Sugar cookies are an easy way to create a festive treat for holidays or any special occasion. I always liked the idea of making cutouts, but they never turned out as well as I wanted so I stuck to plain circles decorated to fit my theme. When I finally figured out the perfect technique and recipe to keep cutouts absolutely flawless from baking to decorating, I was ecstatic.
The most important trick with sugar cookies is patience. After the dough is made it should always be cold—in fact, at one point it should be almost frozen. Skimping on chilling will result in cutouts that are too fluffy, don’t keep their shape, and end up being a disappointment if you’re going for perfection.
I stick with Martha Stewart’s recipe almost exactly, but the end is where you need to go the extra mile. Instead of baking the sugar cookies after cutting, they should be put in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons brandy, or milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Recipe from Martha Stewart
1. Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.
2. With the paddle attachment on your kitchen-aid, cream the butter and sugar until extremely light and fluffy. On low, add the egg, brandy, and vanilla. Mix until combined.
3. With the mixture still on low, add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.
4. Shape the dough into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit for about five minutes so the chill fades just enough to roll the dough.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into 1/8th thickness. Cut into your desired shapes and transfer the cutouts to a *freezer-safe surface covered with parchment paper. Fit as many cookies on the surface as possible. Set in the freezer for about 20 minutes. They should become very stiff.
7. Transfer the frozen cookies onto the parchment paper covered baking sheets. You can do this in batches, keeping some cookies in the freezer while others bake. Bake for 10 minutes. Do not let them brown. My rule for sugar cookies is that if they look done, they’re overdone. The tops should feel dry to the touch but there shouldn’t be any golden color anywhere.
*a plastic platter of any kind will work, or you can use a metal baking sheet, but you won’t want to put the cold baking sheet into a hot oven.
1. I don’t usually have egg white powder or meringue powder on hand, so I don’t make traditional royal icing. Instead, I sift about 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl and add just enough water to make a thick paste. This will be used for the borders of the cookies. Carefully pipe a border around the cookies, keeping the tip of the bag about 1″ away from the cookie and keeping your motions as fluid as possible.
2. After you’ve created your borders, you need to thin the icing out a bit for “flooding” the border you’ve made. If you have icing leftover in the bag, squeeze it back into the bowl. Add a little more water until it is very liquid-y. Carefully put this liquid in the piping bag and pipe a bit onto each cookie.