Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Sugar Cookies

This perfect sugar cookie is easy to make, ready to roll quickly, is very firm so that the icing doesn't soften it, and tastes great.  I originally developed this dough as a service project for the children of our Temple who were going to provide cookies for 1000 needy children.  They are great as is, but also taste and look great when they are decorated with sprinkles or with icing. 


 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter – cool room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg, room temperature
4 cups ( 520 grams) all-purpose flour, fluffed, scooped and leveled into measuring cups 
up to 4 teaspoons room temperature water, if needed

Vanilla Cookie Icing
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10-15 tablespoons cream
Royal Icing
Food coloring, sprinkles, etc for decorating

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with shelves in the bottom and top thirds of the oven.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixer bowl beat together the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla extract on low to medium speed, just until well blended. 

Break the egg into a small bowl and fork-whisk until blended.  Gradually beat the egg into the butter mixture. 

Add the flour, all at once, to the mixer bowl, and beat on low speed until the mixture comes together into a dough.  If the dough does not form, add the water a little at a time, using just enough to bring the dough together.  Press the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces and return 3 pieces to the refrigerator.

Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thick or slightly thinner.  Cut out the dough using cookie cutters of your choice.  Set the cookies on the prepared cookie sheets.  Bake for a total of 13-15 minutes, moving the top cookie sheet to the lower shelf and the bottom sheet to the top after half of the baking time, until the cookies are nicely browned around the edges. 

Slide the parchment onto cooling racks.  Repeat the process using the rest of the dough.

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For the icing:
Sift the powdered sugar into a mixer bowl.  Beat in the vanilla and enough cream to make the icing the texture that you desire, depending on how you will use it.  If it is to be piped you'll want it thick and if it is to be used as "fill", it will need to be thin. Divide the icing into several small bowls and add food coloring of choice to each bowl.  The icing thickens as it sits, so keep the bowl covered until ready to use.  Add a little more cream if the icing gets too thick. 

Here are some decorating examples:
The snowman's hat had some chocolate added to white icing.  It was spread on.  The white body icing  had the outline piped first.  It was allowed to set and then the interior was filled with thin icing that flowed to fill the space.  The scarf and belt were piped. The eyes are chocolate chips and the buttons are star-shaped sprinkles.

The design on this tree was piped on and while it was still wet, green sprinkles were sprinkled on and the excess shaken off.  The balls are tiny red ball-sprinkles, the bubble lights are long sprinkles and the star is a candy-sprinkle.  The garland was sprinkled with petal dust (ordered from

For these Chanukah dreidles, the blue icing was spread on, and while wet, the cookies were sprinkled with blue sprinkles.  This dried and then the raised letters were piped on with thick icing. 

To make a harder icing for cookies that need to be stacked or frozen, use this icing
3 large pasteurized egg whites
3-3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar + 1/4 cup, divided
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon flavoring of choice

Reserve 1/4 cup sugar and mix together all other ingredients.  Beat for 7-10 minutes until the icing holds a strong peak.  Add 1/4 cup more powdered sugar if necessary.  Keep the frosting covered with a damp cloth to keep it from drying out.  To use Royal Icing, outline the cookies and then let them dry.  Thin some icing with water until it is the consistency of heavy cream.  Using a teaspoon or squeeze bottle, fill in from the outline inward to cover the area.  Let the cookies set for 1 hour before adding designs.

The cookies may be stored in a covered container for several days.  They may also be frozen in a covered container, with waxed paper between layers. This way you'll be able to defrost each cookie individually.  They’ll keep frozen for 3 months.  Defrost at room temperature, uncovered, for several hours or overnight.  When the cookies are completely defrosted and at room temperature, they may be iced.