Happy New Year! I’ve had a few posts waiting to be written but somehow my week off after Christmas has just slipped by. So I wanted to start the New Year off with a little fun. Trust me, these cookies were FUN! My parents hosted Christmas dinner this year and I wanted to do something a little special to add to the dinner aside from the stuffed mushrooms (post coming soon!) we brought for an appetizer, the cheesecake we brought for dessert, and the caramel corn (also coming soon!) we brought to snack on during my family’s traditional holiday post-dinner game. The minute I saw these cookies in the King Arthur Flour catalog back in November I knew I had to make them and I decided it would be a blast to make them into place cards for Christmas dinner.
The cookie recipe is incredibly easy and the same one (though without the cinnamon) I used for the pumpkin cutouts I made for Halloween. I’m just thrilled with how these cookies turned out and I know part of the reason is because of this recipe. Rolled out to about 1/4″ thickness, this cookie dough is a dream to work with. The dough cuts out easily with cookie cutters and transfers so nicely to the baking sheet without any worries about the dough tearing or falling apart. The key to keeping sugar cookie dough from spreading out too much during baking, thus running the risk of the cutouts losing their shape, is to freeze the cutouts for about 15 minutes on the baking sheet right before baking. Works perfectly every time. For the royal icing, I again used the same recipe I’ve used in the past and once again had great success with it. If you haven’t found Annie’s new royal icing tutorial, you must check it out whether you’re considering embarking on the royal icing adventure or have worked with it already but need some tips or a refresher. I can’t emphasize enough what a comprehensive and outstanding step-by-step, easy-t0-follow tutorial this is.
My family absolutely adored these cookies just as much as I did and I really had such a fun time making and decorating them. I’m so happy to have stumbled across the photos of the snowmen and mitten cookies in that November catalog and since they are not Christmas-specific, I’m planning to make them again this winter for my next get together.
Snowmen & Mitten Sugar Cookie Cutouts
source: slightly adapted from Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Cookies, page 241
- 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Sift flour, baking powder, salt into a bowl.
- Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Divide dough into quarters; flatten each quarter into a disk. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Let one disk of dough stand at room temperature just until soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes. Roll out dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/4-inch thickness. Remove top layer of plastic wrap. Cut out cookies with a 4-to-5-inch cookie cutter. Transfer cutouts to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Transfer baking sheet to freezer, and freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes. Roll out scraps, and repeat. Repeat with remaining disk of dough. Remove baking sheet from freezer right before baking
- Bake, switching positions of sheets and rotating halfway through, until edges are almost golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
source: adapted from Annie’s Eats
- 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tbsp meringue powder
- 4 1/2 tbsp water
- Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes). Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container. This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating. Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. (Remember, if you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick. Add a little more liquid and try again.) Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand so the icing will set. Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.
- Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container. Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl. If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again. Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. Allow to set.
- Use the remaining thicker icing for piping decoration as desired. Gel icing color is best as it does not add a significant amount of liquid. Liquid food coloring can be used as well – add powdered sugar as needed to compensate for any thinning that occurs.