Vanilla Sugar Cookies

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Our current location is pretty convenient for several reasons. First, there’s a park nearby that me and my niece have gone to at least once a week since we moved out here. Second, we live a hop, skip and a jump away from a pretty dope children’s museum that my niece has become very fond of. Because the weather here’s been so hot and pretty much unbearable to play outside, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time at it. It’s a very nice museum, but it’s certainly not the biggest one that we’ve ever taken her to. You’d think that after going two or three times, a kid would get tired of it.

But…nope. Not ours.

The museum has the option to purchase what’s called a family membership where after paying one lump sum, you can go to the museum as many times as you like for an entire year. After our first two visits, her mother decided that she’d just go ahead and gift her with a membership. That way, on days when she doesn’t want to go to the park, or when stormy or hot weather doesn’t permit us to go (like nowadays) she still has a way to get out of the house and have some fun.

And boy, does she have fun. It’s become kind of amusing for me to see her go through the same exhibits, play with the same toys, see the exact same things and never seem to get tired of it–like, ever. Each time we go is like the first time for her.  In fact, she’s already asked me if we can go back there on Monday. I figure it beats standing out in the hot sun on a playground that has little to no trees for shade.

I said sure; why not?

Now that I think about it, I can’t really blame my niece for loving the museum that much. I can be like that in other ways about other things.

For instance, oh well…sugar cookies. I think my unending love and obsession for the sugar cookie has been well documented on this blog. There is no dessert or sweet that I love more. No matter how many different ones I’ve made, I’m always willing to try another recipe and try to either improve it or give it another creative twist.

Today’s recipe is kinda like yet another one of my niece’s visits to the museum: I’m showing up with yet another sugar cookie recipe. You all will not only deal, you will love it.

Ever since I bought my Springerle Cookie molds, I’ve developed a small obsession with making stamped/imprinted cookies.  They’re a really quick way to give your cookies a lift aesthetically and with some practice I’ve gotten pretty decent at getting the results that I want. The problem with Springerle molds is that because each one is hand carved, they’re not cheap. Right now I’ve only got two and because I wanted to widen my collection of cookie stamps, I knew I would have to try and find a cheaper alternative. A little digging on Amazon led me to some perfectly nice rubber ones from Tovolo. They came in a set of one plunger that fit three rubber stamps that could be switched out alternatively.

I used one of the stamps in the Tovolo set to make these very simple, but still sooooo delicious sugar cookies. Sugar cookies are one of the foods I love most. Baking itself is therapeutic for me, so I think that love just goes into it naturally. The stamp of choice just seemed appropriate. I would like to say though that although I used one for this recipe, these cookies DO NOT require you to use them for it to work. If you’re like me and are also obsessed with sugar cookies–especially ones heavily flavored with vanilla- but don’t have a cookie stamp, don’t worry about it. You can still make un-stamped but still perfectly fine vanilla sugar cookies. And I gotta say, in addition to being simple to put together, these ARE also pretty perfect.

Provided you roll the dough thick enough, these bake up soft and slightly chewy. The flavor I used was vanilla because that’s what I think works best with sugar cookies, but if there’s another flavor you’re fond of, like lemon or almond, I think that would work just as well.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #178.

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Vanilla Sugar Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Nordic Ware

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 2/ 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix just until combined.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt with a fork. Add this in batches to the wet ingredients, mixing just until combined.

Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour and up to overnight. Take out for about 10-20 minutes to allow to soften a little.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll dough out on a clean and floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Dip your cookie stamps into powdered sugar, then tap to remove excess. Press firmly into the dough. Use a slightly larger round cookie cutter to cut out shape, then transfer to cookie sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.*

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 30-45 minutes. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, just until bottoms start to turn golden brown. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

(Note: You don’t HAVE to use cookie stamps for this recipe. I think it would work just as well without it. Use whatever cookie cutters you have, or shape the dough into a log, freeze for about 30 minutes, then cut into slices and bake as directed. Also,  no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Double Ginger Sugar Cookies

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When I was a little girl, there was no food, (and I mean absolutely NO FOOD) that I loved more than sugar cookies.

Not french fries. Not chicken nuggets. Not chocolate. Not mac n cheese (which I never liked and still don’t actually…hush). Not even chocolate chip flavored cookies.

Sugar. Cookies.

To me they were just… the best thing ever.

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If I’m being completely honest, there’s a part of me that still thinks they are. The ingredients of the typical sugar cookie are deceptively simple, yet the recipe itself is still easy to miss the mark on. A poorly made sugar cookie can come in the form of one that’s dry, too crisp, bland, too thick, too crumbly and dozens of other ways that things can go wrong. To date, the worst excuse for a sugar cookie I’ve ever had came from those abominable premade break and bake refrigerated cookie dough. The cookie is just barely palatable in a precious window of time of about….10 minutes after you take them out of the oven. Then, well…they cool/dry into pretty much inedible, bland sawdust.

Blegh.

