Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm Dreaming of Great Santa Cookies!

Every year I help my kids make cut-out cookies for Santa. They love to choose the cutters, cut and lay them on the baking sheet, and then cover them with more icing and sprinkles than there is cookie underneath! Every year, though, I try a new recipe. I have some notion buried in the back of my mind (or maybe it's on my tongue) of what these cookies should be, and those that I've made always miss the mark. However, the kids will not be persuaded to abandon cut-out cookies.

I've tried my go-to sites (King Arthur Flour, Alton Brown, Cooks Illustrated, Food Network), and been disappointed. This year, I've found three new candidates off the net. They seem to simply be motivated home-bakers that are driven to make good things and enjoy the rewards of sharing. I have high hopes once again!

To be honest with myself, I've only really got enough time to try one of these recipes. Here are my take-away's from each:
  • The first one is flavored with vanilla, almond, and lemon zest, is enriched with cream cheese, and has comments from lots of people who actually made the recipe as-written, and liked them better than any other sugar cookie they have ever made. But there is no icing recipe, and somehow lemon in the cookie doesn't sound right; I would have thought nutmeg.
  • The second is flavored with vanilla and almond only, is enriched with egg yolks, and earned a top-10 slot in an LA newspaper bake-off, but the comments are filled with exclamations of  "Congrats" and "I can't wait to try these", and few actual "They were great". Did no one like them enough to come back and say how they turned out? And again the lemon appears, except in the icing this time. I like lemon, but not sure it belongs here.
  • The third is actually a "shortbread" rather than a sugar cookie. It has less ingredients, and is flavored with maple syrup and nutmeg. The reviewers say they are amazing. Technically you don't decorate shortbread cookies, though. But maybe a little icing and sprinkles wouldn't hurt...
Maybe I have time to make one dough this weekend and test it. If I'm disappointed, I could roll it in logs and freeze it for later, then try another before next weekend. I will consult with Santa, and see if he has an opinion on which to try. My son votes for the maple-nutmeg, and add frosting and sprinkles. I'm tending to agree, except I would definitely try them plain.

Here are the recipe links, and their ingredient lists. I think for decoration, I'll offer the kids a very thin white glaze or royal icing, and a variety of sprinkles. That keeps the cookie/icing ratio in check, while allowing plenty of creative decorating.

Best Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Posted on TheKitchen
Photo from TheKitchen

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for an hour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 of a standard cream cheese package)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Amanda's Amazing Sugar Cookies II, I Am Baker
Posted on I Am Baker

Photo from I Am Baker
1-½ cup Butter (I Use Unsalted)
2 cups Sugar
2 whole Eggs
2 whole Eggs Yolks
4 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 teaspoons Almond Extract
4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder

Amanda's Awesome Icing
1 cup Confectioners Sugar (powder Sugar)
1 Tablespoon Milk
1 drop Lemon Juice (fresh Or Processed)-this is optional
1 Tablespoon Light Corn Syrup

Nutmeg Maple Butter Cookies
Posted on Smitten Kitchen

Photo from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup (2 sticks or 226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (118 ml) maple syrup Grade B is ideal here, but the original recipe suggested that Grade A with a few drops of maple extract would also work)
1 large egg yolk
3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (because it packs more tightly)
1 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

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