Friday, October 29, 2010

Timeless Sugar Cookies



My mom is an amazing cook and baker  (and mom and grammy for that matter).  I can’t remember when we started making these sugar cookies for holidays, but the recipe dates back about 35 years, mom says, according the timeline of people,locations and ages of my sister and me.  I can’t remember them NOT being in my life.  Mom knows all kinds of tricks for successful sugar cookie baking that she taught us along the way.  It wasn’t evident to me how important they were to pass along until I started giving the recipe to friends in college. After a couple times of making them, you will find that they are not difficult at all, albeit time-consuming!  So I wanted to share them with you.



1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1½ tsp. butter flavoring

Blend softened butter with sugar. Add eggs, then flour, baking powder and salt. Add vanilla and butter flavoring. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. Roll out dough to ¼“ thick. Dust cutters and rolling pin with powdered sugar. Cut out cookies in desired shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, allowing about 2 inches between cookies (they will spread). Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes (or until edges begin to turn golden). Remove from cookie sheet immediately. When cooled, glaze with the following glaze or frosting of your choice.

Glaze for Sugar Cookies
3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. milk (approximately)
1 tsp. almond OR lemon OR vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients until smooth. If glaze is too runny, add more powdered sugar. If glaze is too stiff, add more milk.


Here are some of the tricks:

*Mom taught us to sprinkle our cookie cutters, surface and rolling pin with powdered sugar rather than flour.  That way it provides the dusting effect without drying out or dulling the dough’s taste.



*Make sure you space these cookies apart a couple of inches because they really grow.



*It takes a while to make the batch of these cookies, as there are several steps and it makes a big batch.  I suggest you break down the steps into different sessions if you don't have a big time block.  You can mix up the dough and refrigerate it for another day.  Or you can make the cookies and let them cool until the next day when you ice them.



*If you  don’t want to deal with icing the cookies, you can put sprinkles on them prior to baking so they can stick on by baking OR my mom, when we were young, would sometimes let us “egg paint” the cookies prior to baking them.  Mix an egg yolk with some food coloring and a little water and use clean, new paintbrushes and paint the cookies.  Then bake and they come out looking glossy and colorful.

(Do you like my chaotic cabinet?)
*Another great idea my mom had (are you wondering at this moment, like I am, why she is not the one with the food blog?) was to store her very large supply of cookie cutters in empty oatmeal cardboard containers, divided by category.  Here is my cabinet with mine.

Some things that have “evolved” over time in my kitchen with these cookies are:
*The name:  Timeless Sugar Cookies.  Growing up we always just called them sugar cookies…then my friend Karin (pronounced kuh- REN), in her creative, dreamy fashion started calling them “timeless sugar cookies” and it stuck.  They truly are timeless.  

*Since being married to a lover-of-soft-cookies-husband (with a dislike of crunchy cookies) I have worked to find the correct amount of cooking time on cookies of all kinds.  The timing makes such a difference in the softness of the cookie.  2 minutes can make a huge difference.  So I remove them from the oven at the sight of the golden edges.  It is good to note, however, that glaze added atop a cookie will soften the cookie by the next day.
Glazing the cookies with my back-of-the-spoon technique

*I started making the almond glaze when I was inspired by Ham and Goody’s bakery that makes these yummy teacakes and sugar cookies with beautiful, smooth, glossy glaze that I am in love with.  I think it is the perfect companion to this great cookie and makes them so beautiful!  Karin and I have observed the “marriage” that happens between the cookie and the glaze that makes the cookie soft and sweet and it is just mysteriously beautiful (kinda like marriage).  And I use the back-of-the-spoon technique where I blob some glaze on the cookie and then use the back of the spoon to guide my smoothing it all over the cookie.

*These cookies are fun on a stick (I use the paper lolly-pop sticks).  They are a great party favor or teacher gift (we have given “bouquets” to teachers and have given “single” flower cookies sticks to teachers).  They are BEAUTIFUL as hearts for Valentine’s Day.  When my friends, Karin and Eric, got married we made little bags of K and E cookies for the wedding guests as a favor.  Get creative.

*Some of our young friends have milk allergies and thankfully there is a margarine that is oil based rather than milk that can be used in this recipe and it works! And tastes great.  And they can have a “normal beautiful sugar cookie" just like everyone else! ( Just a good thing to know.)

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Dia de los Muertos Update (refer to my last post-Pumpkins, Sombreros and Skulls for the back story)

The situation I was in this week, with 2 school-kids celebrating fall with class parties, but with one focusing on The Day Of the Dead and the other class deciding to not have food or "maybe a little healthy snack ", my pumpkin sugar cookies were not the appropriate treat.  So, I did it.  We did it.  With much support from Dave, I made cookies in the shape of colorful skull masks that are part of the typical Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration and some sombreros. ( I also made some pumpkin mini muffins to send to my daughter's "healthy class".  It just didn't feel right to not send anything).
  
