20 January 2014

Eats: iced sugar cookies

Despite my best efforts (yes I do make an effort) I’m forever behind with seasonal recipes. I’ll make pumpkin milkshakes in December when everyone is over “fall flavors”, I’ll get around to making a nice wintry soup in May, and I’ll decide to make a summery sangria just as everyone else is celebrating Halloween. And now here I am on the day we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., in January, talking about cookies that are often made around Christmas.

Usually when I do this, I figure it’s just bad timing for blog fodder, and pass on telling you about it. But today? Today I’m sharing anyway. Although I tend to think of rolled, iced sugar cookies as a Christmas sort of treat, especially the idea of baking them as part of Christmas celebrations, you can totally make sugar cookies any time of the year! Just cut them into any old shape you want, and they’re ready for the occasion.

As a for-instance: For reasons that will become clear tomorrow, I pepped up a recent party with sugar cookies in science shapes. Yes. But you don’t have to have science-themed cookie cutters to enjoy these – make them for winter, Valentine’s Day, whatever! Heck, you could make them in Santa and stocking shapes in mid-January. They will still taste delicious.

I used this recipe, which turned out simple enough. Still, the one important point I want to make about these cookies up-front is that you need time to make them. They’re definitely more involved than most cookies I make. The steps aren’t long, but there’s some waiting time involved before baking, before icing, and before serving.

So, at least one day before you want cookies, make the dough! Start by creaming together one and a half sticks of softened butter with a cup of sugar.

(Don’t forget that you can microwave a cold stick of butter for 6 seconds per side until softened, if you, like me, never remember to set out the butter to soften.)

Add two eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla.

And then mix in a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt, and two and a half cups of flour. Approximately. Like, if you forget you are trying to halve the original recipe and you dump in two teaspoons of baking powder and then try to scrap one teaspoon’s worth of baking powder back out, it will still totally work. Uh, hypothetically speaking, of course.

Run the mixer for a minute, and you’ve got yourself some cookie dough!

Now, you could go ahead and try to roll out the cookies now. But the dough is quite soft and sticky, so I wrapped the dough with plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

The following day, I made a little mixture of flour and powdered sugar on parchment paper, and rolled the dough out on that.

It was MUCH easier to work with small amounts of dough – I can’t imagine trying to roll out the entire ball of dough. My stand mixer has given me no need to upper arm strength, so I don’t even think I could anymore. Just cut off part of the dough to work with at a time!

Cut out the designs...

And place them on a baking sheet. I greased it because I always grease baking sheets, but I think I could have gotten away without it this time.

Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for seven to nine minutes, MAX. You want the edges to be just barely brown, but the bottom to still be fairly light. You’re going to think they aren’t done, but they are! Just transfer them to a wire rack to cool, and they’ll set.

Once the cookies cool – that would be the second waiting game – it’s time to frost them! I just used half a cup of confectioner’s sugar mixed with a tablespoon of milk and a teaspoon of vanilla.

The amount of liquid is key – too much, and the icing will be too runny to work with. Err on the side of thicker icing! Add more powdered sugar as needed.

I actually ended up making icing twice – two half-cups, rather than making a single batch at once with one cup of powdered sugar. If it’s thick enough, it’ll start to set while you’re working with it, so make smaller batches so it’s easier to work with.

Then comes the best part of icing: SPRINKLES!

This has been a woefully sprinkle-free blog for a very long time. No more!

Finally, wait EVEN MORE TIME for the icing to completely set. Once it’s hardened, the cookies can be stacked and served!

Ta-da! They’re far from perfect (that one green test tube on the right clearly demonstrates my incompetence with the runny icing) but dang if they don’t make a pretty smart impression. And although there’s a lot of time spent waiting – for the dough to harden, for the cookies to cool, for the icing to set – each step is deceptively fast and easy.

So extend that holiday-baking mindset into this new year and make some rolled sugar cookies! Coming from someone who was totally intimidated by them, I promise they are easy and delicious enough for you to try. Enjoy!

Finally, here’s this week’s meal plan:

Sunday: Company coming over for a party! More on that tomorrow!

Monday: pizza and salad

Tuesday: taco night

Wednesday: ranch chicken, baked potato, and green beans

Thursday: stroganoff meatballs with green peas

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: chicken parmigiana

Happy Monday, everyone!


Janice said...

Maybe you made them for Christmas time, but no reason why they can't be made for Valentine's day with pink, red, white frosting ;)

Russell said...

Great job on the cookies! And this is from a guy who is married to a semi-pro cookie baker.