September Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Sugar Cookies

I love sugar cookies. They’re pretty easy to make, you can make them in any shape or size you want and if you have the time and patience, decorating them is very fun. The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

I had a lot of trouble with this dough recipe. I’m not sure if it was a mistake I made, or I just wasn’t used to my dough being this dry, but I had a hard time getting the dough to roll out properly. I ended up more or less handshaping a lot of discs from which I cut out pieces.

I settled upon some fall themed cookie cutters – apples, acorns, and leaves. Fall in  New York is one of my favorite seasons, although the recent rain/humidity spell has not been all that pleasant. I love walking through Central Park when all the leaves have changed and cannot wait to start wearing my jean jacket and boots more often.

I spent a lot of time decorating these cookies, for as you can see from the photos, my lovely roommate decided to make a paper-maché tree to hang them on. It’s possible that the tree was more complicated than the cookies, although it did take me about 2 and half hours to do all the cookies. I’m most proud of the apples, I think they’re just so cute. I had a hard time deciding on colors for the leaves but when it was all set up on the tree, they looked good. Perhaps this new ”fall tree” will be the new fad!


Sugar Cookies II

I’ve had a crazy weekend. Worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday just about non-stop with a quick jaunt to see A Single Man with my roomie, which I highly recommend. Anyway, prior to commencing this crazy weekend, a few of us decided to watch the new season of the WIRE we had got in the mail Thursday night. Needless to say, we watched 4 episodes in a row because it is hands down one of the best TV shows ever.
Anyway, while we were watching, I had that baking itch and decided on some sugar cookies. Not just any sugar cookies mind you, sugar cookies with royal icing. I had never made royal icing before and had I been smarter about it, I probably should have waited. By the time the cookies were out of the oven and cooled, it was already 10:30 and I was just starting to ice. I did about 12 cookies with detail, but given how long it took, I just gave up with the fanciness and kind of globed it all on after that. When I was paying attention to detail, I used a variety of tips from my cake decorating kit to get some thin and thick lines. I added a but too much water to some of the purple icing that I planned to flood, so it didn’t dry so well, but I learned my mistake and only diluted the blue a teeny bit. For future, I will definitely give myself plenty of time to ice cookies with royal icing. I could see making some really awesome cookies though, because the icing dries hard, so you can stack them when you’re all done and you can make some really nifty patterns. So while not a complete success this time, I will certainly try again.


SUGAR COOKIES

(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookie Book)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1) Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; mix until light and fluffy. With mixer running, add egg, brandy, and vanilla; mix until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add reserved flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

2) Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

4) On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

royal icing:

  • 1 box confectioners’ sugar (1 pound)
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder, or 2 large egg whites (I used meringue powder)

1) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and meringue powder.

2) Mixing on low speed, add a scant 1/2 cup water. For a thinner consistency, usually used for flooding, add more water.

3) A thicker consistency is generally used for outlining and adding details.

4) Mix until icing holds a ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for 5 seconds when you raise the paddle.