Soft Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs w/ Royal Icing
Happy Easter!! Honestly, I meant to get this post out so much sooner than the day before Easter but you know, that life thing. But, better late than never! The good thing is though, that this recipe is basically for any occasion. It is the absolute perfect recipe for sugar cookie cut-outs!
It's been through much trial and error that I have come up with this recipe that is not only super flavorful on it's own (without icing) but also holds it's shape perfectly during baking. It keeps sharp edges from your cookie cutters and doesn't turn into blobs after baking. It's also a super simple dough that's quite easy to handle which makes it perfect for a baker of any caliber, including kids! My kids love these...eating them and helping make them!
There are two type of sugar cookie doughs, the big fluffy chewy round cookies and the one you use to roll out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. This is the latter. The main difference is the amount of baking powder added. Baking powder is what makes the dough rise and become fluffy and soft. The problem is that you can't omit it completely for your cut-out recipe because you don't want to eat bricks. SO, you have to have the right ratio of baking powder and salt.
ALSO, flavor is so important. I have had so many iced sugar cookies that literally have no flavor. I guess they think the flavor is going to come from the icing? I don't understand it but just like in cooking, you season each ingredient so that the components enhance each other as they are put together. So, this recipe is so yummy that you could just eat it on it's own. AND we do sometimes! haha I have even had orders for just the cookies without any frosting because they like them that much. I can't even think of a better compliment.
My super secret ingredient is cookie butter! If you've never had it before, be careful because I can literally eat it straight off a spoon and it's so hard to stop. I had this epiphany one day while I was standing in my kitchen shamelessly eating it off a spoon straight out of the jar trying not to let my kids see me... OMG this would be so good in sugar cookies. So I tried it and have never looked back. Cause I was right and it's the bomb dot com. I put 1-2 tablespoons in my dough along with the vanilla bean. Just do it. It's THE BEST.
After making your dough, divide in two halves and wrap it up in saran wrap. Place in fridge for at least an hour or you can even make ahead and have it in there overnight. But regardless the dough needs to be chilled prior to rolling and cutting out your cookies. During baking times, place the unused dough back in the fridge to keep it cold. It should never be room temperature at this point. Just warm enough to roll without cracking and do your best not to handle it too much.
Also, another tip! Don't roll your dough too thin. It should be at least 1/4 inch thick dough. The thicker it it the sturdier of a cookie it is to hold shape, handling and any decorating you do.
Bake 8-10 minutes but check them at 8 or if your cookies are smaller than 6inches check them at 6 minutes. You want them to just start browning slightly around the bottom edges. Let them cool completely before moving them so you don't break them. They will harden once cool and you can move them easily.
This post is for bakery style sugar cookies and includes a full batch of royal icing recipe as well for you to decorate your cookies. Royal icing is what is mainly used to decorate sugar cookies. It is made with meringue powder (or egg whites) and dries really hard. Don't confuse this for a powdered sugar glaze which is made with simply powdered sugar and milk. While that is also good, it will not allow for the same consistencies to decorate cookies properly but if you don't care about all that then go for it!
You can use any cookie cutters you have for this and decorate them any way you'd like but I'm going to include some basic info about decorating your cookies with royal icing.
Number 1, Consistency of your icing. This is a big one because you can change this very easily by adding water to thin it out or more powdered sugar to stiffen it up. I highly recommend making your entire batch according to the recipe below (which is the Wilton's recipe minus the flavoring part) and then taking what you need from that to color and thin as needed. Just leave it to the the side with plastic wrap on top when you're not using it so it doesn't dry out. For icing your cookies, you will need a flooding consistency. This means that it is a little watered down but not runny. As you're mixing your icing in a cup you will notice that it will 'melt' into itself and continue to spread out after 20 seconds or so. Test it out until you get the consistency you want. The best way to do this is to practice practice practice.
Number 2: Coloring. You can use liquid food coloring for royal icing but I still prefer gel colors. They are just so much more vibrant with a smaller amount needed. It's just up to you. To make your different colors just scoop a few spoonfuls into a mug or small bowl and add your color and a few drops of water at a time. Stir until you reach the right consistency and color you want. Remember a little water goes a long way and you can always add more powdered sugar if you go to far or vise versa. It's all very forgiving. When you're ready, pour your colored icing into a small piping bag (with or without a tip) and you're ready to go!
