Yield: Yields about 4 dozen 2-1/2-inch cookies.
A rich, buttery cocoa dough cut into star shapes is the perfect background for piped royal icing, gold dragées, or even gold leaf. Use nonalkalized (natural) cocoa, such as Hershey’s or Nestlé, rather than Dutch-processed for more straight-ahead chocolate flavor.
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Combine the flour, cocoa, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla until well blended. Add the flour mixture; beat until well blended (if you’re using an electric mixer, set it on low speed). Divide the dough and shape it into two flat disks; wrap one in plastic while you work with the other.
Heat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll one disk 3/8 inch thick. Cut out shapes and set them 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Repeat with the other disk. Combine the scraps, chill them if they feel warm, and reroll.
Bake the cookies until the tops look dry and you see flaky layers when you break a cookie in half. This will take about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Decorate the cooled cookies with royal icing or gold leaf.
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