Put a little sugar in these cookies

They’re naked. I know. These sugar cookies went fast. And smelled so good (vanilla with a touch of fresh lemon) right out of the oven that they didn’t last long around here. And now I get to make more.

I don’t know about you, but growing up, sugar cookies came once a year in the shape of Santas, Christmas trees and bells and were covered in red and green sprinkles. Sure, cut-out cookies take a little more effort than dropping your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe by scoopfuls onto a baking sheet, but you can avoid rolling out sugar cookie dough by simply forming it into a log and slicing into rounds.  When something tastes this good, why not consider bringing it to the family table more than once a year? At the very least you and your loved ones deserve to enjoy these cookies throughout the many months and moods of winter.

I have found an excellent sugar cookie recipe and have used it as the inspiration for my own buttery-sugary cookies. I’ve made it several times as Santas and bells, snowflakes and flowers. It’s Dorie Greenspan’s grandmother’s and it’s very good and if it comes from anyone’s beloved grandmother, than it is good enough for me. What’s more, it seems to take very well to a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Dorie Greenspan’s Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies (as spied on The Splendid Table)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (from a large lemon)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder together and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute until smooth. Next beat in the sugar until light and fluffy and pale yellow in color. Beat in the lemon zest.

In a small bowl, gently beat the egg and egg yolk. Add the eggs one tablespoon (eye-ball it) at a time until fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.

In three batches add in the flour mixture, mixing on low to incorporate. After the third addition, mix only until it all comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut in half and roll each half, one at a time, between two sheets of parchment to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Place both sheets of cookie dough onto a cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Returning to a lightly floured surface, and working with one sheet at a time (leaving the other in the fridge until you’re ready to work with it) carefully peel back the top sheet of parchment. And gently place it back on the rolled out dough. Now flip the dough over and pull back the bottom (which is now the top) sheet of parchment and set aside. Cut out cookies and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet. You can re-roll the scraps–using as much of the dough as possible–between the same two pieces of parchment. You may have to put the dough back in the fridge for a few minutes if it becomes too soft to work with.

Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until they begin to take on a slight golden brown color around the edges.

Share these with the ones you love.

 

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Orange-Scented Molasses Cookies

There is an ice storm passing through and every shape outside from earth to sky–only grey–a heavy, wet, chilling shade of grey. Every once in awhile, a neighbor burdened with the task of catching the downtown bus, walks cautiously past my kitchen window, skidding, catching himself at the last minute. I’m so lucky that I get to be home today and having cancelled a couple of appointments, here is where I shall stay.

One of my favorite issues of Cook’s Illustrated magazine is one that I happened to pick up while in line checking out at the grocery store 5 years ago. It’s the 2012 Holiday Baking issue and I’ve referenced it often (read: pages are flour-dusted with pen-scratched notes in the margins) from buttermilk biscuits, Christmas morning cinnamon buns and to these very addictive chewy gingerbread cookies that while baking, fill my kitchen with the fragrance and aroma of a more pleasant winter’s eve–cinnamon, cloves and orange.

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar PLUS 2/3 cup for dipping
  • 3 teaspoons grated orange zest (2 teaspoons for dipping; 1 teaspoon for cookies)
  • 2 1/4 cup (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine, freshly ground pepper
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 12 pieces, softened but still cool
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (measure in a liquid measuring cup) light or dark molasses (not blackstrap–too strong)

Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Then, in the little bowl that came with your food processor, that if you, like me, haven’t used before, process 2/3 cup granulated sugar with 2 teaspoons grated orange zest until a lovely and fragrant pale orange (10 seconds ought to do it). Next pour sugar into an 8- or 9-inch cake pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda (as molasses has a bit of acidity to it, it needs a bit of baking soda, an alkalai, to react with it and provide lift) salt, and spices together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter for a 20 seconds or so, then add 1/3 cup granulated sugar, dark brown sugar and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Reduce speed to medium-low and add egg yolk and vanilla. Increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds.

Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasses beating until fully incorporated (20 seconds), scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with a rubber spatula. Reduce speed to lowest setting and add flour mixture slowly, mixing until just combined, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl again, once.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the dough a final stir with the rubber spatula, making sure to really get to the bottom of the bowl. Dough will be soft.

Scoop and form 1 1/2-inch balls (using a tablespoon as a guide may help), dropping 6 at a time into the cake pan with the sugar/orange zest mixture. Toss balls in sugar to coat and place about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheet. (I spaced 3 across and 4 down–my pans are 17″x 12″).  Bake only one pan at a time for about 10 minutes (cookies won’t bake evenly otherwise), turning the pan once half-way through baking. 

Do not over bake. Cookies are done even though the centers are still soft and in between the cracks appears to look raw. Cool cookies on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.