Buttery Cutout Cookies
Everyone has their favorite cutout cookie recipe, often passed down through generations of bakers. Many Christmas memories center on a kindly, aproned mother who is patiently overseeing the kiddies, in matching aprons, decorate iconic holiday shapes – bells, angels, Santa, reindeer, and stars. That was never me. After one attempt at creating this same memory for my daughters, I was over it. The cookies that actually survived were unrecognizable (and inedible) blobs of lurid red and green goo, crusted in ridiculous amounts of sprinkles. Every surface within 15 feet of the table, including the children, was also coated in the aforementioned substances. In the years that followed, the girls’ pleas for us to make and decorate cutout cookies were heartlessly met with “Nope, nope, a-a-nd nope.”
Then, inspired by the gorgeous confections in a Chicago bakery window, I decided to try my hand at cookie decorating as an art form, referencing Martha frequently on my journey. The cookie quest eventually led to having cookie cutters custom made by a local tinsmith – and a whole lotta of cookie cutters in all shapes and sizes!
Buttery Cutout Cookies
Bake: 350°F for 8 - 10 minutes
Yield: 6 - 8 dozen, depending on size of cutters
6 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla (be sure to check out this week’s project on Thursday – Homemade Vanilla Extract!)
Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Gradually mix in flour to make a stiff dough. Cover and chill until firm – preferably overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface (I use a marble pastry slab) roll dough out to desired thickness and cut out shapes.
Bake, adjusting for your oven, for 8 – 10 minutes. They should just begin to turn very light brown around edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on tray. Carefully transfer from tray to cooling racks. When completely cooled store in an airtight container or zippered bag. May be frozen unfrosted for several weeks. Allow to come to room temperature before icing and decorating.
I ran out of time before Thanksgiving and was desperately searching for a simple solution for an icing glaze for my leaf, turkey, acorn and pumpkin cookies that would take sprinkles. I found this one from McCormick®. I just left it white and decorated with seasonal sprinkles. It makes about a 1/2 cup glaze, so I doubled the recipe to cover about 3 dozen cookies.
Colorful Cookie Glaze
Mix confectioners' sugar, milk and extract in small bowl until smooth. Stir in corn syrup until glaze is smooth and glossy. (If glaze is too thick, stir in small amount of additional corn syrup.) Stir in 3 to 4 drops food color until evenly distributed and glaze is smooth. Add additional drops of food color until glaze is of desired color.
To glaze cookies, place cooling rack on foil-lined baking sheet. Holding a cookie by its edge, dip the top of cookie into glaze. (Or spoon the glaze onto cookies using a teaspoon. Cookies can also be glazed using a new small paintbrush.) Place glazed cookies on cooling rack to dry. (The foil-covered baking sheet will catch any drips.)
Use contrasting glaze colors to decorate glazed cookies, if desired. Spoon small amount of contrasting glaze into small resealable plastic bag. Snip off tiny piece of the corner of the plastic bag. Create design by squeezing contrasting glaze onto cookies. Allow glazed cookies to dry thoroughly before stacking.
• Use glaze soon after preparing. Do not refrigerate glaze, as it will begin to harden.
• If you would like more than one color of glaze, divide untinted glaze among separate small bowls. Tint each one a different color by stirring in 1 to 2 drops food color until evenly distributed and glaze is smooth. Add additional drops food color until glaze is of desired color.
• If cookie is decorated with contrasting glaze before glazed cookie is allowed to dry, glaze colors will blend slightly, creating softer, more muted design.
• Allow glaze to dry before storing cookies in airtight containers.