Stay away. Far, far away from break and bake dough when making sugar cookies, I implore you. Scratch really is the only way to go. I will take a well made, from-scratch sugar cookie over say, creme brulee or a slice of cake any day. I will fight you for the last sugar cookie on a dessert tray. (You think I’m playing. Heh. Go ahead and try me, Buttercup.)

A well made sugar cookie is a perfect dessert, whether eaten all on its own or say, dipped in ice cream or whipping cream or chocolate (try it sometime if you haven’t). Once you know how to make a good one all on its own, it might be a good idea to start branching out and experimenting with creative twists to it…like this one.

I made these as a result of still having an excess of ginger from my homemade ginger tea I was making to ease my stomach issues. I took the leftover ginger from the syrup I made and candied it by rolling the pieces in white sugar and letting them cool until they’d crystallized. It’s a MUCH easier alternative to buying the premade stuff in the spice aisle and it’s quite easy to do. I was VERY curious to see what the spicy, slightly sweet ginger would add to the base of a sugar cookie.

Textures abound in this here recipe. The cookie itself is slightly crisp at the edges, with just the right amount of softness in the center so that biting into it, you get a slight crunch & a chew at the same time that’s intensified by the texture of the candied ginger. I won’t lie, the ginger REALLY does pack a punch; there is both crystallized and ground ginger in the dough and it’s definitely noticeable. The cookies are both sweet and spicy, but I enjoyed the contrast of flavors. Sometimes sugar cookies are stuck between either being too sweet or too bland; the doubled use of ginger here ensures that these are neither. They’re the perfect balance.

As usual, I’m linking this post to the Fiesta Friday for this week, #166, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ Frugalhausfrau and Ginger @ Ginger and Bread.

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Double Ginger Sugar Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Food and Wine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (3 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks ( 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, crystallized ginger, ground ginger, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand held mixer) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to evenly combine. Fold in the dry ingredients, about 1/3 a cup at a time. Mix just until dough comes together.

Shape dough into a long log and freeze log for about 1 1/2-2 hours, until very firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a bench scraper, cut off cookies about 1/8 inch thick and place them about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar if desired.

Bake the cookies in batches until golden and just barely set on top, 8-10 minutes.  Switch the top and bottom racks midway through baking. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on pan before moving to wire racks to cool completely.

Note: No one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

My Favorite Thick, Soft Cut Out Cookies

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I’m the kind of person who likes to learn to run before she learns to walk. I like trying the complicated way before trying the simpler way. I like doing more rather than doing less.

It’s a character flaw. But it’s just the way I am.

I remember before cooking became my sport, when just the effort of scrambling eggs and browning breakfast sausage in a skillet was a HUGE accomplishment for me, and I made the decision to begin to try to improve my cooking skills. There were a number of reasons why I wanted to give it a go and get better at the whole thing.

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One of the main ones was that I actually wanted to be able to bake my own desserts. I was under the HUGELY incorrect assumption that cooking was akin to baking. Cnce I figured out one, I would of course have the other one on lock as well. Tomato-Tomahto, right?

Heh.

Oh Jess. Sweet, simple, untried Jess. I had SO much to learn about the world and its ways. But honestly, that really was it. My mom had a pretty lit cookbook collection and I would peruse through them bookmarking a whole bunch of different dessert recipes that I would fantasize about being able to bake for and all by myself.

This was before I figured out that baking is a science and beginners in the kitchen should prooooobably try to become decent cooks before they dip heir toes in the baking pool. I actually know several outstanding cooks who are pretty “challenged” as bakers.

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But anyways, I started practicing my baking around the same time as I started cooking. It was a difficult learning curve with a LOT of trial and error but through it all I knew right from the beginning that if it was the last thing I did, there was if nothing else, one thing I was absolutely going to force myself to learn how to knock out of the park:

A bakery-style cut out cookie.

The cut out cookie is right at the top of my Favorite Foods of All Time. I mean, it’s even right up there with pizza, ice cream and pancakes (which are pretty much my Holy Trinity). Now when I say a cut out cookie, I’m NOT talking about something akin to the ones in clear plastic containers you can buy at Walmart with the pink frosting that tastes like sugary wax. Those are blegh and you deserve better things in your life. I’m talking about a real cut out cookie with a soft and tender crumb, a faint flavor of vanilla/almond and a smooth glossy icing on top that rounds out the mild sweetness of the cookie dough.

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Y’know…these.

Cookie baking is a learning process in and of itself that I’m totally willing to admit I’m still getting the hang of. You gotta practice. You gotta let your dough chill in the fridge. You MUST test-bake one cookie before the entire batch. And then, you can’t be afraid of sometimes just screwing up.  Because sooner or later you just will.

There is one recipe that I’ve become pretty awesome at though, and it’s this one.  I make absolutely DELICIOUS cut out cookies. These are probably some of the best cookies I’ve ever made/had, in general.

