Nothing spreads a little holiday cheer like delightfully buttery sugar cookies. These classic cookies can be used for gift tags on presents, as tree ornaments, or simply pile them high on a plate for you and your guests to devour. You’re only limited by your cookie cutter collection and imagination. If you plan to use the cookies as gift tags or ornaments, before baking, use a wide drinking straw to poke a hole through the dough. Included below is the recipe we use to make our sugar cookies and lots of ideas for decorating. Happy baking!
Classic Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
In a large bowl, beat powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract and egg with an electric mixer or by hand. Stir in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Pre-heat oven to 375°, line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Divide dough in half, roll each half ¼ thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake 7 to 8 mins. or until edges are light brown. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack
You can prevent cookie dough from sticking to the cookie cutter by dipping the cutter in flour between uses.
Rise to the occasion! If using self-rising flour, there is no need to add baking soda and cream of tartar.
To ensure recipe success, do not use vegetable oil spreads in place of butter.
Ideas for Decorating Before Baking
Materials that withstand the heat of baking can be used to decorate the cookies before baking. Some ideas include:
- - colored sugars or natural sugars such as pearl sugar
- - jimmies, non-pareils, silver and gold dragées, and other sprinkles
- - raisins and dried fruits such as cranberries
- - nuts
When placed on top of your cookies, any of these items dress things up and provide a more festive appearance.
Edible Food Paint
An edible food paint can be used to paint your cookies before baking them. Make the paint out of an egg yolk mixed with a few drops of food coloring and brush the pigment on the cookies using a clean paintbrush for each color. The paint will dry while baking, giving the cookie a lovely, glazed appearance.
Colored Cream Dough
The folks at Better Homes and Gardens have a creative recipe for Colored Cream Dough which is a dough of frosting consistency that can be piped onto cookies with a pastry bag fitted with a writing or star tip, and then baked. The result is a cookie that looks like it has been frosted but the frosting is baked on and durable.
Ideas for Decorating After Baking
Once the cookies have been baked, there are myriad ways to frost, ice, dip, or drizzle them to jazz them up.
Frosting vs. Icing
There is a big difference between frosting and icing. Frosting is thick and holds shapes like rosettes and shells like those you see piped around the edges of a birthday cake. It remains soft to the touch and has a creamy texture, and most people think it tastes better because of the creamy buttery flavor. Icing, on the other hand, is a thinner, more liquid substance, and as it dries it thins out, becomes very smooth across the surface of your cookie, and hardens. This is the icing to use for the most beautiful, professional results.
Working with frosting
You can use frosting in two ways. One way is to simply use a knife or rubber spatula to spread the frosting across the whole surface of your cookie. The other way is to place the frosting in a pastry or decorating bag fitted with a small tip and piping out thin lines or rosettes of icing onto the cookie. Either way, once the frosting has been applied to the cookie you can then further embellish it by using colored sugars, non-pareils, or any of the decorating items mentioned in the Decorating Before Baking section above.
Working with icing
Icing is a little more difficult to work with but its smooth surface produces the most beautiful results! Icing should always be piped onto a cookie because it will run off the edges if spread with a knife. Once iced you can apply silver dragées, or other sprinkles just as mentioned with the frosting above, before it hardens. Here is a recipe for Royal Icing. Below is a recipe for Powdered Sugar Icing that dries less hard than Royal Icing and has a shiny surface.
Powdered Sugar Icing
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
food color, if desired
Combine powdered sugar, water, 1 tablespoon butter, corn syrup and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in small mixer bowl; mix until powdered sugar is moistened. Beat at medium speed until smooth, adding additional water if necessary, to reach desired glazing consistency. Tint with food color, if desired.
Just about any cookie can be embellished simply by dipping it in chocolate or drizzling chocolate over it. You can even dress up the everyday chocolate chip cookie for gift-giving or serving at parties. Melting chocolate is a simple process, but a few rules must be followed in order to make it a success.
What you need
You can either use chocolate chips or baking chocolate (the kind that comes in 1-ounce squares) and the same process applies whether you use dark chocolate or white chocolate. A small amount of shortening should be added at the ratio of 2 tablespoons shortening for 1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped up baking chocolate.
Place chocolate and shortening in the top half of a double boiler or in a metal bowl that has been placed on top of a saucepan filled with hot water. The water must be very hot, but not boiling, because the steam generated by boiling water could get moisture into the melting chocolate which makes it curdle. Allow the chocolate to melt over the hot water and stir it occasionally until it has achieved a liquid consistency.
Place your chocolate and shortening in a microwave safe bowl and microwave it on medium power for 1 minute. Stir. Continue microwaving 20 seconds, stir again. Keep doing this until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove it from the microwave and stir it until completely melted.
Dip one end of your cookie, or half the cookie, or even the whole cookie into the melted chocolate. Set the cookie on a wire rack to let the chocolate harden. If you wish, you can sprinkle chopped nuts, coconut, or non-pareils over the melted chocolate before it hardens.
Scrape melted chocolate into a ziplock baggie. With sharp scissors, snip off a very small corner of the baggie. Drizzle top of cookies with zig-zags of melted chocolate. Cool until chocolate is set.