Tuesday, December 11, 2012

sugar cookies.

The ubiquitous sugar cookie.  It's so plain and simple and so not me.  I'm a girl who likes a lot of add-in's and bold flavors and cookies that scream loudly with their presence.  Sugar cookies don't do that.  They are the stand-by, reliable boy-friend of cookies.  You always know what a sugar cookie is going to taste like (butter and sugar anyone?).  But, I couldn't ignore the fact that it's the holidays and somehow sugar cookies are synonymous with the holidays and it seemed to me if I was going to spend the next 20 days knee deep in butter that I needed to make at least one old faithful of cookies.  So I researched, because if I was going to make a sugar cookie I wanted to make the best one I could and I knew I wanted it to be easy.  A sugar cookie should be easy.  It shouldn't require you to roll out dough on a heavily floured surface and working quickly with your plethora of holiday shaped cookie cutters cut the dough out and then have to decorate with multiple bowls of heavily dyed icing.  Oh no.  That is not for me.  So I decided on a slice and bake dough and one color icing (white icing, no dye for me) and gold sprinkles (the gold sprinkles came about because we may have made a visit to the Williams Sonoma Outlet and the only way I was going to be allowed to logically buy them was if I had a project planned with them - thus the sugar cookies!).  These are so simple and they really are delightful (the vanilla flavor is perfectly pronounced).  I love them most because you can store a log of dough in the freezer and have cookies whenever you want.  Which is the best thing to have in your freezer around the holidays.  

Sugar Cookies
Recipe from Dorie Greenspan Baking From My Home to Yours

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons total) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together and keep close by.

Working in a mixer with the paddle attachment, if you have one, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until it is smooth.  Still beating, add the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the butter is light and pale.  Add the egg and the yolk and beat another minute or two.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated.  When mixed, the dough will be soft, creamy and appealingly malleable. 

Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half.  Shape each half into a chubby sausage (the diameter of the sausage is up to you - I usually like cookies that are about 2 inches or more across) and wrap in plastic.  Chill the packets for at least 2 hours.  (Well wrapped, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Have two lined baking sheets ready.  You will want to cut the dough at 1/4-inch intervals with a sharp thin-bladed knife, place the slices of dough rounds on one of the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the mid-point.  The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much if at all. Let cool on a wire rack.  At this point they can be eaten or you can frost them with my frosting below!

Vanilla Icing

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/2 - 3 teaspoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkles for decorating (optional but highly suggested)

In a small bowl, place the confectioners sugar.  Add in the heavy cream and vanilla and stir to combine.  The mixture should be thick like icing.  If it's too thick, add a little more heavy cream, until its the desired consistency.  Place a small dollop of icing on each cookie and spread it around.  Top with sprinkles.  

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