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These are a necessity for me and familiy now every year at Christmas but recently I also went ahead and made a huge batch to take to a baby shower, which is why they’re pretty in pink. The cookie itself is thick, soft and with a tender crumb on the inside. It’s versatile enough to where if you wanted these to have a different flavor than standard vanilla, you could easily swap in lemon, orange, lime or even cherry extract instead with wonderful results. I will strongly advise that you don’t swap out or exclude the almond extract; it’s the almond that gives the cookies that trademark “bakery-style” flavor in cut outs that you love but can’t ever quite pinpoint where it comes from.

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These would be just FANTASTIC for a kid’s birthday party where you have the cookies pre-baked and allow the kids to decorate them however they want. They’re also pretty thick and sturdy so they’ll travel VERY well. This recipe does bake a pretty huge batch, so if you’re wanting a smaller one you can feel free to cut it in half. But, I never do. Somehow, for some reason…the ones I make always end up being put to “good use”.

I’ll be taking my cookies to Fiesta Friday #125, co-hosted this week by Quinn @ dadwhats4dinner and Elaine @ Foodbod.

My Favorite Thick, Soft Cut Out Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/8 cups white sugar
  • 7 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking power
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract

For Icing

  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon hot water, or more as needed
  • Food coloring, optional
  • Sprinkles, optional

Directions

For Cookies:

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs yolks, then the whole eggs, one at a time and mixing well after each.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Cover dough and chill for at least one hour. I usually let this dough sit overnight for best results.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/2 inch thick and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart on to the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate the cut out cookies on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. (My ‘magic’ number is 8 minutes, 35 seconds.) Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

For Icing

Mix together the confectioners’ sugar, oil, vanilla and corn syrup until smooth. Add a few drops of food coloring to your desired hue. Gradually add enough hot water to achieve a spreadable consistency, but keep it thick enough so that it sticks on the spoon. Spread icing over tops of cookies, then decorate with sprinkles.

Allow cookies to remain uncovered on wire racks until icing it completely set and dried.

Iced Cornmeal Cookies

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Have you ever really wanted to try something, but you kept putting it off because you just weren’t sure if it would actually work?

I have. In fact, as a naturally cautious (if not downright paranoid person) this tends to happen to me a lot.

I have had I don’t know how many tv shows in my Netflix Instant queue for months. I put them there because I initially thought that they sounded interesting and wanted to give them a shot to see if I would like the show. But then, I never start watching them, because I’m juuuuuust not sure if the shows would be something that I liked. I mean, once they’re gone, I can never get those 45 minutes of my life back.

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I’ve got one loooooooong Amazon wishlist, full of things that I want, but have yet to actually order.

But this one may be less about my being paranoid and cautious, and more about me being broke 9 times out of 10.

As it turns out, most of the time, when I’m overly cautious about trying something new, it usually has to do with food. I’m NOTORIOUSLY picky/cautious when it comes to my food.

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I’m “that person” who only ever orders ONE thing off the menu of a restaurant or take out place. I’m far too paranoid that the one time I decide to be ‘bold’ and ‘daring’, and order something new, it’ll blow up in my face and I’ll absolutely hate it. So not only will I have wasted my money, but I’ll also have to choke down food that I don’t even like, resulting in an unsatisfying meal- which is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves.

I don’t even like straying from the script when it comes to my coffee.

My general philosophy with food is, if it ain’t broke, then I sure ain’t gonna try to fix it.

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But sometimes, I break character and try to eat and cook new foods.

It turns out that having a food blog will give you a rather sizable boot in the rear, so far as that goes.

As a result, I have a full Pinterest board of recipes from other blogs and websites of foods that really caught my attention and made me want to try out for myself. Today’s recipe was one of them; it’s been there for over a year at least.

See? I told you I was overly cautious.

The most intriguing element to this recipe for me was the inclusion of cornmeal in the cookie dough. I was just wildly curious as to what that would taste like; I had SO many questions.

Would the cookies be sweet? Would the texture be too rough/coarse because of the cornmeal? Would they be soft or crunchy? Would they even taste good at all?

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For my own personal preferences, I decided to bake the cookies for as little time as possible so that they would be soft. I assumed by the smell and taste of the raw dough (yes, I eat raw cookie dough. Don’t judge me) that they would be similar to sugar cookies. And I insist upon having my sugar cookies iced. So I then whipped up a quick and easy icing to spread on top and added nonpareils for color.

The finished product?

Well first of all, they’re very good. So that was a huge relief.

Second, I can honestly say that I’ve never had cookies like these before ;the cornmeal is really the star ingredient here. It gives the cookies such a unique texture and flavor. Although I went with vanilla extract and icing, I could see citrus zest like lemon or orange working VERY well with these.

All in all, my risk taking paid off. Which made me a very happy camper 🙂

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Iced Cornmeal Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for shaping
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • multi-colored nonpareils, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until smooth. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture, mixing just until combined.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto two large baking sheets; flatten slightly with floured fingertips. Bake until edges are golden, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies immediately to a wire rack; let cool completely.

For Icing: combine the first 3 ingredients until smooth. Spread over cooled cookies, then decorate with nonpareil sprinkles. Allow icing to harden, about 30 minutes.