I love the buttery, flaky texture of shortbread, and this chocolate version does not disappoint. Children will have fun creating designs on the cookies by dragging a toothpick through red and white royal icing.
With two colors of royal icing, these chocolate shortbread cookies are a beautiful alternative to classic Christmas sugar cookies. For a more sophisticated cookie for adults, skip the royal icing and enjoy the balance of sea salt and chocolate.”
Combine the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light in texture, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and cocoa and mix until combined, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides if necessary. Add the flour and sea salt (if using) and mix on low speed until thoroughly incorporated, about 2-3 minutes. The dough should be uniform in color.
Divide the dough into two equal parts. Roll to form two balls, then flatten each ball into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap each disk in a piece of parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap the dough and place another piece of parchment paper atop the disk. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough between the two pieces of parchment to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Remove the top layer of parchment and cut as many cookies as you can, using a 3-inch star cookie cutter (or other desired shape). Gather dough scraps and re-roll. If the dough gets too warm and begins to stick, place it back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Repeat with the other disk of dough.
Place the cookies 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies on it) onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
* If you are concerned about using raw egg whites to make the frosting, the lemon juice and egg whites can be heated to 160 degrees and then cooled before using.
Combine the lemon juice and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar and mix until well incorporated and free of lumps. For a thicker icing, add the additional 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
Divide the icing into two bowls and stir in a few drops of food coloring into one bowl, adding enough to create a vibrant red color. Ice the cookies as desired, using a toothpick or blunt knife to create different patterns on the cookies. Allow the icing to set completely before serving.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or they can be frozen for 2 weeks.
Note: This makes a very large batch of icing, so you can decorate other cookies with it as well; cut it in half if you are only making the shortbread cookies.