Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine Sugar Cookies

What Valentine's Day is complete without sugar cookies, and heart shaped ones at that? We hosted a Valentine playdate with about 20 kids under the age of 5 and I knew this was the perfect opportunity to try out a new cookie recipe that would leave very few crumbs at our house. The joys of being able to sample the goods without having to eat them all!

I have to admit that while making these cookies I felt like a real baker. I mean like a real, professional baker. I had cookies in the oven, cookies cooling on racks, cookies in the fridge waiting to be baked, cookie dough being rolled out and cut, cookie dough in the fridge ready for the next roll out. It was amazing the assembly line production that got going once I got into my rhythym.

I also tried my hand at royal icing for the first time. Royal icing is a bit different than the frosting that many people use on cookies at home in that it is supposed to look more formal or professional. It was fun to work with and I'm sure as I use it more I will get better at it and be able to do more detail. I thought going into it that I was going to have all these elaborate designs on the cookies. Yah, right. I ended up getting some hearts that were passable, some that were great for a three year old, and a few in between. Enjoy!

Valentine Sugar Cookies
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until smooth. Beat in the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and pale. Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or two; beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add in the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated (because this dough is best when worked least, you might want to stop the mixer before all the flour is mixed in and use a spatula to blend the rest).

Turn the dough onto a counter and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk and wrap it in plastic. Chill for at least 2 hours. (Well ,the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Work with one packet of dough at a time; roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of ¼ inch, lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut out the cookies. Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for re-rolling, and carefully lift the cookies onto the baking sheets with a spatula, leaving about 1½ inches between the cookies. (This is a soft dough and you might have trouble peeling away the excess or lifting the cutouts; if so, cover the dough, chill it for about 15 minutes and try again.) After you’ve rolled and cut the second packet of dough, you can form the scraps into a disk, then chill, roll, cut and bake.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midpoint. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much, if at all. Remove the pan from the oven and dust the cookies with sugar or cinnamon sugar, if you’d like. Let them rest for 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Royal Icing
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons water

Mix all ingredients on low speed for 7-10 minutes or until the icing loses its shine. Add more water by the teaspoon if it appears too stiff. At this stage you want to be able to pipe it easily.

To flood the cookies add water a few drops at a time until it reaches almost a liquid consistency.

For step by step instructions on decorating with royal icing go here.