Cookie Art: Part 1
Over the past year and half of blog posts, I have shared with you images and thoughts on sugar cookies decorated with royal icing that I have made. Although I have written about some of the decorating techniques that I have learned, I haven't shared with you the basic recipes I use for these cookies. I teach a class that I call Cookie Art during which I show home bakers how to make the sugar cookies and the royal icing to decorate them. So I thought I would share those recipes with you over the next couple of weeks. Today, we're going to make the cookies.
Call me old fashioned, but when I want to try something new, the first thing I do is look for a book or two which will give me some guidance. I love looking on Amazon because many times, they give you the opportunity to look inside the book before buying it. So, when I decided to give decorated sugar cookies a try, I went to Amazon. There were quite a few books to choose from. After sifting through a number of the books offered, I narrowed my selection down to two and placed my order. I read the recipes and instructions in both of the books that I purchased and after weighing the options, I decided to try the Vanilla Almond Sugar cookie recipe published by Bridget Edwards in her book Decorating Cookies. Why did I settle on this recipe? Well, I love anything almond flavored. Plus, the dough did not have to be refrigerated before rolling and baking the cookies. I also really enjoyed Bridget's writing and her encouraging and supporting commentary on baking and decorating cookies. Bridget's cookie designs are beautiful, too. If you want to take a look for yourself, you can visit Bridget's website Bake at 350.
Okay, so to make Bridget's Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies, you need three cups of AP flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 2 sticks of salted butter, 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 egg, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Whisk together the flour and baking powder and set it aside.
Next, cream together the butter and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. The butter should be cold and cut into small chunks. Also, be sure to use salted butter. Using unsalted butter will result in sugar cookies that taste flat. Trust me, made that mistake!
Cream together the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Next, beat in your egg and the vanilla and almond extracts. I usually use a little more of each extract - almost a full teaspoon of each actually! I love a more assertive vanilla almond flavoring. After the egg and extracts are combined in the butter sugar mixture, add in the flour/baking powder mixture in three parts, mixing to combine after each addition. Here's the fully mixed dough, ready to go.
This cookie dough is an absolute delight to work with! It is easy to roll and cut. To roll out the cookies, prepare your work surface with some flour. You may also want to flour your rolling pin. Taking a portion of the cookie dough, knead it a couple of times to bring it together then roll it out. I like to lift and move the dough between rolling strokes to ensure that it is not sticking to the rolling surface. Add a sprinkling of additional flour as needed to your work surface and rolling pin. One of the things that makes these cookies so special is their thickness. I roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Yes, I do actually use a ruler!
If you use a silicone rolling mat like I do, may I suggest moving the rolled dough to another surface before cutting the cookies? I learned the hard way that you really should not cut cookies on the rolling mat. No matter how careful you think you are, you may be making small cuts in the mat which ruins the mat.
Cut as many cookies as you can from the dough, then re-roll the scraps. Place your cut cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet about two inches apart. Continue this process until all of the dough is used. If you have any dough scraps left, but not enough to cut another cookie, just bake up the scraps. Those are the baker's taste test cookies! Yum!
Place the filled cookie sheet in the freezer for about 7 minutes before sliding it into a preheated 350 degree oven. The quick chill in the freezer helps the butter to resolidify which will help the cookies maintain their shape. For cookies which are 3-1/2 to 4 inches in diameter, bake for 9 to 12 minutes or until they appear done in the center. Smaller cookies will need less time; larger cookies will need more time. Note: these cookies will not brown much. When they are done, remove the sheets and allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cookies from the sheet and let them cool completely before decorating them.
When I make decorated sugar cookies, I usually do it over two days. The first day, I bake the cookies. Baking a single batch of these cookies takes about an hour, from start to finish. Then, I decorate the cookies the next day. Making the royal icing and tinting it and thinning it takes more time so I like to do it on the second day to avoid feeling rushed. Next week, we will tackle making royal icing and decorating the cookies. Until then, happy baking!