Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sugar Cookie Geekery

I've had a hankering for sugar cookies lately, probably because I didn't make any this past Christmas.  This is a pretty basic sugar cookie recipe that I've had for quite a while; I mean, they're cookies... with sugar... there's only so many variations out there. The icing recipe is a basic one that I've experimented with (GlaDos would approve).  As for the cookie shapes, well, I don't own cookie cutters (I know, sad, right?), so I figured I might as well get creative with it.  Fair warning, while the recipe is easy, the cutting can be a right pain depending on how complicated you get.

What You'll Need
Medium mixing bowl                                                      Scissors
Whisk                                                                             Stiff card stock-like paper
Large mixing bowl                                                         Cookie sheet
Mixing spoon                                                                  Small mixing bowl
Cutting board                                                                 4 small bowls or cups
Rolling pin                                                                      Butter knives
Measuring cups                                                              Food coloring assortment
Measuring spoons
Ingredients for Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour                                                 1 large egg
3/4 tsp baking powder                                                  1 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp salt                                                                    1 tsp vanilla
2 stick unsalted butter                                                   Confectioner's sugar for rolling
1 cup sugar
Ingredients for Icing
1 cup powdered sugar                                                    1/2 tsp vanilla
5 tsp milk                                                                        Food coloring assortment
2 tsp light corn syrup (to start)                                          Neon food coloring assortment

Now Let's Make Nerd-tastic Sugar Cookies!
Measure out 3 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt in your medium mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients together until they are blended and there are no more large lumps.  Set this aside.

Put 2 sticks of butter into your large mixing bowl and microwave about 20 seconds or just enough to soften it.  Once softened, add 1 cup of sugar and beat until creamy and slightly fluffy.  Make sure that the butter has been mixed enough since you don't want any butter lumps, which would affect the evenness of the batter later on.

Now, crack one large egg into the bowl with your butter mixture.  Add 1 Tbsp of milk and 1 tsp of vanilla.  I usually just pour a small amount of milk into a cereal bowl and spoon out the appropriate amount with a measuring spoon.  This is much easier than trying to pour into a tiny spoon from a gallon of milk. (Trust me). Reserve whatever is left of the milk, since you'll be using it again when you measure it out for the icing.  Mix everything together thoroughly.

Grab the bowl with your flour concoction and begin adding the flour to the butter mixture, gradually.  Add a smallish amount, stir that in, then add some more.  I usually milk this for about 4 additions.  Blend the flour into the butter mixture completely after each addition.  The last addition may be a little hard to mix in, so make sure you scrape the bottom to get all the flour blended. By the time you're finished you should have a fairly stiff cookie dough that easily pulls away from the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Take your cutting board and dust it lightly with confectioner's sugar, just enough to prevent the dough from sticking to it.  Separate your cookie dough into two parts and roll it into a ball. Place each ball on the cutting board and cover with foil or cling wrap (whatever you work best with; for me, cling wrap ends up in frustrated little balls of plastic). Place the dough in the refrigerator and refrigerate the dough for about 2 hours.

While you're dough is chilling, get your cookie cutting station ready.  You need a fairly large, flat, clean surface.  I use our dining table.  Sprinkle it with confectioner's sugar and coat your rolling pin in confectioner's sugar, too, to prevent sticking.  While you wait on the dough, get your cookie cutter tools together.  If you're lucky enough to own cookie cutters and don't want your cookies to have the same level of awesome as these, use those.  If not, make your own by drawing your designs on card stock and cutting them out to use as a template.  For the Mockingjay, I traced it onto regular paper, laid the paper over the card stock to trace it again, then penciled in the impression.  I made a stencil for the square and circle for the Weighted Companion Cube base and center.  For the other companion cube parts, I wound up just cutting them from the dough without a template, and I did the same with the Triforces, which are simple triangles.

Cut them for science... you monster
Once your dough is ready, take out on ball and work it a bit with your hands (which I really hope are clean!)  to warm it up just a bit and make it easier to roll.  When the dough is workable but still cold, roll it out to about a 1/4 inch thickness.  Place your stencils over the dough, and using your butter knife, begin cutting out the shapes.  Easy! (We will stop enhancing the truth in three... two... zzzt). I also used a the small end of the chop stick to work out some of the smaller details on the Mockingjays. For the Companion Cubes, I stacked the pieces on top of the square base before baking. When you no longer have space to cut, ball up your dough and roll it out again. Switch between dough balls as needed when the dough starts to warm up. 

Place the cookies about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet and bake for 7-9 minutes.  I found that most of the cookies were done in about 7-8 minutes, while the Companion Cubes took longer at about 10-12 minutes. Just watch them closely, as these cookies burn easily.  Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet to allow them to cool.

While you're waiting on all the cookies to cool, clean off your rolling surface and lay out paper towels or wax paper to set up your icing station.  Make your icing base by mixing 1 cup powdered sugar, 5 tsp milk, 2 tsp light corn syrup, and 1/2 tsp of flavoring (in this case I used vanilla) in your small mixing bowl. The result will be a very thick goo (appetizing, huh?).  Divide this between four cups as follows: 1 heaping spoonful in one cup; about 1/4 of what's left in another cup; divide what's left evenly between the other two cups.  
Area and State regulations do not
allow the Companion Cube to remain
here, alone and companionless.

  • Take the cup with the least amount, and make black by adding neon blue, neon green, and neon purple until the color is very dark; I used McCormick Neon Food Coloring and used less blue than the other two.  Now take a small amount of this on a butter knife and add it to one of the two cups with the most icing and mix it in to get your gray.  
  • For gold, take the other cup with the most icing and add regular yellow food coloring until you're satisfied with the color.
  • For the pink, squirt out a drop of neon pink onto a butter knife. Wipe away about half of what's there, the use what's left on the knife to mix into the cup we added 1/4 of the icing to.
Ice the cookies with the appropriate colors.

That's right... Awesome.
Set the cookies on the paper towels/wax paper as you finish each to allow the icing to set into a hard glossy finish.  Serve.  In case you're wondering where my shape choices come from (and if you are your nerd cred just took a serious dip), the Companion Cubes are from the Portal series of video games, the Triforces are from Zelda, and the Mockingjays are from The Hunger Games.  Enjoy!

Also, for an Easter Egg, I made the Portal reference cookie for my friend Jen's birthday. You may know Jen as my Lovely Assistant.  You can find the pic on The Book Pantry's facebook page.
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