It's starting to look a lot like Christmaaaaaas! (I sang that last part like Oprah would. Try it. I promise it's fun) I think decorating sugar cookies will really get you in the mood for all the holidays. All the piping with multiple colors and piping bags can seem daunting, but this process is pretty forgiving (provided you have a steady hand).
First, you can usually freeze the dough if you don't have time to roll, cut and bake right away. Second, royal icing consistency is pretty easy to tweak. Third, you can spread out the decorating over a few days (it's actually better that you do). And the best part: you can make these ahead of time to gift because they'll stay good for a few weeks in an airtight container especially in the cool holiday weather. Whats more, it's not a problem if you don't have a huge variety of little specialized cookie cutters, a simple round one will do.
The problem I usually have with cutout cookies is that they tend to puff up and spread out in the oven, losing their delicate shapes. I'm glad to report, there's a recipe that doesn't do that! I tried two recipes. The first was a traditional sugar cookie from Sweetopia with a truck load of butter in. Ohhh, the buttery goodness! Sugar cookies are great for looks, but of the two recipes, this cookie actually tasted so good I wanted to keep eating them with my coffee. And after two weeks, they still tasted and smelled great.
They did puff up a bit though even with all the chilling I did both before and after making the cut-outs. In all fairness, Sweetopia is the queen of sugar cookies and I am but a humble admirer of her work, so maybe they don't puff when she makes them. Not a deal breaker though. These are the ones you wanna eat.
The second recipe is a spiced brown sugar cookie that held their shapes immaculately. They had a nice, subtle holiday spice flavor but did not require additional chilling. These are the ones you wanna admire.
I don't have a boat load of cookie cutters and I don't really miss them with this method of decorating. I also think they're cuter this way. As you can see, I've been lazy with mixing up the right consistency for piping versus flooding. The letters are more like blobs and the leaves are somewhat shapeless. I still have some more practicing to do, but not bad for my first owl, eh?
2 1/2 cups (4 1/2 sticks!) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 3 tsp vanilla)
5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
- Cream the butter and sugar together in using an electric mixer on low to medium speed for about one minute, scraping down the sides to fully incorporate. (Use the paddle attachment) Do not overmix.
- Add eggs slowly and mix. Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.
- Cut open your vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out. Add to mixing bowl. Alternatively, add liquid vanilla extract. Stir briefly.
- Sift your dry ingredients together. (Flour, baking powder and salt).
- Add the flour mixture to the bowl. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. When the dough clumps around the paddle attachment it’s ready. Do not over mix.
- Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper and place on a baking sheet. Chill for at least 1 hour.
- Roll out the dough to the desired thickness and cut out cookie shapes. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F or 176°C.
- Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes (depending on size and thickness of cookie) or until the edges become golden brown.
- Cool completely and decorate.
Spiced Brown Sugar Cut-Out Cookies
Source: Annie's Eats
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
½ cup sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
16 tbsp. (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a medium bowl; whisk to blend.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, brown sugar and butter. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
- Blend in the egg and vanilla.
- With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.
- Form the dough into a ball or disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 30-60 minutes.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about ¼-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to form desired shapes and transfer to the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake 10-12 minutes.
- Cool completely and decorate.
6 oz (3/4 cup) of warm water
5 Tbsp Meringue Powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 kg (2.25 lbs.) powdered icing sugar
- In mixer bowl, pour in the warm water and the meringue powder. Whisk until it is frothy and thickened (about 30 seconds).
- Add the cream of tartar and mix for 30 seconds more.
- Pour in all the powdered sugar at once and place the bowl on the mixer.
- Using the paddle attachment on the LOWEST speed, mix slowly for 10 minutes. Icing will get thick and creamy.
- Cover the bowl with a dampened tea-towel to prevent crusting and drying.
- Tint with food colourings or thin the icing with small amounts of warm water to reach the desired consistency.