SInce skull mask & sombrero cookie cutters were not readily accessible to me, I had to improvise and use a circle that I formed into a skull-like shape and a cowboy hat that I morphed into a sombrero with a little elongation of the crown and a "snake" of dough placed as the brim.  I used really fun, bright food coloring that Dave found at the craft store.  I tried to make the skulls at least happy little fellows, which Asher noticed first thing when he came downstairs this morning.  He said, "Oh they are great! And they are smiling! How creative!"  He is terrific.  And while I was cutting and baking I went ahead and made a pan of pumpkins....I will make more this weekend for Sunday but I just had to.  We all ate one and I gave my daughter's teacher a couple of the pumpkins because I love to give her baked goods and they are so festive.  

















I never dreamed that these sweet cookies my mom taught me to make as a girl would one day resemble a brightly colored skull! But if you close your eyes it tasted just like a flower cookie, or a bowling pin cookie or a pumpkin cookie for that matter!

11 comments:

  1. yay!! SO cute. your creativity astounds me. i love, love these cookies. i think their softness and the almond glaze makes them. so glad you're sharing them. and those skulls are about as cute as you can make a skull, i think. well done. :)

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  2. Julie, thanks for the nod(s)! It's true that I taught you how to make sugar cookies. I actually got the original recipe while we were living in Lubbock, Texas, from a dear friend who has since died. You have far exceeded my abilities and creativity. As with most things I do, my "students" usually do that. And that's okay!

    One more thing that my friend, Sharon, suggested was to roll out the dough between two yardsticks to determine proper depth of the cookie. I don't do that anymore, because I just know, but you can visualize that depth. This was particularly important when we had cookie cutters that had an impression on them!

    Keep up the great blog! I love to read what you have to say! I'd better go get out my cookie cutters! :)

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  3. you have pretty hands. and i can't wait to try those cookies out! seriously need a good go-to sugar cookie recipe. thanks for sharing!! :)

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  4. YAY! so excited to have this recipe!!! we always make sugar cookies the day that we put up our Christmas tree, so I'm excited to try your recipe this year. :) I have one that I use, but it's not that fabulous. I like the idea of having Julie Hunt's Timeless Sugar Cookies in our house for this Mosley tradition!!! :) :) Quick question...I must confess that I have NO IDEA what 'butter flavoring' is. HELP!

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  5. Suzanne, how fun! About the butter flavoring: It is an extract (like vanilla, almond, etc.) It is called "imitation butter flavoring". It adds a nice buttery taste to the cookies. I have wondered if the flavoring was included in the recipe partly because the original recipe called for margarine, and perhaps this flavoring was to give some of that yummy buttery flavor without the cost of butter. [This recipe was from the 1970s, when the use of margarine was on the rise.] Just my hunch. But I choose to use real butter AND butter flavoring. Why not!?? And I love almond extract in the icing but if you aren't crazy about it, you can always use vanilla.

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  6. Julie - I'm still LOVING your blog! I made these timeless sugar cookies last night. My Mom was in town, and the three of us (Mom, Jeff and I) spent the evening making the pumpkin-shaped cookies pretty. I love the powdered sugar trick (dusting the rolling pin with it). They turned out fabulous. :)

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  7. What a treat to have found your blog through Melissa B. I made your sugar cookies this week. I could only make half of the dough b/c I had other things going on...I made them 1/4" thick. And I put them in for 8 minutes. They were brown on the edges & a little too crunchy for my taste. So I then used the other half today & did 1/2" thickness, & only cooked them for 6 minutes. Awesomeness. So yummy! It has taken me forever to find the perfect home-made sugar cookie with frosting...now I've found it. Thank you! My boys adore them! xoxo, Rhondi

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  8. Oh I am so glad you found the blog and that you tried these cookies. I'm glad you found the right thickness and baking time for your "perfect cookie"! So glad the boys loved them. I miss seeing you!

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  9. I'm a little late to this recipe. (Ran out of time to make the cookies when I first printed it off in December!) Have you ever made this cookie dough ahead of time and frozen it until time to roll and bake? Would this work, do you think? Any suggestions!

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  10. Sharon-hen, yes, you can freeze the dough. You can also refrigerate it for up to a week or so. Then just let it sit on the counter until it is workable but still good and cold. Let me know how it goes!

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  11. Woo hoo! I'm a reader from Lubbock, TX! Can't wait to try these! Will you do a blog on icing tips? I'm just awful!

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