Saturday Sweets: Basic Sugar Cookies for Holiday Baking

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Christmas is right around the corner, there’s bound to be baking on your to do list.  One of my staples is always a classic sugar cookie recipe. 

I am a huge fan of Martha Stewart recipes, and this is one of my biggest go to recipes.  It’s so simple, even those with no baking skills at all can handle it.  Sugar cookies are a buttery classic that everyone loves. Enjoy your sugar cookies plain, or decorate them with icing or sprinkles to make them festive. Holiday cookies are fun and easy once you've picked up a few cookie cutters.

This recipe is a favorite of Martha's, who likes to add 1 tablespoon cognac alongside the egg and vanilla, after creaming together the butter and sugar.  Make a few batches and grab some Christmas sprinkles (and lots of newspaper to cover surfaces) and you’ve got a fun project to keep kids entertained or grab a few bottles of wine, some friends, and see where the night takes you and your cookies!

Whatever your plans are, these cookies are a perfect group project or pot luck item for your next holiday gathering.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Assorted candies, sprinkles, or colored sugars, for decorating (optional)

For Icing:

  • 1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk, water, or lemon juice

Directions:

  • In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined. Divide dough in half; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; freeze until firm, at least 20 minutes, or place in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze up to 3 months (thaw in refrigerator overnight).
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment. Remove one dough disk; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Roll out 1/8 inch thick between two sheets of floured parchment, dusting dough with flour as needed. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Using a spatula, transfer to prepared baking sheets. (If dough gets soft, chill 10 minutes.) Reroll scraps; cut shapes. Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges are golden, 10 to 18 minutes (depending on size). Cool completely on wire racks. To ice cookies, spread with the back of a spoon. Let the icing harden, about 20 minutes. Decorate as desired.
  • For the icing, sift confectioners' sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in milk, water, or lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If too thin, whisk in more sugar; if too thick, add more liquid. Spread over cookies with back of a spoon. Add other decorations, if desired. Let the icing harden, about 20 minutes.

You can also add food coloring to the icing to give it some flair.  Crushed candy cane pieces stick well to the icing and add a pop of flavor to the cookies.  There’s so many different ways to decorate and enjoy sugar cookies, and there’s definitely no wrong way.  Happy Holidays everyone!

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