This is an updated post from one of my very first blogging efforts back in 2007. The recipe is wonderful, but my photos were a bit rough back then. You can see them at the end of this post, I kept them because I am sentimental and a reminder of how far my photos have come ;). This Holiday Sugar Cookies recipe is perfect for simple cut-out cookies and for building a more intricate house. I live in a big house that makes me think of a wedding cake. I have been meaning to create it out of cookies since I moved in and I finally did. It was so much fun, I think it will become an annual tradition and I imagine I’ll get more and more detailed with every try. I am lucky to have the original blueprints for the house, which made it easier to trace the outline of the house.
My cookie house was featured in Architectural Digest, which you can see here.
2007 Post: 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 snowflake 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 the holiday sugar cookies and house with royal Icing made with lemon juice, which is tasty, quite stunning, and strong enough to hold up as the glue for the house. 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 from college. If you don’t share my enthusiasm for precision piping then sprinkle them with colored sugar like my boys did and they are delicious and festive!
Obviously, this recipe and technique are great for Valentine’s Day, Easter, and any other holiday or special occasion when you celebrate with sweets! Which means every day…
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.
These small photos are from the original post in 2007, they aren’t very good, but they represent a sweet memory, so I am keeping them in the updated post.
Here is the house that inspired the cookie version:
- 4 cups powder sugar, sifted
- 1/4 cup Meringue Powder
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
- food coloring
- Cream together the butter, sugar and salt in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, beat until well blended, about 1 minute, then add vanilla and lemon. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add flour, and baking powder, mix 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 can be made up to 3 days ahead or freeze for later.
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Working with one disk at a time, roll out dough between two sheets of wax paper or on lightly floured counter to 1/8″ thin.
- 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. Cool completely on rack.
- Using electric mixer on low speed, mix powdered sugar, meringue powder, lemon juice, and water 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 Tbsp 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 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.