Have you ever seen someone else do something and think, "Gosh, that's simple. Anyone could do that. I could do that!" And then you try it yourself and realize that not only is it not easy, but you actually really suck at it? And then you chastise yourself for getting too big for your britches and mull over the giant slice of humble pie that you've been served? And then after all that, all you can think about is pie?
That's sort of what happened to me when I attempted to make these sugar cookies to use as party favours for Sherm's bridal shower. Well, except that I didn't really end up thinking about pie, but whatever.
This sugar cookie recipe is from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, and I've made them before successfully. One of the great things about sugar cookies is that they freeze really well or can be kept in an airtight container, layered between sheets of waxed or parchment paper, at room temperature for up to 3 days. Also, this recipe, while somewhat time intensive, is fairly straightforward. The hard part was the decorating.
One of my favourite blogs, My Sweet & Saucy, features an awesome step-by-step tutorial for decorating sugar cookies, and all of the decorated cookies that I've seen her make are incredible. So foolishly, I thought that I could just read the tutorial, fill my piping bag and miracles would unfold. Except, that's not what happened.
While the cookies didn't turn out terribly, I really wasn't satisfied with my decorating. Since I didn't have meringue powder, I used a royal icing from the Joy of Baking website. I can't really blame anyone other than myself, since I knew that the icing was really a bit too stiff and I didn't thin it out at all. Therefore, the icing didn't flood properly, so several cookies had a slightly bumpy finish.
The cookies tasted alright, and the decorating job wasn't HORRIBLE, I know, but I was still unsatisfied with the results, even wrapped in little cellophane bags and tied with pink ribbons.
If I could give some advice to someone baking and decorating sugar cookies for the first time, it would be this:
1. Read all instructions carefully and follow them!
2. Don't expect the cookies to look perfect, at least, not without some practise.
3. Don't become over-confident, or you'll be eating a slice of humble pie!
Ingredients for cookies: Dough, divided and wrapped in plastic wrap waiting to be refrigerated:
Rolled out dough:
Cutting out the heart shapes... I prefered the whole heart shapes as opposed to cookies with a smaller shape cut out of the middle because they seemed to overbake easily and were harder to decorate: Baked and cooling on a wire rack:
Decorated with Sherm's favourite colour... PINK!:
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. salt
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
2. Add eggs, vanilla and salt; mix on medium-high speed until combined.
3. With mixer on low speed, add flour in two batches, mixing until just incorporated.
4. Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and pat into flattened rectangles; wrap each in plastic.
5. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.
6. Preheat the oven to 350F, with racks in the upper and lower thirds.
7. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.
8. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one rectangle of dough to a scant 1/4 thickness.
9. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes. Transfer shapes to prepared sheets, placing about 2 inches apart, using a small, offset spatula.
10. Chill in freezer or refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes.
11. Set scraps aside.
12. Repeat process with remaining rectangle of dough.
13. Gather all of the scraps and roll out again. Chill 15 minutes; cut out more shapes, and place on sheets.
14. If using sanding sugar or sprinkles, decorate cookies before baking.
15. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are golden around the edges and slightly firm to the touch, about 15 minutes.
16. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
17. Decorate with royal icing, if using, and to picing with sanding sugar or sprinkles if appropriate.