I love making sugar cookies for the holidays! It's something my son and I did together when he was a little boy! We had many great discussions over our sugar cookie projects! I will never forget one year when we made some ornaments for our 'country Christmas tree' that looked like sugar cookies, but they weren't edible, they got hard as a rock and you put tons of cinnamon in them so when you hung them on the tree they gave off this great cinnamon aroma. You put a hole in top of them before you baked them and then put a ribbon through it.
At the same time we were also making a batch of edible sugar cookies. We had them all out on the counter and table to cool and my brother-in-law stopped by the house. He reached for one of the 'hard as a rock' ornaments and took a big bite of it before I noticed him. My son's eyes got as big as saucers and he said, "Mama he is eating the Christmas tree ornaments!!!" I was just glad he didn't break a tooth! We all had fun over that one!
The key to good rolled sugar cookies that you can cut out, is getting a dough that is stiff enough to hold up and be able to cut, but still remains soft and cakelike after it's baked. This is one of the best recipes I have tried for this. It did take some experimentation to get it this way though. Here is what you will need:
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond flavoring
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs. Add in the vanilla and almond flavoring. You can substitute a tsp. of lemon flavoring for the almond for a bit different flavor. They are both really good. Gradually mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Work with 1/4 of the dough at a time. Place the rest in the fridge to stay cold while you roll and cut what you have out. Sprinkle flour on a sheet of wax paper and roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough in with cookie cutter you have dipped in flour. This helps the dough release. This dough is a little sticky and it gets stickier as it warms up so you have to move fast. If it feels sticky, spread it with a little flour on the surface. Place the cut cookies on a cookie sheet cover with ungreased parchment paper about 1 inch apart.
When all of the cookies are cut, place in the oven for 6-8 minutes. These cookies do puff up a little, but as they cool they will come back down some. This is what gives them their soft cakelike texture. When they are just starting to brown, remove cookie sheet and allow cookies to cool completely.
You can decorate with sprinkles or colored sugar which is applied before baking or an icing which can be colored to suit the season. Here is what you need for the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp. milk
2 tsp. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond flavoring
Stir together until smoother and with a pastry brush, paint it on the cookies as a glaze. You can add food coloring for whatever color you desire. It looks shiny like this and sort of sets up as it dries!
These are delicious and fun cookies to make for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day or Easter..really any holiday you want to make cookies for!