Monday, February 13, 2012

Sugar Cookie Cutouts

I have never been fond of cutout sugar cookies. They all just seem so... bland. And boring. Blah. And the beautiful royal icing people use to decorate them is just as bland and boring and blah. It's a shame really because making sugar cookies and decorating them is FUN! Lucky for me, I finally came upon a recipe for cutout sugar cookies (and glaze!) that I think are delicious. Unglazed, they have great flavor and texture and are crunchy. After they've been glazed and have sat in the cookie jar for a day or so, they become softer and even more delightful.

Unsurprisingly, the recipe is from Christy at Southern Plate! How I love that blog. My version is only ever so slightly adapted from hers. Basically, I added a little bit of butter and lemon extracts to the dough to jazz up the flavor since let's face it, sugar cookies are almost by definition very mild. You may be thinking I'm crazy for even wanting to use butter flavoring. I don't blame you since I thought it was weird as heck before I bought it for another Southern Plate recipe because Christy used it and I trusted her judgment. Hopefully you will trust me and give it a try, but if not, that's okay! The cookies will still be good since the vanilla and lemon are what you actually taste, the butter flavoring just enhances things a bit. So, if you don't like cutout sugar cookies, I suggest you try these. Maybe you still won't like cutout sugar cookies, but maybe you finally will!

Quick note: My dough was a tiny bit difficult to work with. It wanted to come apart some as I rolled it out and I had to be careful when moving the cutouts. It actually seemed to roll out easier once it warmed up a bit. Thankfully, it was still a fun dough to work with and I was able to easily patch together the dough that broke off. Patched cutouts baked up fine and you couldn't even tell once they were iced! If your cookies don't turn out perfect, don't stress- this is supposed to be enjoyable! Take your cookies elsewhere if anyone fusses at you because they don't look professional :o)

Here are my "lovely" cookies. Yes, I made pink manatees and red hearts for Valentine's Day. Finally, a use for the manatee cookie cutter I bought! My husband works with a group of geeky dudes and I thought they would like them. He asked that the cookies be made a little more manly, but how much manlier could they be? "Manatee" already has "man" in it! I'm considering adding tiny bow ties- that would make them manlier, right?

Sugar Cookie Cutouts

2/3 C shortening
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t lemon extract
1/2 t butter flavoring
2 C flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

Cream together shortening and sugar, then beat in egg and extracts until fluffy. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until combined.  If the dough seems too crumbly, you can mix in water half a tablespoon at a time, or flour one to two tablespoons at a time if it seems too wet.  Be careful not to over mix or the cookies will be tough. Form dough into a disk, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate 1 hour.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 375.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (depending on your preferences) and cut out with cookie cutters. Use a very thin spatula to transfer the cutouts to parchment paper lined cookie sheets and place about an inch apart. Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheets until just barely golden around the edges, 5-10 minutes depending on your oven. Let cookies cool on sheets for about 10 minutes and then finish cooling on cooling racks.

Yield: This really depends on the size of your cookie sheets! I got 9 manatees and 13 hearts. The manatees were pretty big and the hearts were a little on the small side. I'd guess about 30 average sized cookies.

2 T butter
1 C powdered sugar
1/4 t vanilla, lemon and butter extracts
1 1/2 T milk

In microwave, melt butter in a glass measuring cup or cereal bowl. Stir in powdered sugar, then extracts. Add milk and stir until smooth. You want the consistency to be pretty thick (like Elmer's Glue, yum!) so it doesn't pour off the cookies, so add a little more powdered sugar or a tiny (as in 1/2 teaspoon increments) bit of milk if necessary. Tint with food coloring and spoon over cookies, using the back of the spoon to spread the glaze. Top with sprinkles if desired. Let cookies sit out until glaze is completely dry (this will take a couple of hours), then you can stack them up in a cookie jar or tin.

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