A dessert that works for every occasion except a wedding, and perhaps even then? The sugar cookie fits the bill. Who doesn’t like a sugar cookie? They have cookie cutters of every shape and size. So you can customize them for whatever holiday or occasion. They do not require refrigeration or special packaging.
Sugar cookies are relatively inexpensive just a few ingredients; flour, sugar, butter, and eggs, maybe some flavoring like vanilla or almond extract, and food coloring for the icing. They don’t take forever to make and it is a kid-friendly activity.
“I can’t decorate cookies!” you may say, and I say “Yes, you can!”
A few tips and a little practice and you will be decorating with the best of them:
Tip 1: Roll cookie dough out evenly, this way all the cookies will be done at the same time, even cooking helps in a good sturdy cookie to hold all that lovely sugary icing. Also, rotate your cookie sheet halfway through the cooking time so they will brown evenly.
Tip 2: The consistency of your icing matters. If you use runny icing on the edge of your cookie, you will not have clean edges, it will run off the side of the cookie. This is not a super big deal, it can be fixed, sort of, with a toothpick, but it will cost you time and unnecessary aggravation.
Tip 3: Timing is everything when decorating with royal icing. If you wait too long to fill-in a spot it will not blend in with the neighboring icing. I you want to write a message on top of already iced cookies, and you do this before the icing has dried it will be absorbed into the base. So timing is important. Do not get too far ahead in outlining cookies before filling them.
Tip 4: Size matters…of the hole in your decorating bag. I use the disposable plastic bags when decorating cookies. If you cut the hole too small your hand will be killing you by the last cookie, and if you do not have a completely smooth icing it will be clogged easily. If you cut your hole too large the icing flows much faster and is hard to control and you will have less definition, especially when doing detail work. For very fine detail, I will use a small paper cone. These do not last as long as the plastic bags, but they are made from parchment paper and are inexpensive.
Tip 5: I guess your wondering how I learned all of these things. Trial and error, so I am passing my wisdom on to you. So this is my last tip, if you do make a mistake in decorating, eat the cookie, no one else will ever know that you made the mistake.
The cookie portion of this recipe is a very versatile dough as well. It’s called Short Dough. You can use this to make cookies of course, but also tart shells, the cookie bottoms to lemon bars or pecan bars, any recipe that uses a sugar cookie recipe and this is the one.
I mix everything in a food processor in this order, then do pulses until the dough just comes together. Do not over mix or you will have sweet rocks instead of cookies. (over-exaggeration, but not as nice of texture).
1.5 lb cake flour (at work I just use all-purpose and it is just fine)
1 lb of cubed butter, cold
.5 lb granulated sugar
Roll cookies to about 1/8 of an inch, ( you can go thicker if you like it will take longer to bake). Place cut out cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The cookies in this recipe do not grow while baking but give at least an inch between cookies for proper air circulation. Bake at 350F from 6-10 minutes, turning halfway through baking. They should be slightly browned on the edges, and somewhat firm in the middle.
Judging the doneness of baked goods takes some practice. There are so many elements that go into this process it should be its own type of science (baking biology) i.e. how many cookies you have on the sheet, how many sheets are in the oven, how big is your oven, how thick are your cookies, how warm or cold the dough is when it is put in… So if they don’t turn out the first time, don’t give up! It is a “science” and with some practice, you will learn what works best for you, your oven and your cookie dough.
The dough can be made ahead of time and kept up to 1 week before baking, or freeze it into discs about 1 inch thick, to help with thawing. It can be kept in the freezer in a well-wrapped state for up to 6 months. Bring it out a couple of days before you need to roll it and thaw in the fridge. You will need to work it a little to make it happy again. You can also keep the baked cookies for a few days in a tightly lidded container after they are completely set, otherwise, you will have one huge cookie.
The royal icing part of this recipe can also be versatile, depending on how liquid you make it and how long you mix it. If you use the original recipe, no additional water to thin it and mix it for about 5 minutes you have excellent glue for a gingerbread house. If you add about a tablespoon of water you have a nice consistency for outlining your cookie or making cake decorations. If you add another tablespoon, you have the consistency for filling your decorated cookies.
1 lb powdered sugar
3 oz egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
food coloring of choice
I usually make a big batch of white color and then portion into smaller containers (coffee cups) to mix the colors I need,
You just need to mix the above ingredients till smooth. This can be done by hand, however, if you want the glue, you will need a mixer, or risk your arm falling off.
You can keep this icing at room temp for a week. It will separate though. To use again, just remix until combined and it will be good as new. You may also store it for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, with separation, but again just remix and it’s good to go.
*TIP- If you are not actively using this, cover the bowl or container with a damp cloth. Even if you are using the plastic piping bags, the tips will form a crust, it is just the nature of the beast.
I do hope you will try these cookies! They are delicious and beautiful, and I have never seen anyone who didn’t smile while eating one.
Please send us some pictures of your finished cookies we would love to see what you come up with.
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I’m a wife, mother, pastry chef and amatuer gardner. I travel as much as possible, can what I grow, and taste as many new things as possible.