November 18, 2012

Sugar Cookies

Today I'm sharing my battle with the concept of stamped sugar cookies.  I really loved the idea of using a pretty stamp on a sugar cookie and having this great design in my final cookie.  I call shenanigans on the many many internet posts that only show you the "before": a pic of someone stamping dough, with no "after": the lumpy funny-looking cookies that result.  I read plenty of posts on this topic and have come to a couple conclusions:

  • It's not as easy as I thought
  • It helps to use special cookie stamps
  • When not using special cookie stamps, at least use stamps with a simple design
  • Stamp a ball of dough, not flat dough
  • Use on fresh dough, not chilled dough
  • Rolling the dough in sugar makes things stick less

So there you have a nice little bulleted list that took me at least 4 trial batches to develop.  Hey, at least I have a list now!  And at least a handful of cookies worthy of that basket I'm putting together.
Here are my final products of the testing.  On the left, cookies I stamped with a snowflake and star using fresh dough.  On the right, the same stamps on chilled dough I made into balls and rolled in sugar.  The chilled dough snowflake doesn't have anything close to the same definition as the fresh dough, and the star isn't as crisp either though still passable.  The ones I tried pressing directly into my rolled out flat dough weren't even worth showing.  They were just gigantic cookie blobs without any indication whatsoever that I'd stamped them.  Yay useless ugly cookies my son and I get to eat guilt free. :)  AND, I should say that design gripes aside, these are amazingly delicious.  It's an old family friend's recipe that we've been using for about 30 years now (well, my mom has used for 30 years; only 10 for me).  And that part, I will definitely share!

  • 4 sticks butter (never use margarine)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (never use imitation vanilla)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (optional, for coating stamped cookies)
Directions for Cut Out Cookies
  1. This dough needs to chill, so allow at least 1 hour before baking, and if possible make dough the night before baking.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar with mixer on low speed.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour.
  3. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper so it won't stick to everything.  Layer rolled out dough on a cookie sheet and chill in fridge till dough is nice and stiff (at least 1 hour, or even overnight).
  4. Peel waxed paper off of dough, and place dough on a floured surface.  Sprinkle dough with a small amount of flour, and tap cookie cutters in flour to prevent sticking.
  5. Preheat oven to 350° and spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray.
  6. Cut out cookie shapes from chilled dough and transfer to cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until set and slightly golden along the edges.  Thinner cookies will be closer to 10 minutes while thick cookies will take 15 or more.
  7. Immediately transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before decorating.

Directions for Stamped Cookies
  1. Cream together butter and sugar with mixer on low speed.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° and spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray.  Spray rubber part of stamps with nonstick spray as well.  You may need to repeat this step periodically during stamping.
  3. Tear off pieces of dough and roll into balls no larger than 1 tablespoon (about 1 1/2 inches) in size.  Roll dough in sugar and place on waxed paper.  
  4. Stamp dough with a cookie stamp or craft stamp.  You'll want to press down until the ball of dough just begins to crack around the edges.  Gingerly peel dough off of stamp, or wiggle stamp to shake dough loose.
  5. Arrange cookies on prepared cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until just golden brown along the edges.  Immediately transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before storing.

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