Kathleen’s Sugar Cookies
My children have made these cookies for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Halloween for as long as we can remember, and this recipe is named for my older daughter. Our system was that I made the dough, cut it into shapes, and placed the trees, wreaths, Santas, pumpkins, hearts, bells–whatever was in season–on baking sheets for each of my children. They slathered the cookies with egg white and sprinkled on colored sugars to decorate. It was a wonderful, messy sugar fest with often more sprinkles on the floor that on the cookies.
I learned to drape the kitchen floor with an old sheet before my kids began and then carry the sheet outside and skit it all out. The other trick is to chill the cookie dough well before rolling it out. Make the dough the night before everyone decorates the cookies and your day will be saved. This recipe is one of my favorites from my new cookbook – Anne Byrn Saves the Day.
- Ingredients for the Cookie Dough:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg white, lightly beaten with a fork
- Colored sugars of your choice
- Make the cookie dough: Place the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl and, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well. Beat in the flour on low speed until just combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the cookie dough at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or leave ungreased.
- Working with a little of the dough at a time, roll it out on a floured surface to about a ⅛-inch thickness. Keep the remaining dough refrigerated. Cut with cookie cutters and transfer the cookies carefully to the baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. If you like, and there is enough room in your refrigerator, chill the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes before baking. This helps cookies retain their shape if you've overworked the dough or the kitchen is hot.
- Decorate the cookies: If you're using colored sugars, brush the cookies with a little egg white before sprinkling on the colored sugar. If you would like to add an edible paint (see below), do so now. If you are going to frost the cookies with a powdered sugar glaze (see below), bake the cookies first.
- Bake the cookies until they are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool on them for about 1 minute. Then, using a spatula, transfer the cookies to the wire racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.
- Do Ahead: For best results, freeze the unbaked cookie dough, then let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight before rolling it out and cutting. The cookies can be kept in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, or store the cookies in a tightly covered container in the freezer for up to 6 months. Thaw on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes.
- For the Young Artist: Little ones love sugar cookies, and often the easiest way to include children in the baking process is to let them design the toppings. It's easy to set out a bowl of sprinkles for kids to dust over the top before the cookies go into the oven. But if you'd like to change things up a bit, try these two fun alternatives. The edible egg yolk paint is great for last-minute cookies, whereas the confectioners' sugar glaze is best when you have time to let the cookies rest so the glaze can harden.
- For the Edible Paint (Alias Paintbrush Cookies): Mix 2 egg yolks and ½ teaspoon of water in a small bowl. Divide the egg yolk mixture among several small cups. Tint each cup with a few drops of a different liquid food coloring. Using small, clean, new paintbrushes, paint the unbaked cookies. If the egg yolk becomes too thick, add a little water. Then, bake the cookies.
- For Confectioners' Sugar Glaze: Combine 1 cup of sifted confectioners' sugar and 1 to 2 tablespoons of warm low-fat milk, until you achieve the desired consistency. Tiny the frosting, if desired, with a few drops of food coloring. You can also add a dash of almond flavoring. If the frosting gets too runny, add more confectioners' sugar.