April 21, 2011

Happy Easter!

Easter Sunday is coming up in just a few days.  In our house, my little guy is very eager for this holiday because it means the Easter bunny will come and leave him a trail of eggs to find in the backyard.  He is very curious about when the Easter bunny actually comes and whether he talks or knows how to drive a car.  He can't wait to open up those plastic eggs and see if the Easter bunny remembered to leave him a few of those matchbox cars he loves so much. 

This is a beautiful time of year, when the grass starts to turn green and flowers begin to jut out from the ground.  Despite battling the allergies that come with this, it feels like the world is waking up from the long, cold winter's sleep and everything goes from black and white to color.  I'm glad to say goodbye to all that snow we had this year!  So how ever you are celebrating Easter and what it symbolizes for you, here's to the start of something new.  

I thought I'd mark the holiday by making some classic sugar cookies and cutting them out into some Easter theme shapes.  I decorated a few with some royal icing but this is definitely not my area of expertise!  But hey, it's all about having fun and learning in the kitchen.

I don't make sugar cookies that often but it definitely makes an appearance at Christmas time and it's fun to make during certain holidays and let your kids decorate them with sanding sugar or icing.  It's more work than the typical drop cookies but nice for a special occasion and fills the house with a great warm scent.  With the sugar cookies, it's all about the butter, sugar, and vanilla.  They're simple but I think there is a very nostalgic sort of flavor to them. 

There are not many ingredients in the sugar cookie.  The key is to have the butter at room temperature so it will incorporate and combine easily with the sugar.
Once the butter and sugar have been beaten together, an egg and some vanilla extract go in before adding the dry ingredients. 
If the dough seems a bit too dry after adding the dry ingredients, I usually add a splash of milk to moisten it.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a disc before chilling in the refrigerator for one hour or overnight.
When the dough is ready (take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes to soften slightly), dust some flour onto your counter top and on your rolling pin and roll out, rotating the dough as you go to make sure it's not sticking.  Since I'm going to apply some some royal icing, I wanted a sturdier cookie so I rolled these out to about 1/4 inch thick.  Normally, I decorate sugar cookies with some sanding sugar or nonpareils.  In that case, I like to roll them out a bit thinner (about 1/8 of an inch or so) since it gives me a crisper texture that I like with these sugar cookies.  You can collect the scrap from the first set of cut cookies and re-roll and cut one more time.

Time permitting, pop the cut cookies into the freezer for about 15 minutes to set the shapes.  A little sanding sugar or sprinkles can go on right before baking.
These cookies take about 15-18 minutes in the oven at 325 degrees, and you pull them out once the corners have turned slightly golden. 

Now, I believe this is my third time playing with royal icing.  To make some, you need some sifted confectioners' sugar, meringue powder, and a bit of water.  Using a mixer, you beat this mixture on low speed for about 7 minutes.
Now comes the fun part.  I use a drop or two of gel paste food coloring to tint the icing.  I honestly rarely decorate cookies with icing except during the holidays because 1) it's time consuming, 2) it's tricky since the icing hardens fairly quickly so you need to work quick, 3) I do not have a steady hand, and 4) it's just not all that easy and requires way more technique than I have!  But the decorating process is fun and the cookies are cute to look at (I put some out and use them as decoration around Christmas time).
Despite my lack of skills, I think I must have some hidden aspiration to be a great cookie/cake/cupcake decorator because I have a collection of icing bags and tips stashed away in my little pantry (I'll show that to you another time).  But I'm keeping it simple since my skills are definitely lacking.  I just placed the icing into plastic sandwich bags and cut a tiny hole at the corner to use as my piping bag here.  I can just about manage making little dots. 
The chick was a lot harder.  I outlined him first and then piped more icing within the center and attempted to spread it with an offset spatula.  Needless to say, I had trouble spreading the icing smoothly.  I think I'll leave any fancy decorating to the professionals going forward. 
Happy Easter, everybody! 
And one last note, whenever I make sugar cookies I have to cut them into some of my son's favorite shapes.  He ate a few of these cookies today and he loves them (this is what he wanted to say)!

The recipes:

Sugar Cookie Cutouts
Adapted from Martha Stewart

- Yields roughly one dozen 4-inch cookies; you can easily double the recipe -

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Splash of milk (optional)

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.

Beat butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment.  Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Incorporate the egg and vanilla.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture until just combined.  If the dough appears a bit dry, mix in a splash (2-3 teaspoons) of milk.  I find the milk makes the dough come together so that it's smooth and easy to roll out.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a round disk.  Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

Take dough from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with racks placed on upper and lower thirds of oven.  Lightly dust counter with flour and roll dough out to a 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut cookies with cookie cutters, transfering to parchment lined baking sheets.  Scraps can be re-rolled and cut again once more.  For best results, chill cookies in the freezer for about 15 minutes until firm.

Bake cookies for about 15-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time, until golden brown.  Let cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before gently moving to cool completely on wire racks.

Royal Icing
From Martha Stewart

- Makes 1 cup -

2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 cup water

Using a stand mixer and the paddle attachment, beat confectioners' sugar, meringue powder, and water together on low speed for about 7-8 minutes until mixture thickens. 

You can adjust the consistency of the icing by adding a bit more water if it seems too thick or a bit more confectioners' sugar if it's too thin.  I tint the icing by using gel paste food coloring.


  1. The cookies looks LOVELY!!!! I can't wait to tastes it!!! =D

  2. Thanks! Tell my lovely niece that we saved her a strawberry ice-cream cone cookie. : )



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