If you’re like me, the thought of rolling out and cutting cookies by hand is just TOO. MUCH. I rarely make sugar cookies, but when I do this recipe works like a charm every. single. time. Good news, right?
Here’s the harsh truth about sugar cookies: You’re going to need to plan a few hours ahead (or a whole day, if you’re not a professional procrastinator) to make these perfectly delightful goodies. For best results, give yourself an hour for every 2 dozen cookies you plan to bake.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 ½ c. butter (Parkay is great!), softened
- 2 c. white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
- 5 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 c. powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 egg whites, beaten
Cream the sugar, eggs and butter together until smooth. Then add dry ingredients and mix until you have a firm batter. (Don’t skip the salt! Some people think it’s weird to have salt in cookies but it is an important leavening ingredient that you won’t taste at all!) Divide your batter into fourths and wrap each snugly with plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least an hour. If you don’t chill your dough, it will be super sticky and impossible to roll out.
After your dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Use flour or powdered sugar to coat the surface you’ll be rolling cookies on and lightly coat your rolling pin, too. (If you don’t have a rolling pin… get one! In the mean time, a smooth glass or bottle will work beautifully. Just make sure it’s clean.)
Grab one package of dough from the fridge, unwrap it and quickly roll the dough until it is about ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. If you opt for thicker cookies, you will need to adjust your bake time by a few minutes.
Make sure you have enough flour/sugar on your surface to keep the dough from sticking! If you can’t pick the dough up after you’ve rolled it out, you won’t be able to get cut cookies off, either. Using the cookie cutter of your choice, (jar lids are perfect if you want circles.) quickly cut cookies from the dough and transfer to a baking sheet. Tap any rough edges smooth with your finger to get a beautifully crisp edge. You’ll want to work as quickly as possible as the dough will get stickier the warmer it gets. Keep the rest of the dough in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. The colder the dough, the better!
Bake cookies for EXACTLY 8 minutes! When you pull them out of the oven, there shouldn’t be any brown edges. They will continue to bake for a few minutes once removed from the oven, so even if they don’t look quite right, trust the timer! (For a thicker cookie, bake for no more than 10 minutes.)
Do not remove cookies immediately from the baking sheet. Sugar cookies are extremely soft right out of the oven. They’ll come off the pan much nicer if you let them sit for a few minutes first. Once you’ve transferred the cookies from the pan, you’ll want to let them cool completely before icing them.
Beat all 3 ingredients with a mixer for 5 minutes, or until it is an even consistency. If you plan to color the icing, portion it into Ziploc baggies. Add food coloring to each bag, then SEAL and squish! Keep squishing the bag until the color mixes smoothly.
Once you are ready to decorate, gently press the icing into a bottom corner of the bag. (Like you would with toothpaste.) Twist the bag a few times until it is firm and easy to hold. Using scissors, cut a small slit across the corner of the bag. Hold the bag like you would hold a pencil and you’re ready to go!
Royal icing dries quickly but is generally self-smoothing. If your icing is too thick, add tiny portions of water or vanilla extract until it reaches the desired consistency. You want it firm enough to stay in place, but soft enough that the icing blends well with itself and has a shiny, smooth surface. Once icing has dried (5-10 minutes later, at most) cookies will be stackable.
Have fun! (And remember, if the cookies are ugly, you get to eat them all!)
Originally published July 9, 2016