Turn your baking sheet into a pan for all seasons by making cutout confections shaped for special dates throughout the year
Consider making your own baking powder. The late cookbook author Edna Lewis began making her own because she thought the commercial powder had chemical additives and had a bad aftertaste.
Homemade Baking Powder
1/4 cup cream of tartar
2 tablespoons baking soda
Sift together three times, and transfer to a clean, tight-sealing jar. Store at room temperature, away from sunlight, for up to six weeks.
Source: The Gift of Southern Cooking, by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.
Tips for Sugar Cookie Success
Measure ingredients accurately, especially the flour.
For greater accuracy of amounts, spoon the flour into the measuring cup rather than scooping the flour with the cup.
Mix the flour into the creamed mixture only until it's combined. Over-mixing will develop the gluten and make a tougher cookie. The same is true for too much rolling. (When cutting shapes, make the cuts as close together as possible to minimize the amount of dough to be re-rolled.)
Choose a low-protein flour, preferably pastry flour, for your sugar cookies. Avoid bread flours. All-purpose flour is an acceptable compromise.
Dough rolled to 1/8-inch in thickness creates a crisp cookie. For a moister, less-crisp cookie, roll the dough to 1/4 inch.
When garnishing cookies with sprinkles, drop the decorations from a height of 8-10 inches for more even distribution.
Brownie Rollout Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup “lightly” salted butter, softened (Tip: Try using one stick salted and one stick unsalted)
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ²/³ cup unsweetened cocoa
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder in bowl, and set aside. Cream butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cocoa with a mixer. Gradually add flour mixture to the butter/sugar, and mix until smooth. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill at least one hour.
Roll out cookie dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured counter. Cut into desired shapes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 11 minutes, until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Adapted from smittenkitchen.com.
Shortbread Cookies With Dragées
- ¾ pound unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Silver dragées, if desired
Mix together the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together the flour and salt; add it to the butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3-inch round, fluted cutter. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Let cool to room temperature. Combine the confectioners’ sugar with about 2 tablespoons of water to make a very thin glaze. Spoon onto the cookies and sprinkle with a few dragées before the glaze dries.
Source: Barefoot Contessa Parties! with acknowledgments to Eli Zabar.