My aunt Kristin is a great collector of recipes. She sends me packages of them, often! The recipes come from magazines, books, cooking shows, gourmet grocery stores and various people she meets. They are far too numerous to try all of them, but I use them as a constant source of inspiration. This past week, just in time for Christmas she sent me a sugar cookie recipe by Dorie Greenspan she had clipped from Bon Appetit and a set of snow flake cookie cutters. I am always searching for the perfect sugar cookie. I’m not sure yet if this is THE ONE, but it is really great. The flavor is not too sweet, slightly lemony (because I added the lemon zest) and the texture is crisp but not at all tough.
I decorated them with Royal Icing made with lemon juice and they were both tasty and quite stunning when all done. I’ll admit that I love the fussy work of intricate decorations on sugar cookies. It is the closest I will come to ever using my BFA. If you don’t share my enthusiasm for precision piping then just sprinkle them with colored sugar like my boys did and they are delicious and festive!
Obviously this recipe and technique are great for Valentines Day, Easter and any other holiday or special occasion when you celebrate with sweets! Which means every day…
Here’s the recipe and decorating tips:
Dorie Greenspan’s Sugar Cookies (Bon Appetit December 2007)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
2 cups all-purpose flour
Cream together the butter, sugar and salt in a mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, beat until well blended, about 1 minute and then add vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add flour and beat on a low speed until just combined. Gather dough into a ball;divide in half. Form each half into a flattened disk and wrap in plastic, chill for at least 4 hours. (I only chilled mine for 2 hours and it seemed to roll out and bake beautifully!) It ca be made up to 2 days ahead.
Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Working with one disk at a time, roll out dough between two sheets of wax paper to 1/8″ thin. (I didn’t have any so I rolled mine out on a lightly floured counter and it was just great. I had to add flour when it seemed that the cookie dough might stick to the counter or rolling pin.)
Using decorative cookie cutters, cut out cookies and transfer to a cookie sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Gather any scraps, roll them out until all the dough is used. If not using icing then decorated with sprinkles before baking.
Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are firm and golden around the edges, about 10 minutes for smaller cookies and up to 14 minutes for larger ones. Cook completely on rack.
Decorate with Royal icing, sprinkles or other decorations. Let stand until icing sets.
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon juice, strained
Using electric mixer, beat 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar, egg whites and lemon juice until thick and shiny, adding more powdered sugar by the tablespoon if it is too thin to spread, about 3 minutes. Cover with wet towel until ready to use.
Fill a parchment pastry bag  with about 3 tablespoons of the royal icing. The consistency should be soft enough to pipe but firm enough to hold its shape, like soft mashed potatoes. Cut a very small hole at the tip of the bag and draw an outline around the cookie. If you are going to be flooding the center of the cookie with icing than double up the outline.
You can also separate the icing into little bowls and add coloring. Be sure to keep the icing covered at all times because it is meant to dry out and will end up with a crust if exposed to air.
Once all of your cookies have been outlined then you will want to thin out a portion of your icing in order to flood the center. It should be the consistency of molasses. Fill another parchment pastry bag about 1/4 of the way full. Carefully flood the area between your outline. Go slowly so as not to go over the lines you’ve drawn.
Once the you’ve flooded the center of the cookie with the icing it will be shiny and wet, you can put decorations on the icing and they will stick. You can also let the icing dry and it will lose its shine but you can then pipe more decor over the icing. (The cookies below: the cookie in the foreground is wet and the one in the back is dry)
Here are the cookies as I was working on them.