Sure, you are looking at the photo above thinking, “WHAT? I thought you always said you didn’t front? This looks like you’re fronting!” It’s true. I don’t front. What you see is mostly what you get but every time I post photos of my freshly made sugar cookies on Instagram or Facebook, people go crazy and say, “I DEMAND YOU TELL ME HOW YOU DO THIS!”
When I say I’m no baker, I mean it. I don’t bake often because a) I don’t love to bake, and b) I tend to eat everything I bake while no one is watching. This is not good for my middle-aged waistline. That, and it’s just a ton of work. Let’s be real here.
But a few years back, I kept seeing my friend Susan’s cookies on the Facebook and for some Martha Stewart wanna-be reason, I decided to email her and ask her the very same question: TELL ME HOW YOU DO THIS! Susan, who is a veritable cookie-making master, agreed to share her time-tested baking secrets* with me and today, I share them with you. Let us all bow down before the Gods of confectioner’s sugar and give thanks for the miracle we are all about to witness.
*The recipe I’m sharing today originated from Sara Fehling, who shared it with Susan, who passed it along to me! I am literally no baker but this recipe makes it seem like maybe I am.
In December of 2013, I took my first baby steps into the world of iced sugar cookies using this adorable Christmas bulb cookie cutter and I ended up with a first batch that looked like this:
I know what you’re thinking. They are the very essence of cookie perfection. How could a self-proclaimed non-baker like myself achieve such a high level of excellence? Two things. First, a great recipe, and second, a little life-changing gadget called The Cookie Thing.
The Cookie Thing has one purpose: to help you roll out perfectly even dough in the thickness of your choosing. That’s it. Susan simply uses 5/16″ dowels from the craft store to achieve the same end. True, they are much cheaper than The Cookie Thing, but some of us are suckers for a well-designed product.
I don’t have any well lit shots of me rolling out the dough but if you want to see this thing in action, watch this, made by The Cookie Thing’s creator. (This was the video that made me click BUY.)
Note: I used the second smallest of the slats to make my cookies. I always think I should go up to the next depth of slat. But nope, it’s that second to narrowest slat that works like a charm. It measures 4/16, for those who are curious.
Next you need to have the tools of the trade. Now I ain’t gonna lie. My KitchenAid stand mixer makes the process so much more do-able. I have bird wrists. I’m not a good by-hand mixer kind of gal.
But for achieving that smooth, flooded cookie look you need to have the following:
I had to look up how to put the bags together on the YouTube. (This video is helpful, if this concept is new to you.)
So now that you have all the tools and you’re ready to go, how ’bout I give you the recipe?
HERE YOU GO: SugarCookieAndIcingRecipe
A few extra things to note:
• When I make this cookie recipe, I halve it and make a double batch. Twice. As much as I love my mixer, it has a harder time handling the full 6 cups of flour the recipe calls for. I much prefer to make a half batch, roll out the dough, pop it into the fridge to chill and then tackle batch no. 2. Yes, it makes for more clean up (I start each batch with a clean mixer bowl and paddle) but it’s easier for me to manage.
• I prefer to roll out the dough using parchment paper versus wax paper. It’s less apt to stick to the dough.
• The icing recipe calls for almond extract, but I always flavor with vanilla. It’s a personal taste. I can’t stand the taste of almond extract in anything, though I adore almonds. Go figure.
• In the icing recipe, Sara divides her icing while it is still thick, then adds water to each bowl as she goes. I tend to get my icing a bit more fluid before I divide and conquer. So I add successive tablespoons of water to the mixer until it gets a bit thinner. The danger is that you’ll get it too runny, which you don’t want. I find the icing making stage is the most tedious. Both from getting the consistency right to getting the colors right. It takes time and if you get it too runny, you can always add more powdered sugar. There is a great tip for the right consistency in the PDF.
• Tie off your pastry bags very tightly. What has happened to me on numerous occasions is that I’m so focused on piping on that frosting, I don’t notice that I’m squeezing it up and out of the bag. And yes, that’s a messy clean up.
• Lastly, have fun. Experiment. Make mistakes and practice. Making cookies with Aidan is such a joy, especially on the holidays, so get a partner to help and have at it.
This photo was from Christmas. It’s a total set up. You put wet paper towels in glasses to keep the icing from caking up and you get to work. We keep toothpicks handy to create fun designs. Sara explains how to do that in the PDF. It’s truly an all-day affair. I like to make the cookies the night before, and get to frosting the next day.
Of course, the best part about all of this is that if you like sugar cookies, you are going to love how they taste. Seriously. I don’t make these often because as was the case on Valentine’s Day, I pretty much ate cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
What’s a few days out of the year lost to sugar coma, right?
Note No. 2: I may have left the smaller cookies in the oven about a minute too long. I always tend to want to see brown edges, but honestly? They’re done before that happens.