Friday, December 16, 2011

Decorating Sugar Cookies

The other morning, as I walked the dog, I was able to witness the better part of the lunar eclipse, which as the moon sunk beneath the earth's shadow, caused me to think about chocolate dipped sugar cookies. Again, these are neither vegan or gluten-free, but I had the opportunity to make sugar cookies with E and our friends Caitlin and I*--and how could I pass that up? Especially if it meant the opportunity to take photos?

I remember, as a kid, that one of my favorite parts of going to the grocery store (specifically Winn-Dixie) was the opportunity for a free sugar cookie. It was a lovely once-a-week-ish treat (they didn't always have them) and those sugar cookies--probably Pillsbury or something similar in retrospect, and knowing what I know now about many grocery store bakeries)--were far superior to the ones from the recipe my mom had. The grocery store cookies were large and sweet and chewy, with absolutely no odd taste. I couldn't say the same for my mom's, which made approximately a zillioin--far too many for me to stay interested in decorating them--and were never as chewy, sweet, or just...sugar cookie flavored.

The cookies featured below are a perfect addition to a cookie exchange, or in the case of what I was creating for taking into work, a cookie platter at a party. You can dip them in chocolate, paint them with a basic milk-and-powdered sugar glaze, or add sugar before baking. I haven't tried them, but the recipe is a Julia child recipe so it's probably pretty yummy! E, Caitlin, and I* seem to like them.

We cut out "Christmas salmon," and "Christmas rhinos," moose and candy canes and gingerbread men, among other things. As the evening grew later and we all got punchier (sugar from cookies for E, Caitlin, and I* plus hot mulled cider for all of us), we started laughing about the idea of Christmas rhinos and the "guiding light" of the "Christmas lighthouse"steering us toward Jesus. We were, we decided, probably going to hell for that blasphemy.

In the write-up that follows, I made a couple of modifications to describe the roll-out and baking process we used. We also did not use a combination of cake and all-purpose flours, because we didn't have them and that change is also reflected in the recipe that follows.

I'm not sure which cookbook this originally came from--but we all thought since it was Julia Child, it was sure to be good. Caitlin, who brought the recipe, brought it on an index card. We actually tripled the recipe--and therefore, worked on this for a good three hours.

Julia Child's Sugar Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into 16 pieces
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cold water, plus droplets
more water, if needed
Measure the flour, salt and butter into the container of a food processor and process about a minute, until the butter is thoroughly blended (you can also use two knives, or a pastry cutter, if you have those on hand and don't have a large enough food processor--we definitely don't). Add and process in the sugar, then the egg yolk, vanilla and water. Continue processing for several seconds, until the dough masses. Turn it out onto your work surface, form into a rough ball, then push out 2-tablespoon bits with the heel of your hand in 6-inch smears. Gather together into two or three small balls and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out the cookies, placing them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 4-7 minutes (depending on the size of the cookie), or until cookies are golden around the edges. Decorate when cooled, if desired.


  1. I feel like I want someone to make a lovely illustration of a rhino wearing a hat and scarf, saying something Christmas-y with a pun in it. All I can think of is "Happy Horn-idays," but I don't think that sounds quite right...

  2. Cute! I love decorating sugar cookies - and I love all the unique cookie-cutter shapes that are out there. You have amazing restraint if you were able to make these without swiping some dough or frosting, let alone the finished product! (Good job, girl.)

  3. Marissa - E and I plan to make a whole set of Christmas rhinos -- I'll post pictures when we do (um, I guess that will be soon) and maybe we'll come up with something. If you come up with other ideas, definitely let me know.

    Erica - My friend Caitlin has an amazing supply of cookie cutters -- supplemented nicely by another friend who has just three, but all fantastic.