I may have mentioned this before: My husband LOVES sugar cookies - Grandma Christensen's recipe, thin and slightly crispy with frosting. Me? Well, IF I'm going to make them (which I rarely do because they take a freakishly LONG time from start to finish) then I like them thick and soft. We both agree on the frosting bit though...
I stumbled upon an egg cookie cutter and because of it's unique shape - small on one end and larger on the other - making these Easter sugar cookies wasn't too bad at all. I could use up most of the dough on the first roll out and with sugar cookies the less you roll the better because each roll out incorporates additional flour into your dough which effects the outcome of the cookie. Less is better, unless we're talking about frosting,...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Grandma Christensen's Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
3 cups sugar
1 Tbs vanilla
1 cup milk
7 3/4 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Cream shortening, butter, and sugar thoroughly. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add vanilla to milk and beat into creamed mixture alternately with the sifted dry ingredients. Note: the dough may seem soft but don't add more flour). Cover or wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. Cut off a workable amount of chilled dough and place the remainder back in the refrigerator. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on greased or parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake at 400 F. 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.
Yield: 15 dozen 2 3/4 inch cookies.
When cookies have cooled completely you can begin to decorate them. First you need to add your base layer. If we were just eating these at home I would most likely make a nice buttercream frosting. Because I need to mail them, and because I want to decorate them I like to use royal icing. It looks great; it's smooth; and it dries hard so I can wrap them and stack them. Here's the recipe that I like to use:
1 cup water
6 Tbs meringue powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon extract
2 lb bag of powdered sugar
Mix the water and meringue powder in your mixer until it is foamy. Add the extracts and mix. Add the entire 2 lb bag of powdered sugar and mix on low until incorporated.
Mix on high until icing becomes stiff. Cover unused frosting with a damp towel
because it will harden SUPER FAST...
You will need different consistencies of icing for different types of frosting techniques. For piping words and detail, you will want the dough pretty stiff (like what you just made). For other techniques like floating, you will need to thin it out a little. You do this by adding more water, a teaspoon at a time. To test the consistency, make an indent in your frosting and count how long it takes for it to smooth out.
I used small squeeze bottles to decorate my cookies. One batch of the Royal Icing was perfect for the whole batch of Grandma Christensen's Sugar Cookies from the above recipe. First I decided on two base colors: pink and yellow. Using only a portion of the colored icing, I piped around the outer edge with a stiff icing. Then thinning the icing slightly, I filled in the center. Make sure to pop any bubbles that form with a toothpick. Gotta watch out for those bubbles. They are the enemy of a beautiful cookie. Do one cookie at a time and don't be discouraged. It really doesn't take too long for a simple cookie shape.
When your cookies are all frosted you are ready to move on to decorating. For this you want a stiff icing like you piped with at the beginning of the process. I chose quite a few different pastel colors and divided out my frosting. As you're mixing in your colors, be sure to stir each VERY well. Otherwise you may just end up with a colored streak...not pretty. Spoon each into squeeze bottles (or piping bags) and have yourself some FUN! I used a mug to hold each of my squeeze bottles. Just invert so the tip is pointing down inside the mug. It's easy to tell which color is in each bottle and the icing stays at the end of the tip which saves LOTS of time.
Make sure that the icing is completely hardened before you wrap them up to send to your missionary. I put mine into small cellophane bags, folded down the top, taped them closed with a cute piece of washi tape, and boxed them up in some boxes left over from my Christmas candy making. Add a bit of shredded paper and a cute bow and voila! All done. Your missionary and their companion will love them AND...your family gets to eat the leftovers...or your Visiting Teaching ladies...or your husband's Home Teaching families...or YOU!