DAY 5: Sugar Cookies (Two Doughs/Many Variations)
Sugar Cookies are the iconic Christmas treat. Good thing they are also extremely versatile. Once you have your sugar cookie base, you can easily change up the design for very different looks and tastes. I have two basic sugar cookie doughs that I like to use. The first is a soft, thick dough that stays pillowy soft and tender after baking. This is the dough I use for most of my sugar cookies:
But if I need really sharp edges, and absolutely no spread when the dough is baked, I go with the dough below. The cookies are still soft if you don’t overbake them, but they are more dense than the other recipe.
Whichever dough you choose, you can make traditional frosted sugar cookies, with various types of icing, or try something just a little different. These two options are actually easier than frosting with a regular icing.
Snow Capped Christmas Trees:
Stained Glass Sugar Cookies:
Soft and Thick Sugar Cookies
3 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
About 7 – 7 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, butter, sour cream, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Mix in 4 cups of flour, the baking soda, and salt. Mix in enough additional flour to make a moderately stiff dough.
Chill for 20 minutes to 1 hour for easier handling. Roll out dough to desired thickness (about 1/4” thick) and cut with cookie cutter.
Bake at 375°F for 10 -11 minutes; if they brown, it’s been too long. They should look white when done.
Frost and decorate as desired.
Yield will depend on the size of your cookie cutter and the thickness of your dough. I got 6 dozen cookies made from 3” cookie cutters.
Sharp Edged Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
Optional: Shimmery Sanding Sugar or Coarse Sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350° F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in extracts and egg.
In a separate bowl combine baking powder with flour and slowly mix into the wet ingredients. The dough will be stiff.
Do not chill dough. Roll dough out onto a floured surface to almost 1/4 inch. You want these cookies to be thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out cookie shapes and place on baking sheets.
Bake for 7-9 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.
Yield will depend on the size of your cookie cutter and the thickness of your dough. I got 25 cookies made from 4” snowflake cookie cutters.
(Sharp edged sugar cookie dough from In Katrina’s Kitchen)
Snow Capped Christmas Trees
Sugar Cookie Dough (see above)
Green food coloring
About 12 oz white chocolate, or white melting candy discs
Prepare sugar cookie dough. Mix in a few drops of green food coloring. Chill for 20 minutes to 1 hour, if necessary, for easier handling. Roll out dough and cut out with Christmas tree cookie cutter.
Bake according to sugar cookie dough recipe.
Place white chocolate in a bowl at least as wide as the cookie sides you will be dipping. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each heating, until melted and smooth. Dip each edge of the cooled cookies in the melted chocolate and place on waxed paper to harden.
Stained Glass Sugar Cookies
Sugar Cookie Dough (see above)
1 package Jolly Rancher candies, cut in half for small openings
Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
Roll out dough to about 1/8” and cut out with large cookie cutters. Place shapes on lined baking sheets. Cut out a smaller shape inside of each cookie (after placing on baking sheet). I used the centers from a linzer cookie cutter set to make the center openings
Place half of a Jolly Rancher candy in the center of each cookie. Use a whole Jolly Rancher if the opening is large enough to lay the entire candy down inside the opening.
Bake according to sugar cookie dough recipe. Cool completely on the baking sheet. When candy centers are completely cool and hardened, remove cookies to a sheet of parchment paper.
Store covered between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper. The candy centers will stick together if they touch.
1 lb powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
¼ cup+ 2 Tbs whole milk
¼ cup + 2 Tbs light corn syrup
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
Gel food coloring
Additional powdered sugar to reach piping consistency
With a whisk, combine sugar and milk until smooth. Stir in corn syrup and almond or vanilla extract. Add food coloring for desired colors.
You will use this same recipe for both glazing and piping. The way it is right now is the consistency you want for glazing. It’s smooth and thin. It easily runs off of a whisk in a thin drizzle.
To prepare the icing for piping, add additional powdered sugar until icing is stiff, but spoonable.
(Glacé Icing from Our Best Bites)
2 Tbs meringue powder
scant ¼ cup water
½ lb powdered sugar (about 2 cups)
½ tsp light corn syrup
Combine the meringue powder and water in a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat until foamy. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. (Do NOT skip the sifting!)
Mix in the corn syrup. Increase speed to med-high/high and beat for about 3-5 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. (You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold up and jiggle without the peak falling.) Do not overbeat.
To store for later use: cover with plastic wrap touching the icing and refrigerate.
For Snowflakes: Use a thick open circle decorator tip to pipe thick lines onto each snowflake. Sprinkle cookie with sanding sugar or sprinkles immediately after piping lines (on each cookie). Icing will harden quickly.
Cooked Vanilla Icing
1 cup whole milk
5 Tbs flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar (do not use powdered sugar)
Optional: food coloring
In a small saucepan, mix the flour and milk until combined. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture thickens (and is just about to boil). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let mixture cool to room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best for this) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled milk mixture and beat for 5-7 minutes, until frosting is light, fluffy, and completely uniform throughout. Beat in food coloring, if desired.