Cookie Calendar: Decorator's Dream Cookies

Picture soon!

I put all those tips I expounded upon yesterday (now with pictures!) into practice today. My cutout experience was, far and away, much, much easier this time around. It came even close to meriting the name of today's recipe: Decorator's Dream Cookies.

The dough was thoroughly chilled before I even started to roll, as I let it sit in the fridge for a couple days until I felt confident enough to make cutouts. It held up in storage perfectly.

The moment the dough seemed to soften, I stuck it in the freezer for a few minutes. I kept the dough on the chilled cookie sheets to retain the low temperature for as long as possible. The cold, hardened dough cut cleanly and peeled off the parchment without much trouble.

Which was definitely a good thing, as I cut huge cookies out of this dough (that I forgot to take a picture of before wrapping and freezing - you'll have to wait for Saturday at least!). Those trees and snowmen will get a hard, opaque glaze suitable for writing on with food-safe markers at the kids' Christmas party.

The third round of cutouts, though, I devoted to smaller cookies for us to snack on before Christmas. I have to say, despite being the third rollout, and despite all the extra flour from rolling, these cookies stayed tender. A sweet, delicious confection.

I'd recommend this sugar cookie recipe just as highly as Alton Brown's. His cookies, being plain, are best suited to strongly flavored icings. These cookies, with their hefty dose of extract (I used vanilla), don't need anything more than a glaze. They'd also be fine with bland royal icing.

After all, they are a decorator's dream.

Decorator's Dream Cookies
Source: The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
Yield: About 4 dozen 2-inch cookies

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baker's ammonia (optional) [for extra-crisp cookies]
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1. In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and corn syrup until light and fluffy. Beat in the Fiori or extract and salt. Add the baker's ammonia to the egg and water and stir to dissolve. Add this mixture, along with the flour, to the ingredients in the bowl and beat until smooth. Divide the dough in half, put each half in a plastic bag, and flatten each slightly. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. There's no need to grease the baking sheets.

3. Take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator and flour a clean work surface and the dough. Roll it out as thin or thick as you like; for slightly less crisp cookies, roll it out more thickly. We roll these cookies to a 1/16 to 1/8-inch thickness. Sprinkle flour under and on top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the table or rolling pin.

4. Alternatively, place the dough on parchment and put a sheet of plastic wrap over it as you roll, pulling the plastic to eliminate wrinkles as necessary when rolling. This will keep dough from sticking without the need for additional flour.

5. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, cutting them as close to one another as possible.

6. Transfer the cookies to the ungreased cookie sheets (or, if you've rolled right on parchment, remove the dough scraps between the cookies). Bake the cookies just until they're slightly brown around the edges, 8 to 12 minutes, or until they feel firm. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for several minutes, or until they're set. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

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