For the first time this year I decided to give homemade presents to my co-workers, friends, and the workers in my apartment building as a special holiday treat. I must confess that up until recently my usual course of action when it came to cookie making was walking down the street to the grocery store, purchasing cookie dough that comes in a log, and placing it in an oven. But this year I decided to make Martha Stewart proud and make all my cookies from scratch. I was helped out quite a bit from the December issue of Real Simple magazine where they gave a simple sugar cookie recipe and 10 different ways to prepare the cookies. There is nothing like spending a snowy weekend (Snowpocalypse 2009!) elbow deep in flour and colored sugar to really bring in the holiday spirit.
These recipes are both delicious and a lot of fun to make. Happy Holidays!
Basic Sugar Cookie Dough
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for shaping the cookies
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.
3. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated (the dough will be stiff). Shape into a disk and refrigerate, wrapped, for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. Use the dough as directed below.
Note: All the cookies here use 1 recipe of Basic Sugar Cookie Dough. Bake the cookies at 350°F on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 1 ½ inches apart. Cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Holiday Cutout Cookies
Divide the dough in half. On floured surface roll each piece out ¼ inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters (I used stars). Refrigerate on baking sheets until firm. Sprinkle with decorating sugar and bake until just beginning to brown, 12-15 minutes.
Makes about 40 cookies
Divide the dough in half. On a floured surface, roll each piece out ¼ inch thick. Cut into squares with a 2-inch cookie cutter (I used one with scalloped edges). Refrigerate on baking sheets until firm. Bake until just beginning to brown, 12-15 minutes. Dip cookies in 4 ounces melted chocolate and sprinkle with ½ cup crushed almonds, peppermint candies, edible pearls, or crushed pecans. Chill until set.
Makes 45 cookies
Divide the dough in half. On a floured surface roll each piece out ¼ inch thick. Cut half the dough into regular rounds with a 1 3/4-inch cookie cutter. With the second half of the dough cut into rounds and cut the centers with a smaller shape. (Or you can use a special linzer cookie cutter). Refrigerate on baking sheets until firm. Bake until just beginning to brown, 12-15 minutes. Spread raspberry jam on the solidly round cookie piece and sandwich with the rounded cut-out piece. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
Makes 32 cookies
Martha Stewart’s Brownie Cookies
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat over to 350°. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set in microwave until melted (should take 1-2 minutes, watch carefully so it doesn’t burn). Let cool.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until combined. With mixer on low, alternately beat in chocolate and flour mixture; mix just until combined (do not over mix).
3. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cookie comes out clean, 14-16 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Makes about 30 cookies