Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TWD: Not My Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

Let's get a couple things out of the way before you see my sugar cookies, mkay? I am not, have never been, and will definitely never be Martha Stewart. I do not do fussy, and that applies 110% to cookie decorating. Growing up, sugar cookies were made for eating, not for looking. Bright blue candy cane? Well, as long as it tastes good, who cares? Orange dove? Ditto. So I never joined the ranks of the royal icing pipers, meticulously outlining intricate shapes on perfectly cut out little cookies. Uh uh. Fiddly little buggers, piping tips are. However, there I was, one perfectly nice morning, hunched over cookies with my piping bag and a teeny-ass little piping tip, outlining stockings and candy canes and trains and the like. And let me tell you, these cookies better taste good after all that work. They sure aren't going to win in the looks department:


See? I should just stay away from royal icing. But here was my dilemma - why not at least try it? I had a leftover egg white from the cookie recipe that could quickly and easily be re-purposed for royal icing (recipe below). I had actually remembered to bring some piping bags and tips, as well as my food coloring gels. A quick trip to the store later, I even had red and green decorating sugars. Well dang, I guess it was just time to embark upon the adventure.


However, after over an hour of careful piping, flooding, sprinkling, and drying, I was a bit underwhelmed. I mean, I'd have to do this a heck of a lot of times to get good at it! And since when has royal icing tasted better than just plain old powdered sugar frosting? Especially when it's dyed in technicolor? Since never, that's when! But I guess it was good to get out of my comfort zone. I'll warn you though, the rest of my cookies will be happily frosted with my standard sugar cookie frosting tonight, with the boyfriend, while watching the last few episodes of Firefly. Followed perhaps by Serenity, the movie inspired by the series. Seriously, that series is addictive, you people should watch it sometime. Clever little show, too bad it only ran for one season.


Oh, and the cookies? (Sorry, I derail easily.) Umm... meh? They're not my grandmother's recipe. Or to be specific, my great-grandmother's recipe. Now that's a winner. Cakey soft, yet sturdy enough for frosting. I know many people will gasp, but shortening sometimes just makes better baked goods. Not to mention you don't have to chill the dough every 5 minutes. Fiddly cookies are not my friend. But thank you to Ulrike of Kuchenlatein for picking them. Head over to her blog sometime - she has some of the most wonderful bread recipes over there.


Royal Icing

1 egg white
1 tsp lemon juice
1-1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Whisk together the egg white and lemon juice until lightly frothy. Whisk in the sifted powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Flooding consistency should only take 1 to 1 1/4 cups, while the outside lining of each cookie should be done with icing made with 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.

Sugar Cookies (my great-grandmother's recipe)

3¾ cup flour, divided
1½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
dash nutmeg
1 cup shortening
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites, beaten
⅔ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and 1 cup of the flour. Cut in the shortening. Add in the egg yolks, beaten egg whites, milk, and vanilla extract. Add in as much of the remaining 1¾ cups flour as needed to make either drop or rollout cookies. Bake cookies at 350°F until just brown on the edges.

Last Week: Linzer Sables
Next Week: Buttery Jam Cookies

69 comments:

rainbowbrown said...

Whooooa. Firefly. Scifi channel. Sometimes I miss having television.

I'm not much of a cookie decorator either. Give me a pretty circle or some fluted edges and I'm a happy pappy. I'll definitely have to try your g.g.m.'s cookies sometime.

Liz said...

I loved Firefly! I sometimes get the theme song stuck in my head, still, after all these years. :) Didn't much care for the movie, though.

And whenever I get jiggy with royal icing and fiddly cookie decorating, I start to realize why bakeries can charge so much for a simple sugar cookies. Those muthas take TIME.

vibi said...

Well, for someone who doesn't think they're the master of royal icing, it seems to me you did a pretty darn good job! ...I especially like the ones for which you used both colors of sprinkles!

Cristine said...

I think your cookies look great!

n.o.e said...

I actually like sugar cookies the best when they are undecorated (!) - good for you trying the royal icing though. I think they look really cute. And THANK YOU for giving your great grandmother's recipe. Yup, shortening and lard do wonders...
Nancy

n.o.e said...

I'm back to ask about the flour in your great-grandmother's recipe. 1 cup + 1 3/4 cup doesn't equal 3 3/4 cup. Is it supposed to be 2 3/4 cup?
Nancy

Alwayzbakin said...

Well I think they came out beautiful! Great job!

Cakelaw said...

These are so cute - I think you did a fabulous job!

HoneyB said...

Ok, lets get this out of the way first - you did a great job with the icing!

I have NEVER decorated the way I decorated this time either. It was time consuming for sure and I'm sure its why I never wanted to try it. BUT I bought snowflake cookie cutters so I guess I just HAD to for this recipe. :D

Sarah said...

i am not a decorator either, but i am a fan of the powdered sugar icing! your cookies look great!

