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Valentine's Brownie Cut Out Cookies

Brownie Cut Out Cookies
Adapted from Picky Cook and Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

3 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon espresso powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture, mixing until combined and smooth. (Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl and dig way down to the bottom too to bring up any dry bits. It took me about 3 tries of scraping the bottom before it was finally all incorporated.) Turn out onto a clean work surface. Divide dough in half, press out into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour.
3. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners; set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out chilled dough to 1/8-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters and transfer shapes to prepared baking sheets, brushing off any extra flour from the tops. Reroll scraps as needed. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly puffed. (Mine were perfect at 8 minutes.) Let cool on baking sheet for several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, decorate with frosting or royal icing.

Royal Icing
Adapted from Bake at 350 and Sweetopia
Makes enough to cover 4 dozen cookies? (I actually made double the recipe and ended up with a LOT of icing left over, so I think just 1 batch might do it.)

4 tablespoons meringue powder
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
Scant ½ cup of water*
¼ teaspoon almond extract (or another clear extract)
Food coloring
½ to 1 teaspoon light corn syrup (optional)**

*Not quite up to the full ½ cup. If it's easier, fill it up to the line, then take out a teaspoon of it.
** The corn syrup is supposed to add a little gloss to your dry icing. I didn’t use it, but next time I might because my colors dried almost matte-like.

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer on low, mix together meringue powder, confectioners’ sugar, water, and extract. (Once combined, add the corn syrup if using.) Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for about 3 minutes. It will still look a little runny, and but should hold a line drawn through it with a knife for 5 to 10 seconds. If it rushes back in less than 5 seconds, beat a little longer. If it holds the line for more than 10 seconds, add a small amount of water to the icing and beat until it is combined, testing until it reaches the right consistency.
2. Divide icing into bowls and add food coloring, mixing until color is completely incorporated. Fill a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (I used a Wilton #3).
3. Working with one cookie at a time, pipe the outline on your cookie, holding the tip about a ½-inch above the cookie and letting the icing fall onto the cookie around the edges of your shape. Once it is outlined, with the tip right up against the cookie, pipe icing right up against the outline you just made. Then begin to fill the cookie with icing, using a zigzag pattern (or whatever works for you.) Once the cookie is filled, shake it back and forth a couple times to smooth out the icing. (There’s a really good video of this method at Sweetopia.) Allow to dry for several hours before piping on any raised details, allowing the final design to dry overnight. (I put mine on cookie sheets in the oven with the door cracked overnight.)

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