I don't make sugar cookies very often. It's not because all the mess makes me crazy (it doesn't—in fact, the mosiac of spilled sprinkles always makes me pause in admiration: all those colors and shapes!), or because I don't like them. In fact, I love everything about sugar cookies—the softness of the raw dough, the way they smell baking, how happy they make my kids. It's one of our favorite activities to do together.
In fact, the real reason I don't make them often is because I make delicious sugar cookies, if i do say so myself, and because if I make them, well...I will also eat them!
Still, it's not really a holiday without some sugar cookies. So I'm going to share the love with this, my absolutely perfect sugar cookie recipe. Please note that this is only perfect if you like fat, soft, fluffy sugar cookies. If you're a fan of crispy ones, this will be the opposite of perfect!
1/2 cup butter or shortening (shortening makes for a slightly better texture, but it is also banned in my kitchen as I'm slightly obsessive about not allowing any hydrogenated vegetable oil to pass through our bodies)
3 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspooons vanilla
1 pint sour cream (2 cups)
8 cups flour
Soften butter by letting it sit on your counter for an hour or so. Field approximately 2,327 "when can I put sprinkles on the cookies?" questions. (It won't only be your youngest asking you this!) Cream butter/shortening and sugar until fluffy.
I love this step just because it's so visually appealling! Add eggs one a time, beating thoroughly between each one. Pause to sigh deeply over your mother-in-law giving up her chickens and the fact that you have to actually buy eggs now. Add vanilla with one of the eggs. (Please tell me you use real vanilla, not the imitation imposter!) Sprinkle the baking soda and baking powder over the creamed mixture and blend on low speed. (If you're ambitious you can sift the baking powder and soda together with the flour, but I am not ambitious that way.) Add half the flour, then the sour cream, then the rest of the flour. (I switch from the cookie beaters to the bread dough hook after I add the sour cream, because the dough is fairly stiff.) You want the dough to still be a little bit sticky—it should NOT be pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Sometimes I have to add a little bit more flour—a half cup or so—just so I can get it out of the bowl. If you add too much flour, your cookies will be dry.
Put the dough in a Ziploc and chill for at least four hours. Meanwhile, make the frosting:
1/2 cup softened butter
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
drizzle (about 1/8 of a tsp) coconut extract
red and yellow food coloring
Cream the butter and the cream cheese together. Add the vanilla and the secret Perfect Sugar Cookie Frosting ingredients (that'd be the nutmeg and the coconut extract) and some food coloring. I like the color to be pretty intense so I use the gel coloring. Now, start adding powdered sugar. I honestly don't measure this part, but I think I use about 1 1/2 pounds. It is ready when it tastes sweet enough and is stiff enough to spread. If you add too much powdered sugar, thin out the frosting with a little bit of milk or half and half.
Sprinkle your cutting board/counter with a little bit of flour and roll out a big hunk of dough—about half. Put the rest back in the fridge while you work. One of the big, soft, fluffy sugar-cookie secrets is to put in the least amount of flour possible, so don't overdo the flour sprinkling! The dough is a little bit sticky so you do have to add a bit. Roll it so it's about 1/3" thick, then cut out. Since these are soft, fat, fluffy sugar cookies, you'll want to skip the detailed cutters. Circles or hearts (who doesn't love a Halloween heart?) are best, although I do love this pumpkin cutter:
(they still turn out basicaly round though!)
Since you are trying to avoid adding extra flour, you want to cut out as many cookies from the first big swath of dough. Get them as close as possible!
When you've cut as many as you can, gather the scraps back together, sprinkle a little more flour, and roll out again. You can do the entire batch, or leave some in the fridge or freezer for a later batch. If I freeze the dough, I do it with an upcoming holiday in mind—half the batch on Halloween, the other half at Christmas, or Christmas first and then the rest on Valentine's Day. Because, you know...if I make them, I will eat them!
Bake at 400 for 10-ish minutes. They are best (read: soft, fat, and fluffy!) if you don't overbake them—they should be done, but not golden yet. They'll be puffy when you take them out, but some will sink back a little bit. Don't worry—those dimples are just part of the deliciousness!
(if you'd like a printable version of the recipe, without my goofy ramblings, click here. There's also a download for some cute cupcake toppers there!)