Sunday 11 March 2012

Sugar Cookies

I think sugar cookies get a rum deal.  We trot them out at Christmas time or when we want to make shaped cookies for a special occasion, but we don’t really think much about how they taste.  We should.  They are exactly what a plain cookie should be:  Nicely textured, pleasantly flavoured, and easy to make.

Sugar cookies go well with a cup of tea or coffee.  They can be filled with frosting to make cookie sandwiches, or—if you bake larger cookies—used to make ice cream sandwiches.   Crumbled and mixed with a little melted butter, sugar cookies make a perfect cookie crust for pies, tarts, or cheesecakes. The crumb/butter mixture can also be used as a streusel topping for baked fruit or ice cream.

My sugar cookie recipe comes from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook.  It’s simplicity itself, and works every time. 

Since there are few ingredients in these cookies, it’s important that the ingredients you use be the best you can afford.  Real butter is essential, as is good vanilla. 

To make Sugar Cookies, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons milk or cream (I used low fat evaporated milk)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg white (not pictured)
  • 1 teaspsoon cold water (not pictured)
  • sugar for sprinkling on top of the cookies (not pictured)

Cream the butter and sugar together. 

Beat the eggs.  Add them to the butter and sugar mixture, along with the vanilla and milk or cream.  Beat until the ingredients are well combined.

Stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir to make a stiff dough.

Form the dough into rolls and wrap them with plastic wrap or waxed paper.  Chill the cookie dough for at least an hour.

(I flatten the rolls of dough on four sides, to make rectangular shapes.  The dough flattens when you slice it anyway, so squaring it off makes prettier cookies.)

Slice the chilled dough into 1/4-inch thick slices and place the slices on parchment lined cookie sheets. 

Beat the egg white together with a teaspoon of cold water until slightly frothy and then brush the top of each cookie with the egg white mixture.  

Sprinkle a generous amount of sugar over the top of each cookie.  (The sugar will melt in the oven and form a little crust on top of each cookie.)

Bake the cookies on the middle rack of a 350˚F oven for 10 to 12 minutes.  They won’t take on much colour but they will expand a little and firm up.

Cool the cookies on brown paper and store them in an airtight container.

If you want to cut out shaped cookies, flatten the dough into disks, wrap them in plastic wrap and chill them in the fridge for at least an hour.  Roll the dough out between sheets of waxed paper to a quarter inch thick.  Once the dough is rolled out, remove the top sheet of waxed paper and cut your shapes.  Put the shapes on parchment lined cookie sheets to bake.  The dough trimmings should be formed into new disks and re-chilled before they’re rolled out again.
Recipe source:  The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 12th edition, Revised by Marion Cunningham and Jen Laber, Pub. Alfred A. Knopf, 1981

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