My kids love to help me make holiday cookies. We smear them with frosting (which must be tasted, over and over as we work), and decorate them with a hodgepodge of sprinkles. And yes, the kids get to help with everything. It’s worth it, even if the process takes a bit longer. The kitchen counter ends up covered with frosting, and the floor is dusted with sprinkles that hide and reappear for days.
If you have children, you know how important it is to have a go-to sugar cookie recipe for the kids to cut out and decorate. Heck, as far as I’m concerned, even if you don’t have kids you should have a great sugar cookie recipe. I’ve tried so many different versions, and after years of testing have decided that this one is my favorite. It’s quick, reliable, and most importantly it’s very, very good.
These sugar cookies are just what I like– crisp around the edges and soft in the middle. They have a rich buttery flavor, and the frosting is soft and perfect. Even better, these cookies are simple to make. So there is no reason to settle for that pre-made cookie dough with the funky aftertaste from the supermarket. Make these. You’ll be happy you did.
The Recipe: Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
(Makes about 2 dozen cookies, though it depends on the size of your cookie cutter)
1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups (420 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
About 3 1/4 cups (1 pound/ 454 grams) confectioners’ sugar
About 3 tablespoons milk, more if necessary
4 ounces softened cream cheese
Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl, once again.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well mixed. On low speed, slowly blend the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Mix until evenly incorporated.
Place the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a disk shape, about 8-inches in diameter and 1-inch thick. Wrap completely in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until it is firm enough to roll out. Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in a freezer for up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Then let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before using.
Position rack in the center of an oven, and heat to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Lightly flour a work surface, place the dough on the surface and lightly flour the dough, as well as the rolling pin. Roll out dough to be about 1/4-inch thick. Make sure to keep the work surface well-floured to prevent sticking. Use a cookie cutter and cut out as many cookies as possible. Place them on the lined cookie sheet with a normal amount of space between them. Gather scraps and reroll; continue until all of the dough is gone.
Bake cookies for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges and pale to light brown in the centers. The baking time may be shorter or longer depending upon the size of your cookies. Keep a watchful eye. Let them cool on the pan for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese for a couple of minutes until soft and smooth. Add the confectioners sugar and milk. Mix until well incorporated. Add a bit more milk, if necessary. You will want the frosting to be somewhat thick, or else it will slide off of the cookies. Mistakes can easily corrected by adding more confectioners’ sugar or milk. Frost the cookies and sprinkle with decorations. Let set for a few minutes before serving. The cookies keep well in an airtight container for about 4 days. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour Cookbook
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