Number 3: Piping. If I am getting a color ready to flood (or fill my whole cookie) I do not use a tip on my piping bag. I just snip off a tiny bit and test out how it flows out of my bag. Sometimes I need to snip off a little more to get a bit bigger of a hole. When I am ready, I edge the entire area of the cookie with a line of icing and then I fill it in with the same icing. Some people use different consistencies of icing for this but I have never found that necessary. You can use a toothpick to swirl around the icing inside to fill in the cookie completely and get it reaching all your borders. It will all smooth out once it sits for a few seconds so don't fret if it doesn't look perfect immediately. Also, don't let it sit for any amount of time before filling because once the icing starts to dry you will not be able to mess with it or it will crack and look bad. If your icing is too stiff and it is not melting into itself then add a little more water and try again. Remember, practice practice.
Number 4: Details. You can use stiff consistency royal icing to pipe out details on your cookies. For this you would just use your main batch consistency or you can even add a little more powdered sugar if you need. The stiffer the icing the more detailed your decorations will be when you pipe them out. I used stiff icing to pipe out my leaves on the carrots and radishes with a number 352 tip.
Number 5; Drying time. Allow your cookies to dry completely. Let me repeat that, allow them to dry. There is nothing worse than putting a ton of effort into decorating a cookie to just bump it or smoosh it later on and mess up all your icing. Once it get's a crack in the icing there is no fixing it. Believe me, been there done that....many times. Patience is key. Just set them off to the side where they won't be disturbed and don't stack them at all during this time. They will need at least 2 hours or more to dry. You can even let them dry over night. On this note, you may need to allot a little drying time in between certain details you add to your cookie or else your icing will run into each other. You can also use a wet on wet technique where you add details such as a dot or stripe onto wet icing and it blends together all on its own. It also looks super professional but it's really easy. ;)
I used a Wilton food writer black pen to add the details to my chicks, carrots and radishes. You can pick one up at Walmart, or any craft store like Michaels for a few bucks. It's nice to have around to add tiny details without whipping up black icing which is a pain in the booty. Just have a light hand as to not smoosh your icing and make sure it's dry too prior.
I think this covers the basics for now! As always, please feel free to ask me anything. I probably missed a few things anyways. Have fun playing with sprinkles and your creativity! Hope you love it! I know you can totally do it!
SOFT SUGAR COOKIE CUT-OUTS WITH ROYAL ICING
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
BAKE TIME: 8-10 minutes
MAKES: 20-24 cookies depending on how big they are
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (1 and 1/2 sticks) at room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or extract)
2 tablespoons cookie butter
3 tablespoons meringue powder
5 tablespoons water
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or extract)
1/4 teaspoon any extra flavoring you may want such as berry, almond etc. *optional
TO MAKE COOKIES:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In mixing bowl fitted with paddle attachment beat butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy.
3. Add egg, vanilla, and cookie butter. Mix until combined.
4. Slowly add in flour mixture a little at a time until all combined into a cookie dough. It should pretty much all be one big ball at this point in your mixer.
5. Lay out 2 pieces of saran wrap, divide the dough in 2. Wrap each ball of dough in wrap, flatten slightly into a disk shape. Refrigerate for at least an hour to overnight.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Once dough is chilled, remove one disk at a time and roll out dough on lightly floured surface. Roll to 1/4 inch thick. Do not go any thinner that that. Try not to over handle dough. Use cookie cutters to cut out any shapes you want and transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. You could also use a silicon baking mat on a baking sheet too. Place dough back in fridge after rolling and use your other chilled disk during that time.
8. Bake 8-10 minutes until just slightly golden brown on bottom edges. Allow to cool on mat for at least 5 minutes until transferring to a cooling rack so they don't break on you.
9. Repeat and bake the rest of your cookies.
10. Allow them to cool completely before icing and decorating.
11. Store them in airtight container.
TO MAKE ROYAL ICING:
1. In mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment, mix meringue powder, water, and vanilla (and any extra flavoring you want) until combined.
2. Stop mixer and add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time so that it doesn't make a huge mess. You can also cover your mixing bowl with a kitchen towel to help with any sugar clouds. Once combined you can remove whisk attachment and bowl from mixer. Keep covered with plastic wrap when not using.
3. Water down to desired consistency in small batches, color and use as you'd like to decorate you cookies.
4. See above in post for more details and royal icing info.