Each year about this time, I start getting emails about holiday cookies. Many of them want my favorite sugar recipe and other are about things like how to keep cookies from spreading in the oven and keeping their shape.
When it comes to getting the perfect sugar cookie I’ve got a few tips. You’ll notice that my sugar cookie recipe has no baking powder in it and there are basically two reasons for that. First, the baking powder causes the cookie to puff and spread when they’re baking. If you have an intricately shaped cookie, you’ll lose some definition. Sure, your cookie will be a little more dense, but I bet you won’t notice much. Also, I’ve found that the cookies without baking powder are easier to decorate because they don’t break as easily. The other thing that I can recommend about creating the perfect sugar cookie is keeping the dough COLD. I make my dough and then wrap it in wax paper and refrigerate it for at least an hour (but preferably longer). Then I break the dough into quarters and only use a small amount at a time, keeping the other dough in the fridge. Keeping the dough cold will make them easier to cut out and transfer to a baking sheet. If you’re dough gets too warm and starts stretching and tearing easily, just ball it up and put it back in the fridge. Also, be sure to allow your cookie sheets to cool before you use them again. Otherwise, the cookies will start to spread before they make it into the oven.
When decorating, I prefer to use royal icing because of the taste and because it sets up hard so you can stack the cookies. I simply mix it up, divide into bowls, color it with gel based food colorings, and then decorate the cookies with a piping bag and assorted colored sugars.
- 2 cups butter (4 sticks)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Add eggs, extracts, and salt, mix well. Add the flour gradually, stirring well. Cover or wrap dough and chill for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Divide dough into quarters and work with one quarter at a time, keeping the other refrigerated. Roll out on floured surface to about a ¼ thickness. Cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters. Transfer cut-outs to a cool cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Bake 6 to 8 minutes, or until set but not browned. Cool and decorate with royal icing.
- 3 oz pasteurized egg whites (I used All Whites)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- In a large bowl, beat together whites and vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing well. Once all the sugar is incorporated, beat for two minutes on high or until smooth and glossy. Color using gel based food colorings.