Favorite cookies: Sugar cookies

Is there any more quintessentially Christmasy cookie than this? We always decorated ours with frosting out of a can, and I have to tell you after fussing with royal icing last night, I’m not sure that the fancy stuff is really better. Better looking, if you get it right. But who cares?

Anyway, here is the cookie recipe. It’s from my grandmother, the master baker (Mary Marie). It’s so buttery and wonderful. The cookies taste even better on the second or third day.

Sugar cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter (that’s one stick)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl. I always whisk mine together instead of sifting, and you know, I think it works really well.

Cream the butter and shortening. Then mix in the sugar, eggs and vanilla.

Slowly combine the dry ingredients into the rest. At this point you will need to chill the dough for three hours, or overnight, if you can.

Once the dough is chilled, roll it out on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick (maybe even a little thinner), cut out your cookies and bake for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees.

Just until the edges start to get browned.

Once the cookies have cooled, get to frosting!

Though this recipe is fantastic, I would add a few tips just to make sure you get the best result:

•I would divide the dough into fourths before you roll it. This makes a sheet that’s easy to work with.

•Flour absolutely everything. The surface, the rolling pin, even the spatula you use to scoop up cookies.

•Before you scoop the cutouts onto the cookie sheet, peel all of the in-between dough out and put it into a scrap pile.

•Put the scraps back into the fridge and start your next batch with chilled dough. When you have four re-chilled scrap piles, divide them in half and do two more rounds.

•Whatever I have left after that I usually just roll into balls, flatten into discs and have round cookies. If you overwork the dough too much it won’t have the same wonderful cookie texture.

•Just try to think of this like you would rolling pie crust. The colder the dough, the better. And if you get a tear from rolling too thin, just patch it up. No biggie.

As for frosting, I used the recipe that came in a can of meringue powder. You can also use Martha’s recipe for royal icing, here. I made mine way too thin, so I would hold back on some of the water next time.

This one came out beautifully, though.

Happy baking! One more recipe coming.