Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Best Sugar Cookies (Ever)

I always thought of sugar cookies as a fun way to make cookies into shapes, but I was rarely impressed by their taste. They can be dry and flavorless — just nothing to write home about in general. This recipe, however, makes delicious cookies and has served me well for many years! If you're willing to spend the time to roll the dough out and cut the shapes, I think you'll be very pleased with the results!

I recently made these cookies for the dessert table at my cousin's baby shower (they are expecting baby Joey in February — congrats Kate and John!).

The cookies have a nice citrus flavor, but you could also experiment and use other flavors if you'd like.

Now these are no drop cookies. You definitely need to have some time and maybe a little patience too. Typically I'll whip up a batch or two of the dough and store it in the fridge to chill for at least a few hours — sometimes even a day or two.

Then comes the fun part of rolling out the dough, cutting the cookies, and baking them up into delicious, sweet, fluffy delights.

And then...then you get to let your creative juices flow and ice the cookies. You can go as basic or as creative as you want — when I'm making these in bulk, I tend to aim for something that falls right in the middle. I try to choose shapes that I know won't need a ton of intricate detail and no more than a few colors each.

For projects like this one, a baking supply store can be very handy. Personally, a trip to Fante's in South Philly is like a little bit of Christmas! Stores like these sell gel food coloring in dozens of colors (I'm not just talking McCormick people), meringue powder, pastry bags, pastry boxes for storage, and hundreds of cookie cutters — good times!

Sour Cream Sugar Cookie Recipe
(about 30-40 cookies — depends on the size of your cookie cutters)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Dash salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tsp. finely shredded orange or lemon zest
1/2 tsp. orange or lemon extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for rolling out the dough)

  • Beat the softened butter with a stand or electric mixer for 30 seconds. Combine the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in another small bowl and add to the butter. Beat well until combined. Then beat in sour cream, egg, zest, and extract.
  • Beat in as much flour as you can using the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour, but do not overmix. Mixture will be very sticky.
  • Push the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap, form the dough into a log of sorts and then flatten it so you have a nice, rectangular slab of goodness (seriously, it will be tasty already). Wrap the dough tightly in the plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  • Divide dough in half. On a well-floured surface (a silicone mat is nice for this), roll out half of the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut the dough into your desired shapes. Carefully place the cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 6 to 7 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Be careful not to overcook, as you'll want your cookies soft. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.
So now you've got yourself a whole lot of sugar cookies, and you're ready to ice. Make sure that your cookies are completely cooled before icing them and whip up a batch of royal icing (the recipe I use is below). 

Royal icing is a pure white icing that dries to a smooth, hard, matte finish. It's easy to make and easy to color too! The trick to decorating these suckers is using a pastry bag. I prefer disposable pastry bags. But in a pinch, you could use a Ziploc bag by cutting the tip of one of the bottom corners off. If you want to do some basic icing with just one color, you could also just use an offset spatula too. No pressure here folks!

Royal Icing Recipe (makes about 3 cups)

4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted (about one box)
3 tbsp. meringue powder
1/2-ish cup warm water
1/2 tsp. flavored extract (optional)
Food coloring

  • In a stand mixer, beat the sugar and meringue powder until combined. Then add the water and extract and beat until well-combined. For a thinner consistency, usually used for flooding, add more water. Add more sugar for a thicker consistency, generally used for outlining and adding details. 
  • Mix until icing holds a ribbon-like trail on the surface of the mixture for about 5 seconds when you raise the paddle. 
  • To color your icing, spoon smaller amounts into separate bowls and mix the food coloring into the icing. Then spoon the icing into your pastry bag, tightly seal with a rubberband, and go to town!  
  • Cover any icing in your mixing bowl because it will begin to harden after being exposed to air for too long.

I've tried making royal icing with egg whites and milk, but meringue powder definitely dries the best. The taste will be slightly different, but if you add a little extract that shouldn't make a different. Plus, if you have any children, pregnant women, or folks with compromised immune systems, they shouldn't eat icing made with egg whites/milk.

Now get to it!

PS: Little Joey is going to come out saying "WE ARE!" I'm calling it now...


    1. are these the cookies that you made for the lyco choir? because those were really good

    2. Thanks Ladies!

      Jordan, yes these are the same recipe! Nothing like having a really reliable recipe! :) xoxo

    3. The secret's out! The recipe looks simple...the hard part is the creativity and artwork at the end. A beautiful cookie from my beautiful daughter.

    4. The cookies were and are always amazing! Thanks again for making them for the shower! And Yes, I believe you are correct, and I sure hope the doctor knows the correct response ("Penn State")!


    One of my favorite things about blog-dom is the dialogue that comes from it. Tell me what you think!

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...