It makes sense for my first post of the 2010 Christmas Cookie marathon be sugar cookies, right? I mean, Christmas just isn't complete without sugar cookies!
I absolutely LOVE these "Message in a Cookie" holiday cutters from Williams-Sonoma. It takes a little patients to make these adorable treats because they have to spend a lot of time in the refrigerator in order to make sure the letters keep their shape. But man are they ever worth it! I decorated the cookies with royal icing for two reasons. One: I was doing a lot of detail work and royal icing is great for that, two: I sent my sugar cookies to Justin's coworkers in Chicago, so I wanted to make sure they were just as cute when they arrived.
My sugar cookie recipe actually comes from Willams-Sonoma as well (it was included with the cutters).
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp. salt 12 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 cup sugar Food coloring gel (optional) 1 egg 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Over a small bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer ftted with the flat beater, beat the butter on high speed for 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, slowly add the sugar and a few drops of food coloring gel (if desired) and beat for 2 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, stopping the mixer once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stop te mixer and add half of the flour mixure. Beat on low speed until most of the flour has been absorbed. Add the remaining flour and continue beating until all of the flour has been absorbed and the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, 2 to 3 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into 2 equal balls. Shape each into a dish and wrap separately in plastic wrap. Regrigerate for at least 2 hours (can refrigerate for up to two days). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand for 5 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch.
Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut out your cookies. If your cookies seem to stick to the cutter you can dip the cutter into flour just before using.
If your cookie cutters are detailed like my message in a cookie cutters, after placing all the cookies on baking sheets, place them in the refrigerator again for 20 minutes. Transfer the cookies from the refrigerator to the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. If you are baking more than one sheet at a time, switch between racks half way through to assure even baking.
Finally, the fun part: go crazy decorating your beautiful cookies!
Sugar cookies can be stored at room temperature in an air tight container for 5 days, in the refrigerator for a week, and frozen for 3 months!