I love this Venetian mask. I've had it for about fifteen years, with never an occasion to wear it. I need someone to arrange a masqued ball for me. Then I would stick this on my head and bring along these dark, decadent chocolate cookie shards as a gift for the host. Maybe I should just arrange one for myself. Or perhaps it would be simpler just to make the cookies, wear the mask and eat them. No need for guests or anything fussy like that.
I'm not overly keen on very sweet cookies, especially with the intense sugariness of the icing, so my intention was to create something rich and dark, but that would still be tasty for children and adults alike. To that end I enlisted my eight year old daughter and her little friend as chief taste testers, and somehow my husband enrolled himself on the programme. Frankly I was lucky to get these photographs taken whilst there were still some left.
These cookies are very simple to make, decorate, and eat. You can fantasize about putting delicate pieces out with coffee at your masqued ball, but really what people will want is large pieces and lots of them. I think that's the perfect definition of a successful amuse-bouche: something your guests really want more of but are too embarrassed to ask, so you get to keep most of it for yourself after they've all gone home.
This recipe starts with my basic shortbread style vanilla cookie, but omitting the vanilla, and replacing some of the cornflour with cocoa. You might want to omit the salt according to taste, but personally I think it's essential to add the richness these cookies need. The recipe assumes the cookies will be coated with royal icing to balance out the flavour. I also add a little salt to the water I make my royal icing with, to give it a richer taste (about 1 teaspoon per 100ml water).
NB I always weigh out in grams, but I've converted the quantities as best I can to ounces and cups for flexibility.
For the cookies:
250g butter, softened (9oz, or 1 cup, or 2 1/4 sticks)
170g powdered or icing sugar (6oz or 1 1/3 cups)
1 egg, lightly beaten
385g plain or all purpose flour (13 5/8oz or 3 cups)
60g cocoa powder (2oz or 1/2 cup)
40g cornflour (1 2/5 oz or 1/3 cup)
2 teaspoons salt
For the decoration:
Stiff black royal icing
Gold edible paint
Broad food-use only paintbrush
Sift and mix the flour, cocoa, cornflour and salt and set aside. Gently mix the butter and sugar until thoroughly incorporated but do not cream (to reduce spreading of the cookies whilst baking). Add the egg and a spoon of the dry ingredients. Once the egg is mixed in, set the mixer on low, and add the remains of the dry ingredients a spoon at a time until the dough pulls together. Split the dough into two pieces, form rough discs, and wrap in cling film. Chill the dough in the fridge for half an hour (I don't like rolling out really cold, stiff dough, it's too much work), then roll out between parchment or in large food-safe bags to a thickness of around 4mm. Seal the bags (or thoroughly wrap in cling film) and place overnight in the freezer.
Preheat the oven to 155c fan (310F or Gas mark 3). Unwrap one sheet of the frozen dough, and allow to soften at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Using a sharp knife (I use a scalpel) cut all the frilly broken edges off and
Bake for about 8 minutes, remove from the oven and smooth down the surfaces of the cookies with a fondant smoother, tin lid or other flat surface, being careful not to burn yourself! Pop the cookies back in the oven for a further 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size.
Mix up your black royal icing - you can use a chocolate based recipe if you like, such as this one from Lilaloa, if you want to avoid using too much black colouring. I've found Americolor to be great for creating deep colour whilst still drying hard, but some people find it has an artificial taste. Sugarflair black doesn't seem to have an aftertaste, but I find a really deep black icing won't dry truly hard with Sugarflair, though that's not necessarily a problem with this sort of cookie.
Spread the icing on each cookie shard with the spatula, taking care not to get icing over the edges. Allow to dry thoroughly, overnight. Paint splashes of edible gold on each cookie. Don't be too neat. I used Rainbow Dust Edible Metallic Paint in Light Gold as I love the way it dries with a non-smudge shiny surface, but you could mix up some gold lustre dust with vodka or alcohol-based essence and use that.
Finally arrange an exclusive dinner for a few special guests, with or without masks, and serve small shards of these cookies with espresso at the end of the meal. Once your guests have left, get your pyjamas on and scoff all the large pieces you kept back.