Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are my favorite cookies. Not only are they tasty but they can be made for any occasion. I make them every year for Christmas. This year I also made them for Hanukkah. I also made sugar cookies shaped as wedding cakes and decorated in our wedding colors as favors in the hotel bags for our wedding. I have spent years trying to find the perfect sugar cookie recipe. I have tried recipes using different types of flour, sugar and other ingredients. It may not be perfect but this is my favorite so far.




Recipe (taken from Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen):

Butter, room temperature250 g
Sugar310 g
Salt5 g
Eggs60 g
Milk60 g
Vanilla8 g
Cake Flour625 g
Baking Powder18 g
TOTAL WEIGHT 1336 g

1) Cream the butter with the sugar and salt. For lighter cookies cream until light and fluffy. For denser cookies, blend to a smooth paste but not until light. If you want the cookie to keep its shape only cream the ingredients into a smooth paste.
2) Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla and blend at a low speed
3) Add the sifted flour and baking powder and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.
4) Chill the dough. If you are going to use cookie cutters, make sure make the dough round and flat and wrap the dough in plastic. If you are going to cut the dough, roll into a log, wrap in plastic and chill.
5) Preheat the oven to 375 F
6) Roll out the dough about 1/8 inch thick. I usually roll out the dough on confectionary sugar so you don't get the flour taste, but you call also roll the dough out in flour. If you are just making round cookies from a log, just cut the dough into circles about 1/8 inch thick and place on a parchment lined/silpat baking sheet.
7) Use a cookie cutter and cut out the dough to the desired shapes. Try to fit as many as you can on the dough you rolled out. Remember the more times you have to roll out the dough the more gluten develops causing the dough to get tough.
8) Place the cut outs on a parchment lined/ silpat baking sheet.
9) If you are not going to decorate you cake brush on some milk and sprinkle with some granulated sugar.
10) Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
11) Let cool completely
12) Repeat steps 6-11 until all the dough is used.

To decorate, I use colored royal icing. At Christmas time, I flavor the icing with mint or peppermint extract. If you want to keep it simple, Wilton makes
food safe markers that you can use to color the cookies.

For some of the cookies pictures above, we were able to do some fun things with our sugar cookie decorations. You can get various kinds of holiday-themed decorating sprinkles around Christmas. We have snowflakes, Christmas lights, mini candy canes, and lots of other basic colored sprinkles and sugar. We found those at Williams-Sonoma, and I've seen Target carry similar items too. It turns out that yellow and red "Christmas lights" also turn into great Hanukah menorah flames, and white snowflakes can also make a very nice white and blue Hanukah cookie too. And you can see my handiwork in the first picture with our gingerbread Phillie and Eagle players--the red Christmas light turned into the brim of the baseball player's cap, and some chocolate jimmies became the football player's facemask.

LESSONS LEARNED:
1) If you are not happy with a recipe, keep searching and try something new
2) Rolling the cookies out in Confectioner's sugar makes the cookie taste much better.
3) Make sure you roll out the dough evenly or you will have over and under done spots on the same cookie.
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