Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Classic Cookie Cutter Cookies

Last week, we focused on truffles. This week, it's looking like cookies are the golden ticket. When I was a kid, we always made cookie cutter sugar cookies at Christmas. We had a big tin full of different shapes and it was always such a struggle to decide which ones to make! A sheet of camels, a row of angels, the big Christmas tree or the miniature one. So many choices for a kid to make. I was primarily responsible for punching out shapes while my mom made and rolled out the dough. I always wanted to make more and more cookies and would get frustrated when the dough would stick or my shapes would get ruined trying to pull them off the cutting board.

I feel like it's a frequent issue to have trouble making Christmas cookies. I've tested a few recipes, including store bought dough, to try and find an easy to make and easy to roll dough. This recipe comes from a magazine tear-out from last year's holiday specials. While it didn't go perfectly, keep your cool and all will be well.

The dough can be made ahead of time so I made it a day in advance so there was ample time to chill the dough. I actually ended up freezing half of it for when we get closer to Christmas day so I can make cookies again, without the work of making dough. Even though it was meant to chill, I was skeptical of this dough because it came out very crumbly.

I told myself that compressing the dough in plastic wrap and chilling it would magically make it solid. Of course that didn't work. When I went to take the dough out in pieces to roll out, it just crumbled in my hands. No matter how much I tried to fuse the butter and sugar and flour together between my hands, it just wasn't having it. So I added a little water. Yes, it made the dough sticky and yes that required extra flouring of the rolling pin and board but it worked! Christmas is saved!

Whereas my mom still has an abundance of cookie cutters, I have three holiday shapes (a tree, a gingerbread man, and a snowflake) and three Star Wars shapes (Yoda, R2D2 and Darth Vader). If you turn Yoda vertical and pinch his ears a little bit, he looks like an ornament. And Darth Vader could easily be a bell. R2 is just R2 though.

My other struggle with cookies (and cupcakes) is finding the right kind of icing. I want the icing that dries quickly so I can stack the cookies. I want icing that doesn't get sticky or too soupy. Once more, after many experiments, I have found royal icing to be the best choice. It's a snap to make, just powdered sugar, vanilla and egg whites, and you can add food coloring to make whatever designs you please. And best of all, it does in fact dry so you don't get squishy cookies.

More cookies happened this week and I'm sure you all have had your fill of pot lucks, cookie swaps and holiday parties but I find baking and decorating with friends and family is a great way to spend time together. And really, that's what it's all about.

Cookies-dough will need to chill for at least 2 hours before rolling
  •  3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the salt, baking powder, and flour. Mix well to incorporate.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and cubes of butter. Using a hand or stand mixer, mix the ingredients until it's coarsely combined. It doesn't need to be smooth or creamy.
  3. Add the egg, yolk and vanilla to the butter mixture. Use an electric mixer to combine.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mix.
  5. Once everything is combined, divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap to create two 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick discs. If the dough is crumbly, add small amounts of water until it stays together.
  6. Allow the dough to chill for at least two hours. You can also freeze the dough for up to a month.
  7. Once the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 325 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. From the chilled dough, break of a segment and roll out on a generously floured surface. Also flour the top of the dough or rolling pin to prevent the dough from sticking.
  9. Punch out your cookie shapes and place on the parchment paper. These won't spread much so you can put multiple cookies close together.
  10. Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden.
  11. Allow cookies to completely cool before frosting. Or eat plain and warm. 
Royal Icing
  •  3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 large egg whites 
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar and egg whites. 
  2. Mix together until you create a smooth frosting. You can use a hand mixer, whisk or even a spoon.
  3. If you want other colors, add 3-4 drops of food coloring. 
  4. Use a butter knife or pipette to decorate cookies. The frosting will dry in a few minutes so you can stack cookies together. 

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