Photos by Jamie Maldonado
Custom decorated sugar cookies have become wildly popular and uber chic these days. These cookies are as at home in a lunchbox as they are on a fancy dessert table. Set them out for Santa or serve them up with tea. Ice them with a glaze or outline them with royal icing and you’ve turned the ordinary into extraordinary. I don’t know about you but, they have definitely moved up quite a few notches from the cookies I left out for Santa!
Sugar cookies are not a new invention by any means, they date back to the 17th century. Culinary guru’s say that the first cookies were actually test cakes. A small amount of cake batter was baked to test the oven temperature; eventually they began to sell them to eliminate waste. These tasty little treats quickly caught on and a sugar based creation was born. Word then spread throughout Europe in the 17th century and later they were introduced to the Americas. Three cheers for the 17th century! Plain and sugary, or layered with icing, sugar cookies are always a winner.
Personalized sugar cookies would make great save the dates, wedding favors, edible place cards or just yummy treats on your reception table. For an elegant look, keep the icing colors subdued and save the colorful, bold stuff for the holidays. These cookies are scrumptious iced or plain, they travel well and keep very nicely in the freezer.
What you need:
- 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Royal Icing, Sugar, Decorations, (optional)
What to do:
- Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl or large measuring cup and set aside. In a separate bowl mix together the butter and sugar until well mixed and fluffy and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs and vanilla to combine well. Slowly add in dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Divide dough into thirds and flatten each into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- When ready to bake, remove one disk at a time from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until warm enough to roll out, about 10 minutes. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to just about 1/4-inch thick, adding more flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. You don’t want to overwork the dough or walk off and leave it sitting, if the dough becomes too warm it will only make it harder to cut into shapes.
- Cut dough into desired shapes by using cookie cutters or a sharp knife for a freehand design. Combine the remaining scraps of dough, re-roll once and repeat. Save the rest of the scraps for the cookie dough lovers in your family. The cookies are just not as nice if they’ve been re-rolled more than once. Gently slide the shapes onto a lightly floured cutting board or the back of a baking sheet and refrigerate about 20 minutes until firm again. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350°. Place chilled dough cut-outs a few inches apart on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 8-9 minutes until they start to show the slightest golden color on the bottom. Remove from the oven and let rest right on the cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes to firm up a bit. Using a spatula, gently move cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough, making sure to place raw dough on a cooled baking sheet before each baking.
- The baked/cooled cookies can then be frozen and decorated at a later date if desired. Kids could decorate them on Christmas Eve, bridesmaids or friends and family could decorate them at a bachelorette party or bridal shower. They make great party favors or holiday gifts when they are wrapped in cellophane bags and tied up with ribbon. Iced sugar cookies hold their shape very well and could be made into lollipops or even a wedding cake topper! Needing ideas, extra help, or tutorials? The internet is your friend. There is so much free information out there you are only a click away. You’ll be limited only by your imagination when you leap into making tried and true sugar cookies! ENJOY!!!
Bonus: Optional Royal Icing:
- 2 lbs (1bag) confectioner’s sugar
- 1/3 c. plus one tablespoon meringue powder
- A little less than 3/4c. water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (use clear if you want pure white icing)
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup (if you want a little sheen)
What to do:
Add dry ingredients to your mixing bowl and combine. Slowly pour in wet ingredients and mix on medium for about 5-6 minutes until mixture resembles pudding, scraping the sides here and there. Next, crank up the speed to high and mix until it resembles stiff egg whites. Pull out a cup or two of icing at a time to work with. Color each little batch if needed and then mist in a bit of water to get it to a toothpaste consistency. Place this in a piping bag to outline the cookies. To fill in the cookies, you will take the same mixture and mist down a bit more to a shampoo consistency to flood the cookies. There are many websites and tutorials on the internet that will walk you through this if needed. Keep in mind, royal icing dries very quickly, and the tips of your piping bags will turn to cement as well. Keep the mixture covered very well as you are using it with a damp cloth or plastic wrap.
*Please note when using royal icing, drying time of the iced cookies will be a minimum of 24 hours before they are stackable, depending on humidity.