Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sugar Cookies

So I really was thinking through how I was going to do a step by step video post for y'all on how to decorate christmas cookies, then after checking several of my favorite blogs as the cookie season rolled around, I realized it would be a bit of a waste.

These tutorials are probably better than anything I would have done (being new at it), so I figured I would give you my recipes and tricks and then direct you to their sites for more guidance.

Here is the biggest tip I can give you ahead of time...I make sugar cookies in at least a two day process, some times three. Not only does this make it less stressful, but I feel the process produces more fool proof cookies. So before you decide to jump head first, consider instead of making it a whole one day process taking an hour or so over three days to make these cookies.

Here is what my timeline usually looks like:
Day 1- make cookie dough, refrigerate
Days 2- roll out and cut out cookie dough, refrigerate
Day 3- bake and frost (admittedly if I'm doing 200+ cookies these get split up into separate days as well)

Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • ¾ cups Butter
  • 1 cup White Sugar
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 1-½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
  • 2-½ cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine room temperature butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and combine.

In a separate bowl, blend together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Slowly add dry ingredients into wet batter until fully incorporated.

Drop dough onto a large piece (or two) of saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to roll out the cookies, generously flour a flat surface and roll out the dough to desired thickness (I like mine on the thicker side). You can use as much flour as you need! Side note: with other recipes I used powdered sugar to roll out on, but with this one I find the flour works best.

For best results, bake on silpat or parchment paper or well oiled cookie sheet.

Bake at 325 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes. You want to remove from the oven before the edges brown at all. Let sit about a minute or two before taking up from the cookie sheet, if they start to break, let them sit longer. I recommend using a metal spatula.

After I roll out the cookie dough and cut it out into the shapes I want I place them in a tupperware container lined with parchment or waxed paper and stack them in the container and refrigerate as long as I need to, usually over night. When ready to bake I simply place on the cookie sheet. If you're producing lots of cookies, or doing it with kids this usually make life much more simple.

After the cookies have cooled and you've gotten the flour off your shirt, apron, pants, floor, cabinets and sink you are ready to make the frosting. What, am I the only one that cooks messy?

I'll be straight with y'all, if you're going for taste (and most baking with kids is usually more about that) I would stay away from the royal icing and go with buttercream. One of the tastiest and easiest Christmas cookies I'll make is to make small sugar cookie circles, take buttercream and place it in the middle of two, slightly squeeze together and roll the edges of icing peeking out in Christmas sprinkles (sometimes I just mix red and green sanding sugar together for this). These will transport fairly well.

The other option is to just spread buttercream on top and cover with sprinkles. These will get messed up if touched so they are a bit more precarious for travel.

If you are interested here is a very general vanilla buttercream recipe (general because I can't give away my exact secrets!): 2 sticks room temperature butter, powdered sugar (2-4 cups depending on how sweet you like it), vanilla and salt. Blend butter and sugar first and then add other ingredients.

Now that I've given you the tasty easy way let's move on to the more involved but oh so pretty method:

Royal Icing:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered egg whites (also called meringue powder, can be found at places like Hobby Lobby and Michael's, but take you 40% off coupon as the smaller containers will run you about $8 before hand. While it may be an upfront investment it lasts forever and really is the secret to safe, well made royal icing)
  • 3 tablespoons warm water (guesstimate, may need more or less depending on humidity)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
Lightly blend sugar and meringue powder together. With mixer on slowly add vanilla and almond flavorings, then slowly add warm water.

Remember the more you mix the wetter the mixture will become so always start with less liquid and add more. Also remember if you plan on adding food coloring (even gel ones) those will add moisture to the frosting later on that will make it more liquid.

Once you think you are close to the desired consistency crank up your mixer and whip away. For at least 5 minutes. You can add more water at this point if you think it needs it, then mix some more.

This is a great blog for showing you the proper consistency the frosting needs to be.

I typically make the thicker outlining frosting first because I can always add more water to that and use it to flood the cookies. I love getting away with only using one large bowl. I then divide up the amount I think I'll need into smaller bowls and mix in the coloring I want. When I'm ready to make it into flooding icing I just add a little bit of warm water at a time.

A few more tips:
  • Don't forget royal icing dries VERY quickly! Always keep it covered (even your frosting tips, a damp paper towel works well for this). I even rinse my beaters off right after I'm done making it so I don't have cement on my hands later. If you forget, a long soak in hot water usually does the trick.
  • This requires a steady hand which is typically learned over time. While you are in the learning process a damp (not wet or it will mess up the icing) finger tip can smooth out quite a bit.
  • Keep your tip clean. This helps to make those clean lines.

If y'all have any questions before hand, or while you are in the process of making these, feel free to post them on the facebook wall or in the comments section and I will answer them as quickly as possible. Good luck!

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