Nemmie said...

I hear you about the shortening, hon! That makes the nicest, softest cookies (lard be damned).

Regardless of the fact that they were fiddly, your cookies are also adorable. Great job! :)

strawberriesinparis said...

You did a great job doing the icing the edges!

Melissa said...

I totally hear ya. I took the colored powdered sugar icing route. I think the ones you decorated look really good though!! Kudos to you for doing it!

Pamela said...

I've never even tried the whole royal icing thing. I want to, but just don't have the time, nor the energy. Your cookies look great, though!!

chocolatechic said...

You did better than I.


I don't ice my cookies with royal icing. To me, royal icing is a pain in the butt!

I generally use cake decorator icing.

I am so with you on the decorating thing, but I totally admire those that have the patience for it.

Amanda said...

You're silly, I think they came out beautiful! I'm with you though, I hate fussing with decorating cookies LOL I did spend a little time on mine and was pretty happy with how they came out.

Sabrina said...

Fun and festive! I love your cookies! :)

LyB said...

Come on, I think your cookies are cute! But I agree with you about the fiddly part, I don't like it either. That's why I went the slice and bake option. :)

Jules Someone said...

Those are just adorable! I certainly went the less fussy route and did slice and bake.

In your recipe, do you beat the egg whites until foamy or more?

Amy said...

I think they look darling!!! And I'm with you... who cares if they look good anyway.. it's all about the taste!

SiHaN said...

i agree with you that icing cookies can be tough business! but still those look pretty darn good!

likesprinkles said...

Good for you for trying something new! I'm scared of royal icing but hopefully one day I'll get brave enough to try.

The cookies are lovely. I'm sorry you weren't a huge fan. I also believe that sometimes a little shortening makes a baked good better. :)

Maria said...

Love your cookies! The Santa hat is my favorite:)

joanna said...

I agree with your disinterest in decorating - slice, sprinkle with pretty toppings, and call it a day!
Regardless, you did a beautiful job!

Beryl said...

Right on sister- just say no to fussy cookies! Were you an Angel fan too? I met my husband working on that show. I owe my marriage to Joss Whedon!

spike. said...

Isn't it nice when you realize that the simpler recipe even tastes better?! The cookies do look cute even if they aren't as good as great grandma's

dharmagirl said...

I think your cookies look fabulous! I've never done the royal icing--I do a quick powdered sugar butter cream and sprinkles. A little more homespun, but not as stunning.

MacDuff said...

Everyone always tells me that Firefly was the best show ever. Hm...

I love your cookies. They're so adorable - hope you enjoyed them (a least a little...nothing ever beats family recipes).

kim said...

those are adorable cookies!! i stuck to colored sugars... not quite ready for the royal icing yet :) thanks for your great g-ma's recipe too!

Cathy said...

I think your cookies are beautiful! I totally slacked and just used sprikles (actually, my kids used sprinkles and I supervised -- I was super lazy!) I'm interested to try your great grandmother's recipe -- I've got some shortening burning a hole in my freezer right now, in fact!

Jess said...

I'm also a reluctant cookie decorator...and if you saw the gingerbread house I put together with my daughter last weekend, you would understand why. But I'm glad you had fun with these - they are extremely cute.

Steph said...

I think your cookies looks absolutely adorable!! They are so cute, hey I didn't even decorate mine!

Kayte said...

Oh, I think they look really good...I have never seen a Santa hat cutter before, that is really cute...and that snowman! You can add this to your resume with confidence! Great job!

Di said...

Nice job on the decorating. I've never tried the whole royal icing thing. I use glaze with sprinkles on top. It has a tendency to run over the edges, so the edges aren't as pretty.

bakingwiththeboys said...

For someone who doesn't do "fussy," those look awfully good.

Kristin said...

Beautiful cookies! I'm with you though - powdered sugar frosting tastes so good!

What's for Supper? said...

Your cookies look really nice. I don't have a lot of patience for decorating/rolling out/cutting, etc. either!

Tammy said...

I think your cookies look great! It must take so much time and practice to get really good. i would love to, but I just dont ahve the time!

leanne said...

I am not a baker that specializes in baking/creating anything that looks great! Now slice and bake - I got it but icing not so much! I want to make beautiful things but it just don't work. However, I think you did a great job! Cute gingerbread cookie!

Marthe said...

I think your cookies look amazing!! I have never decorated cookies in my life... Today will probably be my first try at it

doughmesstic said...

Girl!! These are CUTE! I think you did a really nice job on them - it's such a pain in the butt!

jillbert said...

