What a dreary start to the week. It has been precipitating for the past four days. Four? Five? I’ve lost track. I’m sick of wet pant legs, wet socks, fuzzy hair, and my bad atttitude.
I’ve decided that I am going to boost myself out of this rut, and the best way to do that is to bake and decorate sugar cookies with buttercream frosting. My grandma used to make Valentine’s Day sugar cookies and mail them. Always a wonderful treat in the middle of winter.
I am going to do the same for a handful of wonderful friends: Jordan, my BFF and the Man of Honor at my wedding, who is slaving away at optometry school; Brendan, Jordan’s loveable wonderful boyfriend in Boston; and my slacker brother Greg, who lives in a trailer and is slowly making his way through college.
First: it was a major pain in the @$$ to track down autumn cookie cutters!!! I visited THREE different Michael’s stores, Target, Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts, and finally found success in Wal-Mart of all places. *groan* I was really pumped about the Wilton’s oak leaf cutter, and I admit that I actually let out a little squeal when I found it on a mid-aisle rack.
The Best Sugar Cookies
1 c. softened butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Cream the butter under soft and light, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and cream well, looking for complete incorporation and a whipped texture- about 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, almond, and lemon zest; mix until just combined. Sift the dry ingredients together; add gradually while mixing slowly. Mix just until combined.
At this point, you can flatten the dough in batches between sheets of waxed paper and set in the fridge to chill- this is faster than letting the dough chill in the bowl. Either way you do it, the dough needs to chill until it is firm. This is what makes it easier to roll out without having to add too much excess flour– after all, nobody likes a dry cookie.
When chilled, roll out with a *little* flour to desired thickness, cut into shapes or circles, and bake in a 375 degree oven for 4-5 minutes; turn pan and bake another 4-5 minutes or JUST until baked. 30 seconds can make a lot of difference!
Once you take the pan out of the oven, the cookies will keep baking while they sit on the pan. If you take the cookies off right away, they may break or smoosh because they’re so hot. If you let the cookies cool on the pan completely, they may stick to the pan. I generally let them rest 3-6 minutes before transferring to paper towels (or a rack, whichever you prefer).
And you thought making cookies was easy, huh?!
1/2 c. softened butter
1 tsp. vanilla
a very very small splash of almond extract (optional)
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1-3 tsp water
(I don’t have exact measurements, because I’ve made this enough and know what consistency I’m looking for. Sorry.)
Whip the butter together with vanilla and almond. Add powdered sugar slowly until it crumbles in large pieces. Add 1 tsp of water and mix until smooth; add more powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency. Separate and add color if desired. Spread and eat! Oh, and be sure your cookies are cooled before trying to frost.
You’re looking for a frosting that isn’t noticeably greasy and buttery, that is stiff enough to layer on a cookie but smooth enough to spread on easily.
(*Note: I’ve been known to go back and forth between powdered sugar and water in little amounts until I feel it’s just perfect. Don’t be afraid to tweak and experiment.)