What’s possibly better than cookies shaped like smartly dressed humans in candy couture? Skeleton cookies with white chocolate bones. This chocolate version of a gingerbread cookie is a delicious flavor switch up, decorating them is far less of an undertaking, and they are perfect for Halloween. What I’m saying is, these skeleton cookies are the perfect excuse to break out the holiday cookie cutters early this year.
I always make gingerbread cookies in December, and as cute as they look, they’re no simple task. The dough is a to-do, requiring multiple spices (and every year I’m somehow lacking a different one). You need a variety of sprinkles or candies to make them colorful and festive, and you have to mix a batch of royal icing, which dries hard, in order to ship or tote them to a friend’s home. These skeleton cookies have the same amount of holiday spirit (if a different holiday), but much less of the fuss. All you need is a basic chocolate cut-out cookie recipe and a little melted white chocolate.
Part of the reason these are so easy is because they capitalize on the absence of color. It’s just a chocolate backdrop and “bones,” which means no mixing colors or carefully applying gumdrop buttons. Any chocolate cut-out cookie will work, but I used a slightly adapted version of this chocolate cookie recipe from King Arthur baking because it uses dark chocolate. They specify a black cocoa, but I found that Hershey’s special dark cocoa achieved the dark chocolate color perfectly, and had an excellent, rich, bitter chocolate flavor.
I rolled out the dough to a ¼-inch thickness before cutting them out, and otherwise baked them according to the recipe. The trick to keeping these cookies extra dark is rolling them out in cocoa powder instead of flour, but that trick is not for all bakers: This dough is very soft, and cocoa powder is very fine, making for a slightly sticky interaction. If you’ve rolled thousands of cookies and you feel like your skills are there, you’ll appreciate the uninterrupted cocoa finish of this method. If you have trouble rolling out pie doughs or don’t feel as comfortable handling dough, opt for flour (and a slightly less inky black finish) to avoid frustration. Cut out your cookies with a human-shaped cutter and place on a parchment lined baking sheet about an inch apart.
Bake the cookies in a preheated oven at 375°F for 10-12 minutes. Since their color is dark, it will be difficult to see their doneness. After 10 minutes, open the oven and gently tap the center of a cookie. If it feels firm, they’re done. If not, leave them for the additional two minutes. Cool them on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes before decorating.
On that note: Melt a couple ounces of white chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 10 seconds or so to ensure it doesn’t scorch. When the chocolate is smooth and hot, add it to a piping bag (or use a freezer bag as a makeshift piping bag), and pipe out a skeleton bone design. More or less, you’re making a stick figure out of bone shapes and a skull. Let the chocolate set at room temperature or in the fridge, and they’re ready to rattle.
Chocolate Skeleton Cookies (adapted from King Arthur)
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 stick butter (softened)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup extra dark cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup + 3 tablespoons flour
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
Mix the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl until well blended and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg, mix until completely blended.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, baking powder, and flour. Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture. Stir with a spoon until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated. Shape into a flat disk or rectangle, cover, and put the dough in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to firm up.
Dust the work surface with flour (or if using cocoa powder, press some through a sieve to cover your work area). Roll the cookie dough out to ¼-inch thickness and cut with a person-shaped cookie cutter.
Place cookies on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 375°F. Cool the cookies for 30 minutes, and draw a skeleton pattern with melted white chocolate.
Makes about 1 dozen 3-inch cookies. Keep stored in an airtight container for up to a week at room temperature, or freeze the cookies before decorating for up to 3 months. Thaw them completely on the counter before decorating.