With candy canes and sprinkles lining grocery store shelves, holiday season just screams, "sugar cookies!" Around this time each year, I toss aside my fanciest dessert recipes and opt for the more humble sugar cookie instead. Sugar cookies can be enhanced any which way, from flavoring the dough to adding crushed candy to topping with sprinkles and frosting....with so many variations, there's truly a sugar cookie for everyone.
I made sugar cookies twice this season, both times differently than I have before. When Jackie hosted a cookie-making-and-decorating party (a blast, as you may have guessed), I was introduced to the wonder that is maple extract. It's not the easiest to find, but I'll be keeping it close for those times when I'm craving maple flavor, but adding maple syrup would change the texture. Apparently 5 lbs. of cookie dough and lots of intermittent nibbling wasn't enough for me, so I decided to make another batch at home. For those, I used vanilla extract and just a bit of molasses, which imparted an earthy flavor to otherwise regular sugar cookies. I highly recommend these recipes, and I've included both of them below.
At Jackie's party, we had the full gamut of cookie decorations as our disposal, from trusty powdered-sugar-milk icings to ginger-flavored sugar and other fancy treats. While those were loads of fun to play with, back at my house I used crushed candy instead. You can do so many things with crushed candy canes and heath bars, the two I used: you can incorporate them into the dough, sprinkle or press them on top of each cookie, or fill them into holes in your cookies to make a stained-glass effect, as Elise does here. Any way you choose, it's pretty hard to go wrong. So make a double batch of these and keep'em around this holiday season. Your family, friends, and uninvited guests will surely thank you.
Rolled Maple Sugar Cookies courtesy of Jackie and her friend's mom
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 11 Tbsp. (a bit less than 1 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into chunks
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/3 tsp. vanilla
- 2/3 tsp. maple extract
- 1 Tbsp. milk
- Mix flour and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
- Add all the other ingredients, in order, and mix either by hand or using a kitchenaid/electric mixer. Shape dough into a disk.
- Chill for at least one hour, up to overnight.
- Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness, and cut out any shapes you like.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until cookies have just begun to brown around the edges.
To make frosting:
Put 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl, and add milk by the Tbsp. until the mixture is the thickness of syrup. A thinner icing will run more easily and take longer to dry; a thicker one will run less and dry more quickly, but is harder to manipulate into shapes.
Old-fashioned Sugar Cookies adapted from Epicurious
- 1 1/2 sticks butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 Tbsp. molasses
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- Stir together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla, either by hand or with a mixer.
- Add flour, baking soda, and salt; stir until the mixture forms a dough.
- Form into a disk, and chill, covered, at least 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness, and cut out 2-inch rounds from the dough (or any other shape).
- Crush any hard candy until most of it is very fine; I used heath bars and candy canes.
- dunk cookies in crushed candy, and place 1 inch apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
- Bake in batches in the middle of the oven for 8-12 minutes, until edges have just turned golden.
- This last part is important -- eat one hot! Cookies will keep, packed in an airtight container, for up to one week.