“Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?” – Unknown
Sugar cookies are that special something that you can bake and decorate which makes a great gift idea. There’s endless assortments of cookie cutters to buy, and when using any flower shape they can make a stunning edible flower arrangement in a flower pot. It’s a fun way to decorate a cupcake or cake and a wonderful way for the children to get involved as even the most basic cookies can look so beautiful. They are a great gift idea and of course popular at Christmas time seen decorating the Christmas tree or made into an edible wreath. You can bake the sugar cookies in advance and freeze them then bring the cookies back to room temperature once you are ready to decorate them. Most recipes add baking powder to the cookie dough but I leave it out altogether as omitting it holds the shape of the cookie plus I prefer a crispier cookie.
Sugar Cookie Recipe:
- 570g or 2 ½ cups of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 2 cups caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3 teaspoons of vanilla bean extract, or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- 5 cups of Unbleached Plain All Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer on low to medium speed, mix until thoroughly incorporated about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again this time only a few seconds. (over mixing the butter and sugar will create too much air and a fluffy cookie resulting in the cookie not holding its shape.)
- Lightly beat eggs then add slowly when mixing. Once again scrape the bowl then briefly mix once again.
- If using whole vanilla bean, cut open and scrape out the seeds then add to the mixing bowl, alternatively add the liquid vanilla extract and stir into mixture.
- Sift the flour and salt and add all the flour to the bowl. Place a large tea towel around the edge of the mixing bowl so flour doesn’t escape. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds then remove the tea towels. If the dough clumps around the paddle attachment then it’s ready. (Please keep in mind not to over mix at this stage as over developing the glutens will create a tough dough.)
- Roll out the dough between two large pieces of parchment paper and place on a baking sheet. Put into the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Take dough out of the fridge and roll out further if needed, cut out desired cookie shapes and place on paper-lined baking sheet or silpat silicone baking mat. Carefully re-roll scraps of dough and repeat.
- Place cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for a further 30 minutes or more as this will ensure they hold their shape when baked.
- Preheat oven to 176 degrees C or 350F.
- Bake cookies for 8 – 12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown. Cooking time will depend on the size of your cookie. (Important to check your oven as one minute can make a big difference.)
- Take cookies out of the oven and allow to cool at room temperature. Now they are ready to decorate or you can freeze them for when you’re ready to use them.
- ¾ cup of warm water
- 5 Tablespoons Meringue Powder
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 kilo of pure icing sugar
- ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
- In a mixing bowl, pour in the warm water and the meringue powder. Mix it with a whisk by hand until it is frothy and thickened. (This takes about 30 seconds.)
- Add the cream of tartar and mix for another 30 seconds.
- Pour in all the icing sugar at once and place the bowl on the mixer.
- Using the paddle attachment on the LOWEST speed, mix slowly for a full 10 minutes. What you are looking for is a thick and creamy consistency. (Avoid over mixing.)
- Cover the bowl with a dampened tea-towel to prevent crusting and drying.
- Tint with food colouring and you can thin the icing adding very small amount of warm water to reach the desired consistency.
TIP: Consistencies of icing for different purposes is important. If you’re wanting to use your icing for more detailed work then a thicker icing will help achieve the result but if you are looking for a more smoother finish then a runnier icing is need.
For outlining and flooding the cookie right away the best way to test the correct runny consistency is to drag a butter knife through the surface of your royal icing and count to 10. If the icing surface becomes smooth in anywhere between 7-10 seconds, then your icing is ready to use. If it takes longer than 10 seconds, the icing is too thick. Just add a drop of water and mix slowly. If your icings surface is smooth in less than 5-10 seconds then it is too runny. Mix your icing longer or slowly add more sifted icing sugar to thicken. Your icing is ready put in small piping bag with a number 2 or 3 nozzle depending if you are outlining or flooding the cookie. Only put in enough icing to fill the bag half way so it is easier to control. You can prepare different colours in separate piping bags, make sure no air creeps in and dries up the icing. A helpful idea is to tie the top of the pipping bag with a rubber band.
Now you are ready to pipe away and let your creative imagination run wild!!!!
Finally allow the icing on your cookies to completely dry, this can take up to 24 hours.