Monday, March 7, 2011

St Patrick's Day cookies and a great decorated sugar cookie recipe


A friend's daughter had a St Patrick's Day-themed party this weekend, so I made some cookies for the occasion. It turns out, there isn't a lot of variety in shamrock-themed cookies (see?), and rainbows take so many colors (although aren't these, which were posted today, the cutest?), and leprechauns are just hard... I did my best, and even though I'm obviously not an artist, I think the leprechauns with their big, curly orange beards turned out kinda fun.


I'm so happy with the sugar cookie recipe I'm using now to decorate cookies. It's a lot easier to forgive shaky lines and irregular smudges and random drops of red icing in the middle of an otherwise green cookie when the cookie tastes delicious. And let's face it, many sugar cookes just don't taste so great. Sugary, yes. Flavorful, no. I looked around at several different cookie recipes (I haven't yet done a direct comparison in my kitchen, but that may still be coming) and opted for the one from sweetopia.net, with slight modifications (and OMG her cookies are just incredible - one thing I love about [some of] the cookies is that the designs are pretty manageable by non-artists like myself but adorable). They really taste yummy. Like, really yummy. I think I know the secret, too. I only just discovered how delicious almond extract is. It was when I made some almond-flavored marshmallows (they were pumpkin-shaped, so almond seemed to fit) and they were so good that everything's been almond-flavored since! The royal icing I've been using is just meringue powder, cream of tartar, powdered sugar, and almond extract, and it's great. So I subbed in a little almond extract for vanilla and loved the result. I cut down on the baking powder a lot, but if you don't want your cookies to spread at all then don't include any baking powder.

Sugar cookies for decorating
adapted from Sweetopia (and the cookies on that blog post do not qualify as 'pretty manageable' but aren't they lovely??)

2  1/2 cups butter (at room temperature)
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
5 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on low to medium speed using the paddle attachment.  Mix until thoroughly incorporated – for about one minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again for a few seconds more.

Over-mixing the butter and sugar in this step will cause too much air to be incorporated into the dough.  If you’d like a light and fluffy cookie, that’s ideal, however the dough will spread more during baking.

Add eggs slowly and mix.  Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.

Add vanilla and almond extract.  Stir briefly.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.  (it's a lot of flour to sift. mixing worked for me.)

Add all the flour mixture to the bowl.  Place a large tea towel or two small tea towels between the edge of the bowl and the electric mixer so that the flour won’t escape.  Mix on low speed for 3o seconds.  Remove the tea towels and observe the dough mixing; when it clumps around the paddle attachment it’s ready.  It’s also important at this stage not to over-mix the dough (the glutens in the flour develop and the dough can become tough).

Divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal pieces. Roll out to preferred thickness between 2 large pieces of parchment paper.  Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.

Cut out cookie shapes.  Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Re-roll scraps and repeat.

Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again.  They will then hold their shape better when baked.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown.  The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.

Let cookies cool to room temperature and decorate!

I'm a particular fan of the snake I made with the leftover dough -
the birthday girl loves reptiles and St Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, right??


3 comments:

  1. Stacy these are so adorable!! I love the polka dot one!!! Those are sooo fun! I like the glitter one too! ha ha I was looking at the pic thinking um snake? but then I read the comment under the photo! ha

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  2. Your cookies are so cute. I wish I could decorate as well as you do. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog and I'd be delighted if you'd stop by and link your cookies up. http://sweet-as-sugar-cookies.blogspot.com/2011/03/sweets-for-saturday-8.html

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  3. Thanks for visiting my Chocolate Risotto post. I am now following you! Great blog.

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