even color to the cookies. Perhaps some of my training in the precision of pharmaceutical compounding kicks in here, but mixing the ingredients the right way, adds to a much smoother and more evenly colored finish!

Add the dry ingredient blend to the food processor one cup at a time and pulse. Don't over-mix.

The dough will soon become too heavy to process, so this is the point at which you want to get your hands involved! Don't forget to take off your rings. Lesson learnt. The dough will be pretty crumbly when it comes out of the machine. But stick with it. When I did it the first time I panicked just a little bit, that my dough was too dry! But if you can can roll and flatten a small ball of it without it cracking up, you're good to go.

Knead the dough until it comes together smoothly. And try not to sample too much of it ... oh ... where is that self control? ;)

Once it's all satiny smooth, break off chunks to roll out.

I have a very smart friend, called Reni, who taught me a trick for rolling out my cookie dough, which has been an absolute treasure. Instead of flouring your rolling pin and getting white flecks all over your beautifully blended chocolate goodness, you use two sheets of parchment paper. Place your lump of chocolate yumminess onto a parchment sheet. Place a 1/4 inch diameter dowel rod on either side of your dough so that your rolling pin glides evenly over it, like a train on tracks. Cover with the second sheet of parchment paper and roll away!

As you can see, your dough is perfectly even all around, without the risk of some cookies being thinner or thicker than others. So simple and so effective, right? No more frustration at unevenly rolled cookies!

At this point my dough is often too soft to move cookie shapes from the parchment to the baking tray without tearing or distorting them. So I'll layer my 1/4 inch rolled out dough in between sheets of parchment paper and place them into the fridge for twenty minutes to half an hour to firm up. This really makes a huge difference to the final appearance of your sweet delights. Some people prefer to chill the dough before rolling it out, but I find that trying to roll out a hard lump of cookie dough straight from the fridge is difficult and sometimes frustrating.

Once firm, you're ready to cut out your shapes to your heart's content!

Big and small... there's room for all shapes and sizes!

Knead together the extra bits (the ones your little helpers don't eat) and roll out again until it's all done.

Lay out cookies on parchment on an un-greased baking tray and bake for 7 minutes at 375F.

Cool briefly on the tray and then move to cooling racks. Cookies will need to be completely cold before icing.

These cookies can be decorated with buttercream icing, royal icing or even Nutella in a pinch. We frosted ours with royal icing. We took loads of photos to show you how we did it, but will write this up in a second blog post... or this one will get too long and we may lose you to daydreaming along the way. But just in case you can't wait for the full post you can find my Royal Icing Recipe here.

Apple shaped sugar cookie from THREE & ME

Shiny apples, bright red ladybugs and honey-yellow bumble bees... the epitome of balmy summer days! These delights don't just land up looking cute, they taste pretty divine too. The rich chocolate base is perfectly complimented by the crunchy thin crust of frosting, which you can flavor as you desire with oil-free extracts such as almond, hazelnut, peppermint or vanilla.

Bumble bees from heart shaped sugar cookies

All plated up and ready to enjoy... they won't last long! I know my three sons will be happy to open their lunch boxes today and see sweet summer memories lurking among the sandwiches and milk.

Sharing apple and cutie-pie bug shaped sugar cookies by THREE & ME

To all of you who are sending your adorable angels back to school today ... wishing you a wondrous and exciting start to the new school year.

Create. Enjoy. Repeat.



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