Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sugar Cookies, the pretty kind (sort of)

I know I said that I didn't care if my sugar cookies were shaped like butterflies or not.  But I guess I lied.  Because I was looking at Annie's blog and decided I needed to try it.  (Yes, we are on a first name basis, pretty much BFFs.)  If she can do it, I can do it, right?  And if I can do it, you can do it, for sure.  I am basically an idiot, really.  This attempt was far from perfect.  I am not even showing you the finished candy canes because they don't even deserve a post.  The Christmas trees turned out okay but I think it's like anything in the kitchen; there is a learning curve.  I shouldn't expect myself to be perfect the first time I try something, should I?  Truth be told this was the second time, I tried to make some last week, but it didn't go well at all.  I learned a thing or two from my mistakes, as usual.  Hopefully, you can learn from them too.  That's why we are here right?  And so next time I go to make these cookies I can read this and not make the same mistakes myself.

I guess these are technically a "shortbread cookie."  They don't have baking soda or baking powder, the only kind of leavening is the egg, and it does so little the cookies won't puff up and shape shift.  (That's why I was wondering about that with the gingerbread houses.)  That's also why I used this icing on the houses, because I had already used it once on the cookies.  All my secrets are out now.

Decorator Sugar Cookies

Adapted from Annie's Eats
Printer friendly version
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 T vanilla
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and powdered sugar together until smooth (1-2 minutes)  Add egg and vanilla, add flour and salt.  Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from plastic wrap, roll out to ¼ inch thick, (seriously, get a rule and measure how thick it is. This was one of my problems the first time. I don't know what 1/4 inch is apparently and they were too thin.) cut into desired shape.  
You'll be doing yourself a favor if you try to puzzle piece shapes together so you aren't having to roll up as much dough and re-roll.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until cookies are done and feel firm in the middle but not brown all over.  Remove from oven and let cool on pan for 5 minutes 
and then transfer to cool surface.  Let cool completely before decorating.

While cookies are cooling, you can get all your icing and gear ready.

Royal Icing for Cookies
This is the same as the gingerbread recipe, it just yields less. From Annie's Eats

4 cups powdered sugar
2 T meringue powder
5 T water
Add all ingredients to mixer, mix on low for 7-10 minutes until it start to lose it’s luster and looks matte in appearance.   

So now you need to do a little planning and a little guessing which is hard if you have never made this kind of cookie before. You need to know how many colors you want to use and kind of plan what you are going to do with them. This is where I think the candy cane situation erupted on me. It wasn't a good idea. I think the first few times I make these, I need to keep them simple. You hear me, Amanda?! Keep it simple. The Christmas trees required three colors, Green, White (easy it's already white) and a teeny bit of brown for the stump. So if you are doing 3 colors and are going to need about the same amount of all of them, you can safely scoop out about 1/3 of the icing for each color. Transfer to airtight containers because it will dry out if you keep it uncovered. In the container mix in your color. The gel colors (the ones by all the cake stuff at craft stores and such) are best but you can use the water color kind too. After you have your color right, add a couple tsp of water at a time, stirring after each addition with a spoon. You only want to get it thin enough here to pipe around the edges. I would add a couple tsp and then put a small amount into a disposable bag fitted with a #1 tip (ideally you would have one for each color you are using, but you can wash and use if you want, it just takes up more time in this already lengthy process. Tips are pretty cheap, I think 99 cents each, maybe) and see if it comes out easy enough, if not, take your tip off, squeeze back into the container and thin a bit more. When you get it just right, pipe a line around the edge of where you want that color. For some reason the Christmas trees were way easier than the candy canes for me.


Let that sit until the line is hard, about 30 minutes to an hour.  Really by the time I got out-lines on all of them, the first few were hard enough for the next step.

Now you need to thin the icing a little more for the "flooding" step.  I tried to make it so it was holding it's shape for a second after drizzling into the container, but then disappearing quickly.

For this next part Annie, recommends a squeeze bottle, which is fun (you can also find those by the cake stuff at the craft store), but I think with cookies as wide as these you could use a spoon to spoon it in, you would just have to work quickly or cover icing in between each cookie.  Put some in the middle of the cookie, like so:
 Then use a toothpick to pull to all the edges.  I hear you get faster at this the more you do it, I wouldn't know yet.
 Then just let this set up.  You can leave it like this over night, but like I said, by the time I was done with this step the first few were ready to keep going.  It might depend on your climate too.  I am sure in more humid climates, it would take longer to set up.
Now, just decorate as you wish.  You can do some cool things with sprinkles; I had these pearl things already that I wanted to use.  I did the stump after the green was done by mixing some of the thicker green with red.  Red and green make brown.  I just used the bag and I think a #3 tip to pipe it on.
 I like how the icing got kind of shimmery.
 Then I bagged them up for the giving.  They take some time, but I think sometimes it's worth it.  I can't wait to have an excuse to try again.


  1. So cute! I'm going to have to try this. We are making cookies today for Emma's Christmas program at preschool. It would be nice to have "pretty" ones!

  2. I am pretty sure these look perfect!!

  3. Holy Shmoly. You are crazy! (in a good way!) I can't believe how time consuming but perfect they are!
    Do they taste good too? Sometimes the prettier ones don't taste as good as the puffy/knife shmeared frosting ones.
    You also need to post those pin-wheel peppermint cookies you made in Hawaii!!!

  4. Thanks guys. They do have a bit of a different taste than the soft ones, Tyler thought they were delicious and even though they aren't doused with chocolate, I ate a few myself. It's always a good sign if I am eating something that is chocolate-free. :)


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