Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Sugar Cookies

This year, Marya, my sister and I hosted our second annual cookie party, but this year, we decided to go big and include all kinds of dessert.  We all know I love dessert parties! Since we were holding it the day after Thanksgiving, we wanted to make it a simple process (i.e. no stress baking), and I've been dying to decorate sugar cookies, so here was my chance!

I scoured website after website for recipes and came across some very cute sugar cookies. I sent my co-bakers a list of what I wanted to make, my sister helped me purchase all kinds of sparkles, glitter, and accoutrements to make my cookies SHINE! And, given my lack of expertise with rolling out dough, I needed my mom's help to roll out the sugar cookie dough (more on that later).

I also learned the difference between frosting and icing, though it is apparently a heavily debated topic.  My understanding is that some people consider them interchangeable.  However, I think frosting is primarily for cake decorating as it is more stiff and can hold shapes (think, rosettes) better.  Icing is thinner and dries to a glossy finish. 

I'm not sure if I messed something up, but this dough came out a bit weird. It was very crumbly, and very difficult to roll out (hence why I needed my mom's help). In past recipes, this has never been a problem. So, I don't know if I forgot an ingredient, or didn't chill the dough enough, what. If you test this out, let me know how it goes for you! Regardless, the cookies turned out chewy and mildly sweet, just as they should be!

Decorating the cookies took much longer than I expected. But it was fun! This year we only worked with two colors, next year, I might try adding shades of MAGENTA.

Too cute to eat! I thought the decorations would fall off, but the icing "glues" them in! 

Sugar Cookies, Recipe from Martha Stewart

Makes 2 dozen 4-inch sugar cookies

Special Tools: Cookie cutters in all shapes and sizes.  For example hearts. Various shapes of hearts. Candy canes, santa, reindeer, etc. etc.

Time Constraints: Just a reminder - this recipe calls for softened butter - so you will want to leave your butter to get to room temperature for a few hours before you bake.  Otherwise you will be sitting around watching DVR'ed TV waiting for your butter to soften!

You will also have to chill the dough a few times - for at least an hour once you make the dough, for about 30 minutes once you have rolled it out, and then another 15 minutes (in the freezer) once you cut the cookies into your shapes.


For the Cookie Dough
  •  4 cups all purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting your work surface
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (which means room temperature, which means, take it out a few hours before you start baking)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Royal Icing
  • 2 pounds confectioner's sugar, plus more if needed
  • 2/3 cup water, plus more if needed
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons meringue powder*
  • gel-paste food coloring**
*You can find this at most grocery stores, I think.  Some icing recipes call for egg whites, this recipe is replacing the egg whites with meringue powder
**Not the stuff you find in the baking section at Gristede's.  Usually gel paste comes in a small canister sized container and you only need a little bit to tint your icing. It comes in a plethora of colors, so be forewarned, you might become overwhelmed of all the shades of pink to choose from

For the Cookie Dough:

Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in the flour mixture. 

Turn out the dough, and divide in half. Flatten each half of the disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour, or over night.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, with racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Let one disk of dough stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or until soft enough to roll). Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it is about 1/4" thick, adding more dough to prevent it from sticking to the surface.

Chill again in the fridge until firm, about 30 minutes. Cut out your cookies in desired shapes and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet as you cut out the pieces. Roll out the scraps and repeat once more. Repeat the process with the other disk. 

Chill the cookies in your freezer until they are very firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake the cookies, switching positions of sheets and rotating halfway through, until the edges are golden, about 15 to 18 minutes. We have a super fast oven, and we were using the convection setting (in which it heats all over as opposed to just from the top) so I checked mine at 10 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.  Once completely cooled, decorate with the icing (recipe below).

For the Icing:

Mix the confectioner's sugar, water and meringue powder on low speed until smooth, about 7 minutes. The icing should be the consistency of glue.

If your icing is too thick, add in a little more water.  If it is too thin, add a little bit more confectioner's sugar.

Depending on how many colors you are going to use, split the icing into smaller bowls. Add food coloring, 1 drop at a time, until you get the color you want.

You can use this immediately, or store in the fridge up to a week.  Stir before using again. Note that when I began to decorate the cookies (see below), I actually added a few teaspoons of water once the icing was in the squeeze bottle, to get it a little bit more runny.

Now, it's time for the fun part - DECORATING! This was my first time frosting sugar cookies with icing, usually I just dump sprinkles over the cookie and call it a day.

We followed Martha's instructions on how to frost cookies. We purchased squeeze bottles and loaded them up with our frosting (only red and white this time). This method is INFINITELY better than those stupid icing bags that I never get along with.

Begin by outlining your cookie shape with your icing of choice.

Once it dries, you can "flood" the cookie with color, or, slap in some icing and make sure it covers the cookie (by using a toothpick). If you want to top your cookie with sprinkles and the like, make sure you do it quickly, before the icing dries.


Trupa said...

Cute AND delicious!

Lavina said...

these are adorable! love that first shot of the candy cane one :)