Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tips, Tricks, and Tuts Tuesday - Christmas Sugar Cookie Baking

I haven't done nearly as much baking this year as I usually do in the past.  However, it just wouldn't be Christmas if I didn't make my decorated Christmas Sugar Cookies.  I've blogged about them before.  You can read about it here and here.  You can also find the recipe here or just look under the recipes tab on my blog home page.

I thought I'd give you a little tutorial on how I make them.  There are a few secrets to the recipe.  Well they really aren't secrets,  I'll share them with anyone.  Let's just call them tips.

First of all when you buy the ingredients for the cookies, don't buy real butter and don't buy any brand name margarine.  Use the cheapest kind there is, like the store brand.  But make sure it's margarine and not "spread".  Spread won't effect the taste of the dough but it WILL make the dough sticky and it will be harder to roll out.  My favorite margarine for these cookies is the one at Walmart, the "Great Value" store brand.

Second, don't try to mix the dough after you add the flour with a hand mixer.  It is too thick and you will burn the mixer up.  You HAVE to stir it by hand with a large sturdy spoon.  I use a large wooden spoon.  You will need to use the mixer to cream the sugar and softened margarine together and you will need to use a mixer to beat the eggs into the sugar/margarine mixture.  But that's it.  Put the mixer away after this point.

If you are going to be successful rolling out the dough to prepare for cutting the cookies out, you MUST chill the dough a minimum of 2-4 hours.  I usually chill it overnight.  It it's in the refrigerator more than 24 hours, I'll have to mix up more.  My family will eat it raw, right out of the refrigerator!

Once the dough is chilled, you're ready to roll them out and cut the cookies out  and bake them.

I sprinkle a generous dusting of flour on the counter to begin with.

This flour/sugar shaker from Pampered Chef is a very handy gadget to have.  It's what I use to sprinkle my flour on the counter with.  

Now grab a big ball of dough.  My ball is about the size of a softball, maybe just a tad bigger.  You don't want it too big, it will be hard to handle.  

Place the dough ball on the floured surface and pat it down with your hand until it's about 1"- 1 1/2" thick.  Now pick it up gently, re flour the surface where it was sitting, flip the dough patty over and  place it back down on the floured surface.

You're ready to finish rolling it out with a rolling pin now.  Roll it out to the desired thickness, usually about 1/4".  If you like crispy cookies, roll it thinner (like a scant 1/4" in your quilting) And you thought you were making cookies!  If you like soft, chewy cookies, roll it closer to the 1/4" or  more.  

Press your cookie cutter into the dough and cut out as many as you can from that roll out.

I use a metal serving spatula to pick them up off the floured surface.  Don't try to pick them up with your hands.  You will distort the shape you've cut.

Place on a non-greased cookie sheet.  You can place the cookie shapes pretty close together as the dough won't expand or run hardly at all when you bake them.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 9-12 minutes. Unless you like really hard, crispy cookies, do not bake them until they turn brown.  They won't!  If they turn light golden brown, they're burnt!  They should be about the same color when you take them out of the oven as they are when you put them in.  I usually bake mine about 9-10 minutes.  The King likes them really soft!   Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack in a single layer to cool.  Once they are cool, you can stack them.  If you stack them warm, they will stick together.

Once cool, they are ready to decorate.  You can also freeze them at this point as well.  When I'm ready to decorate, I use a buttercreme icing recipe.  I go through and do all the decorating with one color of icing first for all the cookies.

Then I move on to the second color of icing and do all the decorating with that color, and so on until all the decorating is completed.

And here they are, all decorated.  

You will need to store them in a single layer in a covered container.  If you stack them, they will smash the icing decorations and  the cookies will stick together.  I do stack them on a tray just before I'm ready to serve them or give them away.  You can also freeze them at this point.  Again, freeze in a single layer in the freezer.  

I hope this helps.  It's a lot of work but also a lot of fun!  The kids (big and little) especially like to help.  However, be prepared to end up with a lot less than you started out with.  The cookies tend to jump right off that table into your the kids mouths.  

Have a Merry Christmas Sugar Cookie Baking Time!   


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