My grandma used to make some of the best sugar cookies in the entire world. No, I'm not being biased. I swear. When we were little, my sister, my cousins and I would look forward to these cookies every Christmas Eve. They were sweet, crunchy, and perfectly sized for little kids and adults alike. I used to get jealous because my sister would be the one who helped my grandma make them and that meant I never got to taste them until our family dinner. And, unfortunately, it also means that I have no idea how to make them. My grandma is gone now so it's been a very long time since those cookies have been around. I used to try really hard to duplicate pretty much everything she used to make, but I've realized that it just isn't possible. She was a Polish grandma. And like pretty much every other grandma out there, she had her own measuring techniques and her own ingredients and I'll never be able to go back in time to figure out what those were. I've finally come to terms with that. So the only thing I can do at this point is do my best to make an updated, albeit different, version to her classics.
After many trials and errors over the years, I've finally developed my own version of her sugar cookies. And you know, it's pretty close to the recipe I grew up on. She did use vanilla extract in her cookies, but I love almond extract way too much to change my ways. Hers also weren't frosted but they did have something on there. I'm still not 100% certain what she put on top of those cookies, but it may have simply been a brush of a beaten egg with tons of sugar sprinkled on top. I may give that a try some day, but I actually like them plain. Well, they're also good frosted, but au natural is just refreshing.
The first finished recipe came about last summer. My son and I were in a baking mood so we whipped up some cookies in the shapes of letters and numbers. They were so fun to make and really fun for him to eat. The next time we made them was for Christmas. And since it was Christmas-time, he really wanted to make a Santa. And a stocking, and snowflake, and a candy cane, and, well, you get the picture. Because there were all those different Christmasy shapes, we thought we'd frost them, too.
We've since made these for just about every holiday. We made up some red, white and blue themed stars for July 4th, train-themed versions for fun, and some neat multi-colored spiral cookies. (For those, you just split up the dough into separate bowls and color each one a different color. Then pull off a little dough from one of the bowls and roll it into a thin log. Do this with each color. Take the logs and push them together into one thick log. Then twist them so it's a spiral log. Next, form an outside circle about 2-3" (depending on how long your log is) then go around until you get to the middle. I'll be doing a Christmas version this year so I'll be sure to post a tutorial.)
It's my go-to recipe for anything now and also the base for a few twists from the standard. Give them a try next time you're in the mood for some classic sugar cookies and you won't be disappointed.
Classic Sugar Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen cookies
• 1 c unsalted butter
• 1 c sugar
• 2 eggs
• 3 c flour
• 1 tsp almond extract
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
1. In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs and almond extract.
2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in separate bowl. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, a little at a time and stirring after each addition, until all is incorporated.
3. Divide dough into two discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour or until firm.
4. Preheat oven to 375°.
5. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8" thickness and cut into desired shapes. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly greased foil.
6. Bake for 7-8 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
7. If desired, decorate with frosting or icing. Recipes follow.
Sugar Cookie Frosting
(Used on pictured Christmas cookies) Recipe from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/sugar-cookie-frosting/
• 4 c powdered sugar
• 1/2 c shortening
• 5 TB milk or water
• 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
• food coloring (optional)
1. In a large bowl, cream the shortening to soften it. Add 2 c powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
3. Mix milk and extract together and add half to the sugar mixture. Beat well.
4. Add remaining 2 c sugar and beat well.
5. Beat in remaining milk/extract and continue to beat until smooth and stiff.
6. If desired, color batches with food coloring.
You may want to make extra batches of icing depending on how many cookies you'll frost.
Sugar Cookie Icing
(Used on pictured July 4th cookies)
• 3 c powdered sugar
• 2 1/2 TB milk
• 1 1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract
• 2 1/2 TB light corn syrup
• food coloring
1. Place milk and extract in bowl and add powdered sugar a little at a time until all is incorporated and smooth.
2. Mix in remaining ingredients.
3. If desired, divide into batches and color with food coloring.
You may want to make extra batches of icing depending on how many cookies you'll ice.