My youngest daughter turned 3 the other day and I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen making treats she would love. Sugar cookies always go down well with children and she is going through a ‘butterfly’ phase so these were very well recieved.
I have only made them a handful of times and I find that every time I do I get marginally better. The cookies are finer in shape and cut, the icing is neater and the designs are a little more creative. I don’t think I could ever compete with the ‘sugar cookie afficionado’s’ out there (and mark my words, there are some VERY serious ones), but I am happy getting a little better with each batch.
So my little Elouise is now 3 and I am a little wiser when it comes to sugar cookie tips and tricks. I think the most important skill to have is patience (which I do not), followed closely by perseverance. They are a challenge but the madness of it all was worth it for a very happy birthday girl.
1 cup butter
1 cup icing (powdered/confectioners) sugar, sifted
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups sifted plain (all purpose flour)
Using an electric mixer cream butter until whipped, add in the icing (powdered/confectioners) sugar and combined. Then mix in the egg, vanilla, salt and flour until combined. Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, wrap and chill until firm (around 1 – 2 hours).
Roll to ¼” thickness on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters and place on lined cookie sheets. Chill for a further 30 minutes and bake at 375° for 8-10 min. Do not allow cookies to brown. Cookies should not brown.
4 cups icing (powdered/confectioners) sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons meringue powder
5 tablespoons water
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes). Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container. (this will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating)
Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. Add colouring should you so desire and place into pastry bags fitted with piping tips.
Pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand so the icing will set. (ensure your icing is covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden)
Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container. Thin out a little more with water, until the icing drips off the spoon in ribbons. If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again. Using a piping bag and tips (or a squeeze bottle), flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. Allow to set.
You can continue to decorate using the remainder of the icing and edible decorations.
Notes: Gosh, where do I begin…
*In my opinion, the most important thing is time – make sure you have lots of it and are not rushed. I actually find that making the cookies and icing them in the same day is too draining/annoying, so I make them the day before and store them in an airtight container until the following day when I tackle the icing.
*the cookie dough has a tendancy to rapidly warm after you cut out the first batch so you may need to chill it again before re-rolling it for the second cut – this process can double the time it takes to make your cookies but chilling the dough in the freezer will speed things up a little.
*Do not miss the final chilling of the cookies before you place them in the oven – this process will ensure the cookies hold their shape.
*If you are new to using icing tips and icing bags, don’t get your knickers in a knot when things do not turn out as you had planned – it’s all about practice and often I find that it’s my very last cookies that look good because it has taken that long for me to get used to handling the icing bag. (I don’t make them that often)
*My current bain with sugar cookies is air bubbles. After I mix the colours through the icing I bang the container on the counter top several times (actually about 20) until I can see no more air bubbles rising to the surface. (as you can see by my pictures, I haven’t yet mastered this but hopefully next time)
*The iced cookies should be left out for around 12 hours to properly harden, then pack then in an air tight container, layered between parchment paper to protect them. Do NOT refrigerate them.
*Sugar cookies are also a fun project for children. My advice is to make the cookies beforehand and have them ready to decorate with several bags of coloured icing and edible decorations. I have done with with my daughters before – the mess was incredible but they had fun and that is the main thing.
© 2011, Michelle. All rights reserved.