In lieu of the Summer Olympics, I wanted to create something reminiscent of the season. Pool blue and sparkling gold. The USA Swim Team would be proud.
Now, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Cookie baking is not my strong suit. Something about the unpredictable baking time and smaller size always throws me for a loop. I won't tell you how many bad batches of cookies of made. They're always too crunchy or undercooked and gooey in the center! Until I made these.
*olympic fanfare builds*
DUhH DUhhH DUN DUN DUN DUHHHH! (that's my olympics theme impression)
A couple of years ago I was able to take a short course on cookie decorating in New York. The instructor taught us how simple it was to decorate a sugar cookie with proper royal icing; you can even do it fueled with prosecco. All it takes is a steady wrist!
Royal icing is the pretty stuff you see on those "perfectly" decorated seasonal cookies at Starbucks. You're probably thinking "Oh! The kinds that look waaaaay better than they taste!" but the beauty of baking something on your own is you can adjust those flavors and make a much more delicious cookie: sugar cookies at their simplest/finest. One bowl and lots of butter simple. They are soft, slightly almond-flavored but not gooey and the icing makes it easy to seamlessly frost and fill. Not going to lie, the glitter adds a little extra "olympic" pizzaz, but these beauties are just as delicious with a flavored royal icing. Better-than-Starbucks delicious.
You can certainly adjust the color and decoration to your liking, but even the novice baker can whip up a batch of these to impress their friends. Maybe even win a cookie olympics. Now go get some butter and start bakin'!
Simple Sugar Cookie
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
2 sticks butter, cold
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
Cream your sugar and cubed, cold butter until semi-fluffy/well blended. Add in the egg and vanilla and almond extracts and beat for another min. Gradually sift in the flour and baking powder in rounds (I did one cup at a time) and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom. After a minute or so the dough will still be crumbly, suse your hands to knead it together and roll into a large piece of parchment. Wrap up your dough ball and refrigerate for ten to twenty minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 while dough is chilling. Prep a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.
Roll out half of your sugar cookies dough on the unfolded parchment. and cut circles using a cookie cutter (or improvise with a mason jar lid like I did). Place tray of cut cookies into the freezer for five minutes before putting into your preheated oven. This prevents the cookies from spreading and allows them to bake evenly. Bake cookies for 5 minutes before checking to see if the edges are turning slightly golden. Remove from oven a minute or so before you *think* they are done. Better to slightly undercook than overcook because they will continue to cook when you take them out. Cool cookies on wired wrack and prepare next tray to bake. Continue until all cookies are baked.
(I used the royal icing recipe of Alton Brown but Bake at 350 also has a wonderful step-by-step guide. I recommend flavoring with another extract besides vanilla to give your cookies an extra "je ne sais quoi".)
"3 ounces pasteurized egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar (1 1lb box)
In large bowl of stand mixer combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Add confectioners' sugar gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This should take approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired. For immediate use, transfer icing to pastry bag"
Pour your royal icing into two different pastry bags. The best way to do this is to take an un-cut bag and place it, tip side down in a pint glass and spread the opening out over the sides of the cup. Fill the pastry bag and close the top, twisting to release air. To fill a circular cookie, Cut a small sized hole off the tip of your pastry bag and keep your wrist steady as you "rim" the edge of the cookie. It's like creating a dam around the outside of your cookie so you can fill it in a couple min. Royal icing hardens after sitting out, exposed to air. After rimming a few cookies, squirt out a silver-dollar sized amount of icing into the middle of the cookie. Use a butter knife to gently spread the icing around. It tends to even itself out. Sprinkle with disco dust or sprinkles and, voila! Beautiful, glitter cookie complete!
*Best served after frosting hardens in one hour or more.