12.19.2010

sugar cookies + secret santa

I did a secret santa exchange this year that had two stipulations: you must get the person a piece of clothing that reminds you of the person, and you must make something homemade. So of course, I baked cookies!

I recently saw a post over at The Curvy Carrot about decorating cookies with royal icing, and I figured this was a great opportunity to try my hand at it. Worst case, I failed, and could just make a batch of regular, yummy sugar cookies.

Well, I did fail... the first time... kind of. My first set of cookies were absolutely delicious—they were flaky, crisp, buttery, light and airy and had just a hint of vanilla. They disappeared quite quickly into my belly (sans decoration) because frankly, they were ugly.

The second round, I found a recipe intended for rolling and cutting shapes. These cookies retained their shapes almost perfectly, and kept a nice even color and sharp lines. Unfortunately, they taste pretty bland. Eaten by themselves, they crumble in your mouth with an indifferent flavor, that tastes mildly of butter, but mostly of flour.

So, I present to you both recipes. Do with them what you will! (If you use the second recipe, go to Curvy Carrot and trying your hand at decorating! It's easier than you think!)

As usual, these are both one-bowl, no electric mixer versions of the original.

[Note: I apologize for the lack of pictures. My wonderful photographer is currently inundated with architecture homework.]

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Delicious Sugar Cookies
adapted from AllRecipes.com

Ingredients
0.75c butter, room temperature
1c white sugar
0.5t salt
2 eggs
1t vanilla extract
2.5c all purpose flour
1t baking powder

Directions
1. Cut the butter into 0.5 inch cubes and microwave until it's almost as soft as whipped cream cheese. (Microwave it 15 seconds at a time. Once you see liquid, it's soft enough.)
2. Add the sugar and salt and mix it with a fork until they're incorporated (and slightly fluffy). You might need to take a break, unless you have an arm of steel.
3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract; beat again until they're fully incorporated.
4. Add the flour and baking powder in a small heap on top of the liquid ingredients. Mix the flour and baking powder together gently on top of the wet ingredients before stirring them in.
5. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
6. An hour before you want cookies, take the dough out of the fridge. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
7. Either roll the dough out into shapes (they won't work very well), or make a log and cut off slices. Bake on parchment paper, or a greased baking tray, for 6 minutes. (Once any of them show golden brown on the edges, pull them out.)
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Beautiful Sugar Cookies
adapted from cooks.com

Ingredients
1c butter, room temperature
1c sugar
0.5t salt
1 egg
2t vanilla
2t lemon zest

3c all purpose flour

Directions

1. Cut the butter into 0.5 inch cubes and microwave until it's almost as soft as whipped cream cheese. (Microwave it 15 seconds at a time. Once you see liquid, it's soft enough.)
2. Add the sugar and salt and mix it with a fork until they're incorporated (and slightly fluffy). You might need to take a break, unless you have an arm of steel.
3. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and lemon zest; beat again until they're fully incorporated.
4. Add the flour and baking powder in a small heap on top of the liquid ingredients. Mix the flour and baking powder together gently on top of the wet ingredients before stirring them in. 
5. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes (to let the flavors incorporate) and then let it warm up to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
6. Roll the cookies to about 1/8 inch thick and cut shapes.
7. Bake at 350ºF for 8-10 minutes on a well greased and floured baking sheet.
8. Cool fully and decorate! (I wouldn't recommend eating these without frosting.. they're pretty bland.)


Note: I added lemon zest because royal icing has lemon juice in it. You could also add almond extract, or orange zest (which would probably be good if you drizzled these with chocolate.)
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