Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking - Day 7 Sugar Cookies

Everybody loves sugar cookies right? No, seriously, they do don't they? I won't call them my favorite cookie, I reserve that title for chocolate chip cookies. Sugar cookies are pretty great though, especially when they are crispy around the edges but still just chewy, with that buttery goodness. Not only am I an avid baker, but I love to decorate cookies (and cakes). As a result, I have a little bit of an addiction to cookie cutters. You name the occasion I probably have a cookie cutter for it, holidays especially. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and most especially Christmas. When a holiday rolls around I break out the accompanying cookie cutters and get to mixing and rolling.

I've tried various sugar cookie recipes over the years and some are either too bland, come out too hard, or the cookies spread too much resulting in funky looking blobs that slightly resemble their initial shape. I absolutely love and highly recommend No-Fail Sugar Cookies. The recipe makes a generous batch, the dough is easy to work with, the cookies hold their shape, and the resulting cookies taste fantastic. I've seen many mentions of this recipe, so I am apparently not the only one who loves it.

I want to share my secret, or okay, maybe it's not so secret tip with you. As soon as I finish mixing up the dough I like to sandwich portions between wax paper, roll it to the desired thickness then stick it in the fridge or the freezer on cookie sheets to chill. That way you aren't handling the dough too much, which can result in it softening too much, causing the baking cookies to not hold their shape as well. Also, the dough chills faster. Not to mention, you have less mess to clean up.

While the cookies are in the oven baking to a golden deliciousness and smelling the kitchen up something amazing I like to whip up a batch of royal icing to decorate the beauties with. If you haven't worked with royal icing there's a few things you should know:

1. Your mixing bowl and utensils need to be extra clean and free of grease. The grease free thing is important!
2. Always make sure when not using your royal icing you have it sealed in air tight containers or cover the surface with a layer of plastic wrap. The stuff dries out fast! If you are piping it on your cookies it's a good idea to cover the icing tips with a moist paper towel when not using.
3. You REALLY need to follow the instructions precisely. I pretty much wing it with buttercream, but royal icing doesn't work that way. I know it says to mix for what feels like forever, but I promise it is necessary.
4. Allow the icing plenty of time to harden. The stuff will look hardened, but if you start to handle them cookies too soon after icing (other than to eat them) you'll mess up your pretty icing job and we don't want that! But, once the icing has completely hardened it is very sturdy. You can stack cookies on top of each other without worry that the icing will smear, the cookies will stick together, etc. The sturdiness of the icing makes these perfect for shipping if you have a loved one you want to send goodies too.

No-Fail Sugar Cookies
6 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract or desired flavoring
1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Mix dry ingredients and add a little at a time to butter mixture. Mix until flour is completely incorporated and the dough comes together.

Chill for 1 to 2 hours (or use my wax paper hint mentioned above)

Roll to desired thickness and cut into desired shapes. Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown around the edges.

This recipe can make up to 5-dozen 3” cookies.
Recipe from kitchengifts.com

Royal Icing
3 tablespoons Meringue Powder
4 cups confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons warm water (it must be warm water)

Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).

* For stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
**When using large countertop mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
Thinned Royal Icing: To thin for pouring, add 1 teaspoon water per cup of royal icing. Use grease-free spoon or spatula to stir slowly. Add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time until you reach proper consistency.
Note: Remember to keep all utensils and mixing bowls grease-free. Yields 3 cups


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