Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sugar Cookie Central

Have you ever had that terrible moment of panic when you can't find your wallet? Your heart's in your throat and you're an absolute mess until you finally find it? That's what happened to me the other day, only it had nothing to do with a wallet. It had to do with a recipe card. Why the drama fest, you ask? Because it was no ordinary recipe card- it was the one for Lynne's Perfect Sugar Cookies.
See that cutie patootie all the way to the left with the great dangly earrings? That's Lynne. We've been friends forever - as in,  when I only had one kiddo kinda forever. But even before we were friends, I was using her sugar cookie recipe. Back then, she and my sister were in the same MOMS group at our church. Christi had somehow gotten a copy of Lynne's recipe and was baking up a batch of these cookies while I was over there one day. They turned out crisp and delicious, with smooth tops- perfect for decorating. So naturally, I promptly stole a copy of that recipe and have been using it ever since. They are that perfect. So perfect in fact, when I couldn't find the card the other day, I almost started crying. No joke, I Literally. Almost. Cried. Thank goodness I found it because otherwise, there'd have been no point in even making cookies this year. I'm just loyal like that.
Here's that recipe card from forever ago. It's a breeze to throw together, so I'll spare you the step by step photos. I usually double or triple this recipe, and it always turns out perfect (hence the name). Just make sure it chills for at least an hour before you roll it out and you'll do fine. 
After drafting Colleen as my sous chef, my table looked like this after a couple of hours. The cookies were completely cool to the touch and ready to go. See what I mean about the surfaces being perfectly smooth? There was not a crack or bubble to be found on these babies and that made decorating them a breeze. Super bonus? They're also crazy yummy.
 Full disclosure- there's no way around it, decorating cookies is messy work. You're gonna get food dye on your fingers- guaranteed. Sprinkles will end up everywhere and you'll probably find royal icing adhering your tablecloth to every surface it touches. My best advice is to just roll with it. Do yourself a favor and wait until the end of this adventure to try and clean everything up. Otherwise, it'll feel like shoveling snow in a blizzard. 
 Royal icing is the only way to go when decorating sugar cookies. It's easy to use and dries hard (like candy). In case you missed it last week, here's how you make it. Once it was all light and fluffy, I divided it into bowls and added some food coloring. I like using gel food dyes because the color is more intense and it gives you more bang for your buck. Be careful, though, this stuff can get everywhere if you're not careful. Trust me on this, people. One year, I had to go to Mass with so much red dye on my hands, it looked like I'd just robbed a bank. Nothing says holidays like felon hands. It's best to use a toothpick to measure out the dye and just toss it when you're done. Keep mixing the icing until all the streaks are gone.
Then I frosted each cookie like this.  I know this isn't the "official" way to base coat cookies with royal icing, but it's what I do each year. I use my offset spatula and just slap it on there. Why?

1) Because I wasn't given the gift of patience 
2) I don't think it makes that big of a difference if the base coat is less than mirror smooth. 

By skipping the "flooding" step, it saves me hours (literally hours) of work time and a large measure of my sanity.
Here they are- first step all done.
I put any left over base coat icing in the disposable piping bags. Because it hadn't been thinned out for flooding, it was the perfect consistency for piping. This meant I didn't have to make another separate batch of royal icing for decorating. Score one for the mama!
My kiddos are always such a huge help when it comes to cranking out these babies. When they were younger and I first started letting them decorate cookies, I used to obsess on making sure they "did it right". I was so focused on having the cookies turn out a certain way, I kinda sucked all the joy out of the project. Here's the message I wish I could send to Younger Cindy: Let them do their own thing, girl. You will be amazed at what they come up with and you'll end up loving their cookies best.
Case in point, look at that house shaped cookie at the bottom of the cooling rack with the square glasses. I never would've thought of doing that and I love how it's so goofy and cute.  Or that smiling white bell with the red hula skirt- because, as the red headed kid would say, "mele kalikimaka, Mom". 
Here's how it looked when we were all done- my kitchen table acting as home base for a menagerie of cookies. We had pretty ones, funny ones, kinda messy ones, sprinkle overloaded ones, and (of course!) the mandatory pirate one. After all these years, here's what I've finally learned.  A cookie, a lot like life in general, can be amazing without being perfect. And that's why it's so sweet.

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