Basic Rolled Sugar Cookies
Publishing now in preparation for the weekend. I’m an idiot, so I’ve agreed to make cookies and Pirogies simultaneously with children, and my giant man-child of a best friend.
These are a tried and true recipe that uses granulated sugar instead of confectioner’s sugar. I prefer the texture and find the dough nicer to work with than the powdered sugar variety. I use orange or lemon extract, but almond and maple both work. I’ve also used mint and added crushed peppermints. You can also leave the extract out and add pumpkin pie spice and make spiced sugar cookies. Whatever spins your particular touque.
When baking with kids (or brilliant but highly unfocused and hyperactive adults) I strongly recommend a good night’s sleep followed by liberal amounts of coffee before you even start assembling your ingredients. Add grappa, Bailey’s, Kahluah or Lorazepam to taste. I’m a huge advocate of starting kids in the kitchen as soon as they are able to stand unaided, but when they’re young it’s important to make sure it’s a positive experience. I joke, but If you can’t be naturally zen about the inevitable mess, and the extra work involved in letting little ones ‘help’, use whatever resources work to put you in the right headspace. If not, take them to the park instead. Stop at the bakery or grocery store on the way home and let someone else do the baking. You’ll all be happier. If you’re going to be impatient and bent out of shape over the mess and extra work, all they’ll remember is that cooking is awful and makes people miserable. Since getting sick, I’ve found I really do have to plan for a big cooking day, and allow for rest both before and after. With very young children, I do the baking ahead of time, and just let them help with decorating instead. Allow lots of time. Cooking for me is like any other art. It’s a chance to focus on something creative and just let everything else go. If you can approach it as making art together, cooking with kids can be a great experience. Making things together is a great way to connect. COOKING together gives you an opportunity to do a craft, nurture a life skill and give a science lesson all at the same time.
3/4 Cup shortening (margarine works, or part butter part margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon flavouring or vanilla (use the good stuff!)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
This recipe doubles and triples easily without adjustment. I often make two doubles at a time.
Mix shortening, sugar, eggs and whatever flavour extract you chose thoroughly until combined. For me this means dumping them all into the bowl of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment and letting the mixer do the work, but a mixing bowl and hand mixer, or serious determination with a spoon, will work.
In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Measure the flour by dipping method, never just scoop with your measuring cup. It compacts the flour, you’ll end up with too much and your dough will be dry. Also, your cookies will be bulletproof.
Mix the dry ingredients into the wet a little at a time until thoroughly combined to form a soft dough. If you have a stand mixer, little people like seem to like adding scoopfuls of flour and watching it mix. Unless you like having your entire kitchen covered in flour, use the blast shield.
Divide dough. For each single batch I roll two separate balls. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or so. I also make kids help with cleanup and dishes, and this is when we do it. I DETEST finishing with a messy kitchen, so we clean as we go. There will be more than enough mess at the end anyway.
When you’re ready to start rolling, heat oven to 400 degrees.
Clean and lightly flour your work surface, rolling-pin and cookie cutters. Roll to 1/8″. Really. They don’t need to be thick. This dough puffs up quite a bit. My personal preference is parchment lined, double layer, air-filled aluminum pans, but work with what you have. Parchment will make you happier, but these will work on a plain, ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 6-8 minutes. They really don’t take long. As soon as they start to smell good, they’re done. They should be just slightly golden on the bottom. Let ’em cool on the pan for a couple of minutes before you try moving them, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
To decorate, my personal preference is to use an ice-cube tray, a bulk package of vegan royal icing mix and a whole stash of Wilton’s paste food colouring. The kid that comes in little pots. Mix a big bowl of the icing to a paintable consistency (add a drop or two of whatever extract flavoured your cookies, then pour into the ice trays. You can now use the tray as a palate, and mix colours to your heart’s desire. Use good quality paint brushes (I have a set that I ONLY use for this purpose) and you can paint whatever you like onto your cookies. In about 30 min the icing dries solid, and your cookies are stackable.