Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cinnamon-Chocolate Bat Cookies

There are blue sugar crystals on that there bat.

Chocolate Bats: The Legend. The tale begins about eighteen years ago, when Son One was in Montessori, and I was in the mood to bake cookies for Hallowe'en. I played around with one of Martha Stewart's recipes, adding cinnamon to the mix at the behest of the lad, and cut them into bats: WELL, thought I, let me put on some strong coffee right this minute.

The following morning, I packed a couple of bats in the royal lunchbox, and then, on second thought, wrapped a half-dozen more and put them in too: If there are other kids at the table, voilà--everyone's happy.


At twelve-thirty, I received a call from the teacher: "Er...Mrs. Tornello,  I'm calling about those chocolate bat cookies."

Uh-oh.  Did the sharing go okay, I wondered. (We really were working on that stuff.)

"Your son came over to the teacher's table and gave each of us one of your chocolate bat cookies--such a lovely, thoughtful boy--and they were so good. Could you...possibly...would you mind making a big batch for the whole class?" (Note: she meant the whole school, since they all ate lunch together.)

I made a triple batch of the cookies that night and sent them in. They became a regular thing around here, too, and not just at Hallowe'en.  I still have the kitschy little black plastic bat cookie cutter, used to make the cookie in the photo; the boys--there are three of them now--are still capable of reducing the chocolate bats by half within an hour of baking. I made them last night, in fact. I think there might be one or two left. Sigh.

This unfrosted, mostly unadorned cookie is texturally akin to slightly-cakey sugar-cookie, that is, it combines the best qualities of a wafer, a sugar cookie, and a brownie.  It's deeply chocolatey but not overly sweet, especially if you go light on the sugar-sprinkling. At Hallowe'en, use orange sugar to make them sparkle and jump off the plate (as if they needed help).

Deborah's Chocolate Bats

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/4 cups best quality unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 generous teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 large eggs, lightly whisked
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In another bowl, with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy; add the eggs and vanilla.

Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the flour mixture into the egg-butter-sugar mixture; combine thoroughly but don't over-mix. Divide the dough into two balls, wrap each in plastic, and flatten slightly so you've got two very thick chocolate frisbee-like shapes. Put in the fridge for an hour or so.

Heat your oven to 350º F (my oven can get a bit too hot, so I always bump this down to about 325º F and wait a bit longer--it's preferable to having them burn on the underside).

Cover your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using a rolling pin and a clean, lightly floured surface, roll the dough out carefully until it's about 1/8" thick--mine are often a tiny bit thicker, as the humidity this time of year makes it nearly impossible to work with very thin dough of any sort. Flouring both your rolling pin and hands will help keep the dough from sticking too much. (So will working with cooled dough, in a nice cool kitchen--lucky you--if you possibly can.)

With a bat-shaped cookie-cutter--or one that's any favorite shape, of course--cut out your cookies. A wafer-thin metal spatula will be useful in transferring them onto the cookie sheet. As with many things containing flour, the less you manhandle this dough, the more tender and melt-in-your-mouth the final result will be, so be gentle and take your time. You can put the bats fairly close together, as they don't tend to swell and spread the way some cookies do. Sprinkle them with a little sugar, either plain granulated, raw, or colorful.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. They're supposed to be juuust this side of crisp and not darkened at all.

I have to admit it: chocolate bats, when oven-warm, are quite gorgeous--more so when eaten while standing at the stove with a little cup of espresso in one hand, enjoying the peace that you know is as temporary as it gets: that deep chocolate-cinnamon aroma might just as well be a fifty-foot-wide bat signal.


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