I think they're cute - especially the snowman. But I know what you mean - it takes so much time and then you look at the results and don't think it was worth it. And then you bite the head off the cute snowman and that's the end of it!

Fit Chick said...

I think your cookies look very good and yummie. The dough was very soft and made it difficult to cut out; next time, slice and bake.

Judy said...

Your cookies look great. I'm still trying to find My grandmother's sugar cookie recipe. There is a bakery here that matches it, but I'm sure they won't give out the recipe.

Carol Peterman said...

You cookies look great, what are you talking about? I do agree that royal icing doesn't really taste good. I store my leftover vanilla beans in powdered sugar and use vanilla powdered sugar, which helps some. Also a little hit of almond extract or orange flower water is nice too.

Erin said...

Your cookies look beautiful!

The Food Librarian said...

I've never royal iced...I don't think my inner Martha goes that deep. Yours look great!

happytummy said...

your cookies are so cute! but i totally hear you on the decorating bit. it was a lot of work to ice my cookies!! glad you got out of your comfort zone, though--the cookies look great!

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

I think your cookies look wonderful! I'm impressed. And thanks for sharing your grandmother's cookie recipe. I bet the nutmeg is nice in it.

Jessica said...

I totally agree with you, royal icing is so not worth the time and effort required because the taste leaves nothing to be desired. That said, I have definitely been known to go on royal icing benders before and I usually come out a little worse for the wear. I don't know why I keep doing it, I'm a glutton for punishment I guess. Your cookies are adorable and I love the red and green sprinkles.

Marie said...

I love your cookies! I think they're so cute!!! I couldn't master the concept of flooding ala Martha. You did very well!

Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats said...

Those Sugar Cookies look so pretty - it was worth all the decorating adventure. Agree with you about shortening vs. butter.

Mike Spoodles said...

I think they look adorable, royal icing or no! I still need to check out Firefly. My girlfriend has it, so I'll start popping it in soon.

Liliana said...

Your cookies look great! I did not want to go down the Royal Icing road, but after seeing yours, I just might. I doubled the recipe and have tons of naked cookies waiting to be decorated.

Thanks for sharing your Grandma's recipe!

Peggy said...

I think your cookies look beautiful. I'm partial to snowmen! I'm with you on the decorating though - just give me that cookie and I'll eat it!!!!

Teanna said...

First of all... love the page redesign! Secondly, it looks like we have the same cookie cutouts! And finally... I AGREE ON THE ROYAL ICING! A lot of work! Yours look great (much better than mine!)

Carmen Cooks said...

!! are you kidding me? I think your cookies look gorgeous! I don't do fussy either, hence my slice & bake & slater with dulce de leche method. i've never decorated with royal icing before, but may have to try it sometime. your cookies are adorable. :)

TeaLady said...

Yup!! Give me some nice slice and bake and I am happy. Yours look fantastic.

Y said...

Those look so cute! I can understand your frustration.. I wish I had patience for little details too!

Leslie said...

I am a fellow non-decorator, and I think your decorating is terrific! ITA on the taste satisfaction (or lack thereof) of royal icing. These cookies were great for munching with a cup of coffee in front of the TV!

AmyRuth said...

I think its unanimous ... royal icing decorated sugar cookies are for amusement not eating. Of the decorated ones I have made I add a little almond extract or clear vanilla to the powdered meringues. Its not the best but it helps a little with the flavor.
Your cookies are adorable. Your post cracked me up.
AmyRuth

Lynnylu said...

Looks great to me! Your decorating is beautiful. Re: Chicago-I love the Art Institute, too, but didn't have time this trip to go there. We saw a special exhibition on the Aztecs which was at the Field Museum.

27Susans said...

I did snowmen too. A royal pain to decorate those cookies but they sure are cute. Luckily, any other time of the year, my husband likes a sugar glaze.

Jodie said...

oh, I think they look adorable! I agree that it's not the best sugar cookie recipe, but still pretty tasty. But yes, high maintenance!

Kimberly Johnson said...

Your cookies look beautiful! Thanks for sharing the royal icing recipe!

ostwestwind said...

I have to admit, the only cake decorating I do is frosting cinnamon stars.

Sorry that this recipe wasn't yours, but hanks for joining TWD and baking with me

Ulrike from K├╝chenlatein

Michelle said...

those are adorable. I plan on making some with the grandbabies.

Jaime said...

glad you ventured out w/these! i actually did not trace the outline of my cookies...just spread with a butter knife :) now the white snowflake part...that was TEDIOUS.

your cookies are very cute! i've yet to find a sugar cookie recipe i LOVE...but that might be b/c i don't love sugar cookies ;)

mangomissives said...

I don't have mad decorating skillz either. My husband says he is going to give me decorating classes for xmas. We'll see.

Your cookies look great to me...better than I could do.