Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family, and ready for the Christmas spirit to surround you all over. We’re now officially 25 days till Christmas, and I think we’re ready for some cookies, aren’t we? Almost every single one of my friends has asked me at some point or another whether I bake or cook with my daughter. Eeek… should I tell them the truth? Or the book-answer good? Because if I tell them the truth, it would only reveal what a control freak I am in the kitchen. So the answer has been: “I try… and depending on what I make, and when I do it, she may or may not be involved.” If it’s a pretty forgiving recipes like quick breads or muffins, then by any means. And as long as I am not doing it at 10 pm on a Sunday night when I am trying to rush through my to-do for the evening. One of the things that I have been trying to do for the past three years (my daughter turned five this past summer), is decorating Christmas cookies. I think she finally got the concept of Santa Claus and the anticipation of Christmas, but last year was the first year that I would say that she was able to really enjoy decorating cookies and she really got into it.
The second part of it was that I really didn’t have a good cut-out sugar cookies recipe handy. I want them to be buttery cookies that has good flavors, a little soft in the inside, but still has a good firm bite with slight vanilla hints. The most important requirement though, for the dough that’s not too challenging and yet still robust enough to handle little hands. After all, it is the experience of baking cookies that I want my kids to grow up remembering. These cookies were such a hit last year that we made them again this year. I love that this recipe is so forgiving that we can make it together as a family. Happy baking!
Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Yield: 2 dozens
1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups (420 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/4 cups (1-pound box/454 grams) confectioners’ sugar
5 to 6 tablespoons (70 to 90 grams) milk
Food coloring, as desired
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon), cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. (This step will take about 10 minutes if using a handheld mixer or a spoon.) Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and the paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well mixed. On low speed (or with the wooden spoon), slowly blend the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture and then mix just until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.
Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and wrap the dough in the plastic wrap, pressing down to form a disk about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for about 1 hour, or until it firms up enough to roll out. (At this point, the dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If the dough is frozen, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 1 hour before using, then proceed as directed.)
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly flour a work surface, place the dough disk on the surface, and lightly flour the dough. Roll out about 1/4 inch thick. Keep both the work surface and the dough floured to prevent sticking. If the dough begins to stick, sprinkle on a little more flour and keep rolling. Using a cookie cutter about 21/2 inches in diameter, cut out as many cookies as possible. Place them on a baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Gather up the scraps, reroll, and cut out more cookies. If the dough is soft and warm and difficult to roll, wrap the scraps in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and pale to light brown in the centers. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 30 minutes, or until they are cool enough to remove with a spatula. Then transfer to the wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting: While the cookies are cooling, place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and whisk in enough of the milk to make a stiff, thick icing. (If it is too thin, it will run off of the cookies, so err on the stiffer side. You can always add more milk.) Divide the frosting among as many small bowls as necessary to use the food coloring to tint each batch as you like. (The plain frosting can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day. Use a spoon to loosen it if it stiffens at the bottom of the container, then color as desired.)
Spoon each colored frosting into a pastry bag fitted with 1/4- to 1/8-inch round tip, or place the frostings in zippered plastic bags, and snip off a tiny corner from each bag. Decorate the cookies as desired. Let the frosting dry completely, about 8 hours, before stacking the cookies for storage.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
Source: “Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe” by Joanne Chang. Copyright © 2011 by Chronicle. All rights reserved.