Tomorrow morning Abby Furchner, reporter for Valley Today, will be coming over bright and early again to talk Christmas treats. We’ll be decorating three different treats while she’s here and for one of the segments we’re tackling sugar cookies. For a whole 90 seconds!
If you’ve ever made cut out sugar cookies you know that’s not enough time to talk about all the details involved in making and decorating those beasts. So I’m dedicating this post to give a few tips I’m sure I won’t have time for, or may forget, tomorrow.
- First, make sure your recipe is for cut outs. Regular sugar cookies spread which isn’t great for intricate cut outs.
- Make the dough a day ahead of time. When I make cookies, I plan for a whole weekend dedicated to the task. Dough making happens Friday night then it’s chilled for at least a day until I’m ready to bake.
- Use powdered sugar instead of flour to roll out the dough. It makes for a sweeter bottom and lessens the chances of the dough getting tough after rolling it out again and again.
- Keep the rest of the dough cold while you’re not using it.
- Once cut and on the cookie sheet that’s lined with parchment paper, chill the whole pan in the fridge for a few mins before sticking it in the oven. A cold pan and dough will help each cookie hold its shape.
- Watch the time. Different pans can cook differently. Keep an eye on them.
- Don’t let them brown. Make sure they’re done, but take them out at the first sight of tanning. (Is that I thing or I did I just make that up??) They will continue to cook on the pan after you take them out.
- Let them rest on the pan for about a minute. Then slide off all the cookies still on the parchment paper right onto a wire drying rack.
- Take them off the parchment after another minute or so to cool individually.
- Let them cool completely before decorating. Store them in a covered container once cool to keep them from drying out.
There are (at least) three different types of frosting used to decorate sugar cookies. Butter cream is the most kid friendly. It’s easy to spread on and top with sprinkles and you can throw them in a container and freeze them to take out and enjoy well into January when you’ve given up on your new-year-new-you diet. However, butter cream doesn’t harden well enough and doesn’t stack well.
Then there’s royal frosting, usually made with meringue powder. This will give you a hard finish that will stack well and look professional. But some think it’s too hard.
I prefer something in the middle. The frosting used in these pictures is made of powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup, and extract. It hardens after sitting out over night or up to 24 hours, but it maintains a soft center. It’s glossy and pretty but it’s a process and not terribly easy to work with. If you’re willing to try, here’s what I do.
6 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk plus more to thin
1/2 – 1 tsp. of clear extract of your choice
1/4 light corn syrup
gel dye, optional
- Make a thick consistency frosting in a stand mixer, adding ingredients in order they appear above. Add milk a Tablespoon at a time after all ingredients are mixed, until consistency looks like…
- Separate it into smaller bowls to dye whatever color you want, using gel food coloring.
- Fill pastry bags with about a third of the thick consistency frosting.
- Thin what’s left in the bowls with milk, adding a half a teaspoon at a time until you reach a consistency that will spread but not run. This may take some trial and error. If it gets too thin, sift some powdered sugar into it.
- Fill more pastry bags with the thin consistency frosting. Don’t clip the ends until you’re ready to pipe onto cookies so it doesn’t harden.
- Work one cookie at a time, making an outline with the thick frosting then filling in with the thin.
- When frosting the outline, hold the tip of the pastry bag about an inch above the cookie and let it fall on its own to give a less wobbly line.
- When filling in, follow the outline first then zig zag inside. It should self-spread. Where there are gaps, use a toothpick the connect the frosting around it and it will begin to self spread after.
- Do soft designs and add sprinkles while the frosting is still wet. If you want more detailed designs, let the cookie harden over night, then add details the next day.
- While letting the cookies set, tent and cover with foil. You can refrigerate or leave at room temp. Just make sure the foil is well tented and doesn’t touch the tops of the cookies.
- Add the final details with thick frosting. Let it set again, if necessary.
- Stack and store in a sealed container. They are fine at room temp for up to a week. Then freeze.
Note: These are the type of cookies I might make for a paying customer but ARE NOT the cookies I make with my kids. I give them some butter cream, a knife, and some sprinkles. Decorated sugar cookies can get your tinsel in a tangle if you let them. Don’t let them! Make them however suits your life and time, but be sure to make them with love that will lead to fond memories . Whether they are intricately decorated, or not, they still go down the same way!