Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Cookies 1.2 - Sugar Cookies

I found the cutest snowman cookie jars a few weeks ago and decided they would make great teacher gifts for the holidays. I bought them and stashed them away with visions of a pleasant afternoon spent baking holiday cookies with the boys to fill up the round tummies of my jars. It was a pleasant afternoon of baking but my 'help' was rather hit and miss. P. likes cracking eggs and running the mixer, but once those tasks were done he was out. D. strolled through the kitchen once or twice, his nose glued to his DSi, and peeked at my progress but I suspect he was just trying to see if there were any cookies ready to consume.

I've made sugar cookies a few years now for the holidays. The most reliable recipe I've found comes from a Williams Sonoma cookbook called kids baking that I was gifted for Mother's Day in 2005. It's a nifty little book that has provided us with a few reliable treats. The sugar cookie recipe is definitely a keeper. The cookie dough is easy to work with, which I appreciate because I'm not a huge fan of rolling out cookie dough. To me, cookies are best when I can scoop, plop and bake. No fuss, no muss. I'll put up with a little fuss at Christmas, especially when the results are so tasty. Here's how to make some pretty excellent sugar cookies.

sugar cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients. In large bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy (about 3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla, beating until blended. Add the flour mixture (on low speed) just until blended. The dough will look lumpy. Dump the dough out and form into a solid mound. Divide in half, wrap in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease baking sheets.

Sprinkle work surface with some flour. Place unwrapped chilled dough on flour surface, sprinkle with a bit more flour. Roll out dough with rolling pin until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Then use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes. Like so:

Bake each full sheet of cookies for 8-10 minutes or until the edges begin to become golden brown. (I found 8 minutes sufficient, particularly for the smaller cookies.)

The fun part is icing and decorating your cookies. To be honest I tend to be minimalist with sugar cookies. Most of the time I just leave them plain. I hear no complaints and have none left after a couple of days, so icing and sprinkles are apparently optional, right? Since these cookies are gifts I decided to tart them up a bit, like so:

I used an icing recipe from the same cookbook that is super simple (see below). After applying the icing I then coated each cookie in coloured sugar sprinkles. Buttery, sugary goodness all set for gifting!

super simple sugar cookie icing

2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp + 2 tsp warm water
1 tbsp light corn syrup

Combine the above in a bowl and mix with an electric hand mixer.

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