Sugar Cookies with Simple Icing

Happy New Year everyone! I decided that I should get in at least one blog post in the new year, so here we are. This is my first winter without a winter break, since I’m not a student for the year, which has been a little sad. At least work has been pretty quiet the last couple weeks. But, my sister is still in college, so she’s been home for the last three weeks, and we’ve had lots of fun making and decorating gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies! This is my mom’s favorite recipe for sugar cookies. I have no idea where it came from, since it’s just handwritten on an index card she has filed away, but it’s the recipe we’ve been using for years, and I’m a fan of it.

These cookies are sweet, as sugar cookies should be, and pretty delicious by themselves. However, half the fun is decorating them! Plus adding a little sugar can only improve the flavor, right? Right. We didn’t do any fancy royal icing, so it’s a little more delicate, but once you ice the cookies, if you let them dry for a few hours, you can stack them with wax paper with little damage. The cookies have a light, delicate crumb, and I baked them for a little less time than recommended, to keep them nice and soft, while still sturdy enough to hold icing. With a little time and patience, these can be a fun family (or in my case, sibling) project, and they make great holiday giveaways! Get creative and have fun with your cookies, they’ll still taste great no matter how they look! Also if you really mess up, you can just eat it and no one will be the wiser… Not that we’ve done that or anything. Anyway, here’s our family holiday recipe.

Sugar Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cream of tartar

3 cups all-purpose flour

Icing

2 cups powdered sugar

2-3 tbsp milk, or to desired consistency

1 tsp vanilla extract

Few drops food coloring of choice

Directions

To make the cookies, cream together the butter and sugar by hand or with a mixer, until a smooth paste forms. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Whip in the baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar, then stir in the flour until just combined. The dough will be pretty dry and crumbly, I often have to mash it together with my hands at the end. Divide the dough into two parts, form each into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight.

When ready to roll out the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a floured surface (we use cutting boards), roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters of your choice, or just round glasses will work if you don’t have cookie cutters. Once you’ve finished with the sheet of dough, press the scraps together gently and roll out again, trying to handle the dough as little as possible. Continue to cut cookies and roll out the scraps until you’ve exhausted all the dough. Transfer cut cookies to the prepared baking sheets and bake for 6-7 minutes, until puffy, but before they begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. It is important that the cookies are completely cool before decorating, otherwise they will heat up the icing and make it run everywhere.

While the cookies are cooling, make the frosting. Stir together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, until the desired consistency is reached. If you want to add food coloring, add a couple drops at a time, until the desired color is reached. Fill a ziploc bag (I use the cup method) and cut a tiny (like 1-2 mm tiny) hole in one corner of the bag (you can always cut it bigger, but it can’t be cut smaller, so start small). Decorate the cookies as you wish. Allow the icing to set for a few hours before stacking and storing them. Enjoy!

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