Ah, decoratively iced sugar cookies - extravagant, sometimes cloyingly sweet, and elevating style far above substance, these are the Katy Perrys of the cookie world. Like Katy Perry, they’ve been kicked off of Sesame Street and then took their case to Saturday Night Live.
That’s as much work as I’d like to do for a bad cookie joke.
Anyway, decorated sugar cookies are the classic Christmas cookie. Normal people would make stars, trees, presents, and other festive holiday themed shapes. We are not normal people, so you get dinosaurs and Star Wars characters. The great thing about sugar cookies is that you can make them as fancy or simple as time allows. They can be a fun family bonding experience or a flashpoint for a boiled over sibling battle that needs to be cleaned off the walls a week later. Whichever you prefer.
This particular incarnation uses as its foundation a vanilla-almond flavored cookie that’s not too sweet, not too crunchy, not tasteless, and not too puffy or cake-like to decorate well. For icing, we picked a nice royal icing applied with an “outline and flood” method that leaves a sweet, glossy, gorgeous topping. Without further ado, the prettiest of the sometimes foods…
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Following your standard cookie making procedure, stir in the egg, vanilla, and almond extract.
Slowly add in the dry ingredients (which you of course have already mixed together, since you are such an intelligent and forward-thinking blog audience).
Beat until just combined, then, since it will still be a bit crumbly, knead into a ball by hand. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thick, then cut out cookies with your favorite shapes.
Like Star Wars characters…
Or long extinct therapods…
Yes, I understand that only one of those is a therapod.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown at the edges.
I could give you a full tutorial of making and using royal icing, but it’s already been done much better here.
Using full strength icing, pipe outlines onto your cookies.
Then, thin the icing with water, a little at a time until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Spread this “flood” icing into your outlines.
The thinned icing will flow, with a little coaxing, into the frosting outlines, leaving a glossy, consistent layer.
Enlist some help if you need it.
After the flood icing has mostly set (at least an hour), pipe details onto the cookies with full strength icing.
As a successful alternate approach, Kristen applied a slightly thicker (a tad thicker than white glue) flood icing without outlines. Then, she could swirl in other colors with a toothpick or piping for a nice “single layer” effect with no relief on the cookie.
It is perfect for Utahraptors.
Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies (from Bake at 350)
- 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 sticks butter, cold (if unsalted, add 1/2 tsp. salt to the dry ingredients)
- 1 egg
- 3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
Mix together flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside. In an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the egg and extracts. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and beat until just combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. The mixture will still be a bit crumbly, so knead it together int a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
On a surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll out the dough to around 1/4″ thick. Cut out into your favorite shapes. Arrange on cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
Royal Icing (from Bake at 350)
- 4 Tsp. meringue powder
- scant 1/2 c. water
- 1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp light corn syrup
- few drops clear extract (such as almond or vanilla, optional)
In a mixer bowl, combine meringue powder and water. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat until mixed and foamy. Add the sugar, a little at a time. Do not skip the sifting or you’ll end up with small lumps. Stir to combine. Add the corn syrup and extract (note that any tint in the extract or corn syrup will tint your icing, so be careful if you need pure white frosting). Beat at medium to high speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Do not overbeat or the frosting ma get crumbly when dry.
Tint as desired with food coloring. To thin for flood icing, add water a teaspoon at a time and mix with a spoon until smooth, repeating until the desired consistency is reached. Makes enough for 2-3 dozen cookies.