Sugar Cutout Cookies are pure deception. They seem simple. Make easy dough, cut, bake, decorate.
No, no, no, no, no.
They are actually a time-consuming serious art form that requires planning and plenty of advice from a veteran.
After reading about my most recent lousy cutout cookie experience at Christmastime, my friend Mary Birdsong offered up her mother’s recipe. She also took me under her wing last weekend to show me how it’s done.
Christmas is a big time for cutout cookies, but they really apply to any season or celebration. We used heart-shaped cutters and decorated in pink, red, pink, purple and white for, obviously, Valentine’s Day.
Armed with Mary’s knowledge, you (and I) should be able to tame the sugar cutout cookie tiger.
MARY’S SUGAR CUTOUT COOKIES
- 1/2 cup butter (softened)
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups flour (sifted)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
|Mix well butter, sugar and eggs. Stir in cream and vanilla. Mary uses her food processor.|
|Sift together and stir dry ingredients. Mix dry ingredients into wet until thoroughly incorporated. Dough may be tinted at this point if desired. Chill 4 to 5 hours to overnight. Mary does it overnight. If the dough isn't cold enough, it won't cut cleanly and will stick to any surface and rolling pin.|
|Heat oven to 400 degrees.|
|Roll out dough one quarter at a time and keep the rest in the fridge while you work. Using quite a bit of flour, Mary rolls the cookies very thin, no higher than 1/4 inch, for slightly crisp cookies that bake quickly. (She likes the ones that get too dark, and now so do I.)|
|When Mary cuts out the cookies, she presses down on the cutter, moves dough edges out of her way, and slides the cutter to the edge of her board to let the cookie fall out of the cutter into her opposite hand.|
|Place the cookies on rimless, ungreased cookie sheets and bake until slightly golden. She checked her very thin cookies at 4 minutes. They overcook quickly.|
|Let stand for only a minute on sheets. Any longer and the cookies will stick to the pan and break when you try to remove them. Place on a cooking rack until firm enough to decorate.|
|Mary's Icing: Combine some milk, butter and smidge of vanilla in a small pot and heat until the butter melts. Stir warm mixture with powdered sugar until desired consistency. She does not know amounts. I think I saw her add a cup of milk, a couple tablespoons of butter and stirred just some of the liquid into roughly a cup of powdered sugar until she was happy with the consistency, a little like school glue, but way tastier.|
|Sprinkle with colored sanding sugar, nonpareils or sprinkles and allow icing to set up before storing.|