St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and most definitely Valentine’s Day are spring holidays that bring on the arrival of brightly coloured, sprinkle encrusted sugar cookies. Though they may look festive and inviting, most grocery story plastic clam shell specials are likely to disappoint or even break a tooth. Sugar cookies in general have a bad reputation for being too sweet and having the texture of adorably shaped chunks of drywall. They may seem simple and there are a million recipes online that only have slight variations in the ingredients. The key is a balance between the butter, sugar and flour. This will results in a crisp around the edges, soft and chewy in the middle cookie that is a great blank slate for all your decorating aspirations. These sugar cookies have only 7 ingredients and they are easy to bring together with a stand-up mixer or by hand if you are in need of an at-home arm workout.
Begin by mixing the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. I consistently skip this step but it really does speed up the mixing process to have the flour mixture prepared before you get too far into the recipe. Make sure you allow the butter adequate time to soften before you get started. It can be tempting to melt the butter or force your mixer to work overtime but neither option will be as successful as putting the block of butter on the counter the night before.
Once the chunk is beat up to a light and fluffy butter cloud of goodness, add in the sugar, egg and vanilla while the mixer is running on medium slow speed. Then add in the conveniently premixed dry ingredients slowly allowing the flour to be completely incorporated between additions. From experience, I recommend not leaving the mixer running while you do this…especially if you are wearing a dark colour. Once your mixture has completed come together, you can turn it out on to the counter.
One caution, some sugar cookie dough can be very dry and crumbly. To avoid this you may need to add a teaspoon or two of milk if your dough is too dry. Try to resist the urge to add more flour if your dough seems overly sticky. You can incorporate some of your bench flour while rolling out the cookies instead.
On a lightly floured surface, bring the dough together into a log-ish shape. Divide the log in half and shape each half into a disk about 1 inch thick, wrap each disk with plastic wrap and throw them in the fridge until you are ready to bake the cookies. If you are in a cold or dry place, like we are, you really only need to chill the dough for 20-30 minutes. At this point, you should preheat the oven to 350F. On the same lightly floured surface, roll out one disk at a time to between 1/8”- ¼” thick. This is a good time to get the kids involved with helping to cut out the cookies with the cookie cutters of their choosing. Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet and bake until the edges are very slightly golden. I always bake my cookies on parchment lined baking sheets to prevent sticking and very easy clean up. Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack or cutting board before letting your kids go crazy with the decorating.
For our valentine cookies, we chose to use simple heart cutters. In place of the classic royal icing, we are using melting dark and white chocolate in a pastry bag. We, of course, got easily sucked into the wonderful world of sprinkles but limited ourselves to champagne, black and gold.
2 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup, softened butter
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted, cream the butter until light and fluffy.
3. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
4. Add the flour mixture to butter slowly and mix until well incorporated.
5. Remove the dough from the mixer bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into 2 disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 350F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk of dough at a time to the desired thickness between 1/8” and ¼”.
7. To prevent sticking, dip the cookie cutter into flour before cutting each cookie. Place cookies on parchment liner baking sheets and bake for 8-11 minutes just until the edges start to turn slightly golden.
8. Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack before decorating with royal icing, chocolate, or sprinkles.
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